Applying just-in-time principles to maintenance

The idea of just-in-time inventory management has been transforming the manufacturing sector.

Just-in-time principles can end up playing a vital role in field service operations.

The idea of just-in-time inventory management has been transforming the manufacturing sector. The concept is fairly straightforward – use data analytics to identify a baseline for when you will need items. Combine that raw data with information shared across lines of business to gain greater visibility into sales and organizations can accurately identify exactly what their production teams will need on a day-to-day basis.

From there, goods are moved through the supply chain out to production just in time to create the final product, allowing for minimal overhead. To a great extent, these ideas are also behind the predictive and preventative maintenance trends.

Improving maintenance timeliness
The market for operational predictive maintenance tools is rising quickly, with North America leading the charge to a global compound annual growth rate of more than 23 percent for the period of 2017 through 2024.

Large-scale gains across entire industries aren't the only indicators of growth. A Forbes report pointed to a service fleet that was able to use data analytics to predict maintenance requirements and drive significant value creation across the business.

Combining just-in-time inventory management with preventative and predictive maintenance strategies can empower service organizations to get customers the help they need before problems escalate.

"Incorporating just-in-time maintenance to field service enables companies to improve their first-visit fix rates."

Using just-in-time principles in the service fleet
To be realistic, service organizations may not be able to get customers to share raw data about equipment with them on a consistent basis. Tracking and monitoring those assets with Internet of Things devices may also prove tricky. However, that doesn't mean a company can't take elements of just-in-time inventory management and maintenance into account.

A service fleet should apply this tactic to an area it can control – its supply chain. Bringing together raw data from customer relationship management systems, fleet vehicle inventories, warehouse inventories and vendor management modules can enable service managers to identify precisely what items a field worker will need at any given time.

Combine this awareness with analysis of historic work orders to identify when service requests are likely to come in from clients using different types of equipment, and service fleets can take many of the analytics capabilities that underpin just-in-time maintenance and apply them to everyday operations. Doing so enables companies to improve their first-visit fix rates and, as a result, create more valuable interactions with every customer touch point.

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