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How to boost the first-time fix-rate by better technical content

In maintenance organizations, a key KPI is the first-time fix-rate, FTFR. The aim is to ensure that only one visit to a customer location is necessary, and thereby save time and costs, and improve the customer satisfaction. Why is lack of technical information one cause for a poor rate? And how can you boost the FTFR by fixing this issue?

People working in maintenance services know the value of the first-time fix-rate. It is a core metric that customers use to judge their service partners. Maintenance providers must achieve a constant high rate to maintain customer satisfaction and loyalty. Whatever the exact rate is, it must beat the competition.

A poor FTFR also means poor business. If additional service visits are necessary, it raises travel costs and hurts productivity by lower utilization of resources. Ultimately, FTFR affects revenue and profitability.

“Many field service customers pay a lot of attention to the first-time fix-rate. They want that their machines and equipment are fixed during the first visit. To ensure this, it is very important to support field engineers so that they get things done,” says Eric Tengstrand, Etteplan’s Global Service Solutions Director.

Several factors can obstruct the first-time fix from happening. Most typical problems mentioned by experts and independent research include lack of spare parts or certain tools, lack of skills, or an inadequate initial diagnosis. Too often, fixing gets postponed because the field engineer has to travel back and forth, possibly order parts, and wait for days or weeks for them to arrive.

However, there is one reason that arguably lies behind all these problems: poor technical information. It is easily and often overlooked, but it may be surprising how critical the problem is in itself. Even though better content is not a single solution, it can make a huge difference.

Why is information a key resource for achieving a high FTFR?

In a typical situation, a real-life maintenance task begins by planning, which demands searching for information. Plenty of questions arise: Where is the documentation and service history, what diagnostics are available, where are the manuals, and what dependencies are there with other equipment and systems? Who has the skills to perform the task?

At first, finding all this information means wasting a lot of time. Even when everyone thinks everything has been found, the first attempt to fix the customer’s equipment fails. It turns out that some critical pieces of information were missing or lost, which leads to missing or wrong spare parts and/or tools. Sometimes manuals and other documentation can be outdated, or the flow of information has been broken. 

In addition, not every service specialist is capable of performing every task confidently. Even if service organizations select who to send, sometimes the service ticket may go to someone who lacks expertise. At the location, it turns out someone else’s knowledge is needed, and the first visit becomes useless. If there was technical content that is easy to understand, that might be avoided.

“Very often, existing technical information is too massive and complex for anyone to be helpful. It is also either printed on paper or delivered as PDF files. Both formats are far from adequate considering what people want in the 2020s. If field personnel has to use a thick manual with hundreds of pages, they have difficulties locating what they need to know right now for doing a specific task,” Eric Tengstrand explains.

“All in all, poor availability and quality of information is a big hidden problem. It causes plenty of frustration and hurts businesses directly and indirectly. This is why we created Etteplan HowTo, our new service to provide instant relief globally and around the clock,” he continues.

User-centric and context-aware digital content

Etteplan HowTo enables smart digital online distribution of technical information. People can use any device to get user-centric and context-aware content that is always up to date. They can be delivered the exact step-by-step instructions for doing what they are expected to do.

Sometimes, a working fix must be found very fast because downtime is too expensive, or the location is difficult to reach. For instance, the operator of a machine such as a forest harvester, a mining drill rig, or a massive automation system may not be able to wait for a maintenance specialist to arrive. Could HowTo play a role even in such situations? 

“Yes, it can. Any error codes or sensors in any vehicle or machine can be utilized as triggers that connect to the online database behind HowTo. The triggers can generate information that helps the user immediately. The operator can then simply open a smart, visualized manual specifically for the situation at hand in an app or embedded in the user interface,” Eric Tengstrand answers.

The same approach can be applied to predictive or regular, interval-based maintenance tasks. When prespecified machine hours are reached, or a scheduled maintenance date approaches, the system to be maintained could trigger instructions on the specific task that needs to be done. Equally, the service specialist could simply log in to an application built on Etteplan HowTo, which would automatically provide instructions or guide to instructions that the user is about to require.