Services that complement products are increasingly considered an indispensable part of the offering for manufacturing companies. The share of sales contributed by services to the overall business is increasing. In this article, we explain why integrated software solutions have become essential in the service business for these and other reasons.
Manufacturing companies offering services that complement their products is not a new phenomenon. Companies want to set themselves apart from their competitors, thereby strengthening their current market position and of course realizing additional profit potential. The share of sales contributed to total sales by the service business has been increasing for years, with further growth being predicted regularly. Thus the goals for expanding the service share of the overall business are becoming increasingly ambitious as well.
A new aspect is that companies are no longer limiting themselves to typical maintenance and upkeep, but also offering performance improvements for installed machines and systems as well as consulting services. When they use Internet of Things (IoT) technologies in addition, they can also offer their customers predictive maintenance with guaranteed service levels and availability for the machines or systems.
Integrating service provision into the business models and systematically increasing the share of sales are already challenging for the organization, processes, and employees. A new trend has been seen recently however, creating further complexity and increasingly linking the process steps: The rising popularity of service performance in the form of projects. This makes the processing of service orders and management of the service business more complicated.
All of these developments and the related challenges mean that companies need an integrated software solution, sometimes an ERP solution, to manage their service business productively. This is because a business that is becoming more complex and integrated can only be planned strategically and managed operationally when all of the required information comes together in one solution. The time-consuming search for data in multiple systems is unnecessary and wasteful – not to mention that partly obsolete data can lead to inaccuracies. Furthermore, all employees should be provided with the IT tools they need for their day-to-day work. In times when project work is increasingly being carried out on site at the customer's facilities, mobile availability of the processes is also a must.
The basic technologies provided by Microsoft – for example Microsoft Flow, PowerApps, and Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations – make it possible to provide specific apps for different scenarios and processes.
Consistently using Microsoft technologies ensures that the integration of various business processes is given. The special benefit: All solutions are based on the Microsoft Common Data Services as the uniform database. Not only does this simplify the digitalization of business processes, it also makes it easier to implement a mobility strategy that is essential for approaching ERP and process support today. This uniform database also ensures faster evaluation and delivery of data using Microsoft tools for business intelligence (BI). The technical integration of IoT devices is not much of a problem here either. Handling and interpreting the resulting data, and linking these data to the typical ERP processes, represent the greatest challenges.
Last but not least, augmented reality solutions are increasingly becoming important in the service environment as well and can already be implemented today with the Microsoft portfolio. Remote maintenance support scenarios are no longer mere dreams of the future with the HoloLens augmented reality glasses from Microsoft in combination with the Skype for Business unified communications solution.