Field support goes digital at Sandvik

A new app is helping Sandvik field service engineers solve even the most complex problems, no matter where in the world they are. It’s like going to site with a really clever friend, says Steve August.

Technology is great, but at some point, a technician needs to roll up their sleeves and do actual work on a machine. But what if technology and practicality could work together? That’s exactly what is happening at Sandvik, with a whole host of new digital tools helping technicians do their jobs better and faster. Virtual reality training and digital inspections are good examples of ways to keep machines up and running to their full potential for longer, as is the new app.

Houston, we have a problem…

It’s every field service engineer’s worst dream – you travel for hour-after-hour to get to a remote site, and no matter what you try, you can’t solve the problem on a customer’s broken-down machine. Production has stopped. Money is being lost. And you are well and truly stuck. And the customer is not pleased…

“When we’re in the field, we’re on our own and we all doubt ourselves sometimes. It doesn’t matter how experienced we are, nobody knows everything. We can all do with a little help sometimes – and that’s the thinking behind this app to support our field service teams.”

So says Steve August, Global Field Support Manager with Sandvik’s Parts & Services Division. Based in Western Australia he is responsible for finding clever new ideas to make the lives of the Division’s 5,500 service technicians worldwide a bit easier. A diesel fitter by training, he once travelled 300 days a year – so he knows a thing or two about the day-to-day troubleshooting challenges engineers face when they arrive at site.

Database of helpful information

“The application that we have developed is a central database and opens the door to all our collective knowledge about almost anything that can go wrong with a machine. Whatever has happened, chances are someone in our Sandvik (Service) team around the globe has seen it before and knows a fix,” says August. “You can use it to search issues, open fault tickets, look at product schematic pdfs, submit photos, watch tutorial videos – even talk to an expert team back at base. Sometimes it’s good to just have a chat with someone and talk through problems together.”

This is a technology whose moment has arrived. COVID-19 restrictions prevented travel and a desire to minimize the carbon footprint of field technicians means that if problems can be solved remotely, or at least fixed first time, they should be. Although initially being rolled out to Parts & Service field technicians, longer term, this type of technology could be offered to customers as well.

The app uses a state-of-the-art headset with a built-in screen that shows the wearer tutorials/product guides, a microphone and earpiece to talk to product experts and cameras to show the experts back at base exactly what the technician is seeing. Long-term there is no reason why a simple smart phone could not do the same task, cutting costs and widening the availability of the technology.

Competence development

“Some engineers worry that they will be judged negatively if they don’t know how to solve a problem with a machine – but that couldn’t be further from the truth,” says August. “It’s more about coaching and helping than judging, like having a really clever friend on site with you to help. At the end of the day, it’s about empowering service technicians with digital tools so that we can get customer machines up and running perfectly again – that’s the only driver of this technology.”

A pilot roll-out of the technology has seen 400 Sandvik technicians trial it, but by the end of 2022 the app will be mainstream and a standard part of the service delivery.

The app is just one of a new generation of tools that uses the latest technology to help not only diagnose problems but also train technicians to be more effective in their jobs. Clever machines and clever technicians – the perfect combination to deliver exceptional service towards customers.

Published date: 22 March 2022