inService™ Podcast – E6 – Russ Fadel

Field service has changed a lot in the last 12 months. COVID-19 has disrupted existing models in field service in a big way. Field service leaders now need new strategies to ensure both productivity and safety among their teams. However, the pandemic has also accelerated the growth of the industry due to new reliance on automation, artificial intelligence, and augmented reality.

Russ Fadel, CEO of Augmentir, talks about the new tools available to field service workers. He also talks about the reasons for launching Augmentir, the remote solutions that the company offers, and the lessons he has learned as a CEO.

The Rise of AI-Based Platforms

Fadel explains that we now have a “connected worker space.” This means that AI-based platforms can be used to deliver detailed instructions to frontline workers in the service and manufacturing sectors. Digitized workflows and virtual support lead to a better work environment overall.

Augmentir goes a step further and uses artificial intelligence to identify areas that need to be optimized. Through AI, the platform provides feedback on how to increase fix-time rates and overall customer satisfaction. The Augmentir app also provides remote collaboration and remote assistance, allowing frontline service workers to talk with engineers, subject-matter experts, or a central helpdesk. Technicians can receive better guidance and gain a well-rounded perspective when servicing a piece of equipment.

Now that more detailed instructions and better guidance can be given virtually, all types of materials for service support should also be rich in detail. These materials can be distributed to third-party technicians, dealer networks, and end-users.

Adapting to COVID-19

The impact of Augmentir was made more evident as the company’s sales velocity accelerated throughout the pandemic. Both small companies and Fortune 100 organizations have utilized Augmentir to install, repair, maintain, or manufacture equipment. Through the platform, clients were able to ensure both productivity and safety among their team.

This increase in sales for Augmentir has led to a more refined software. They were able to use data taken from frontline workers to improve the AI solution they provide.

Fadel believes that COVID-19 has exposed inefficiencies in field service. Before, each new service worker would need a senior technician beside him during the first few days. They would then need to report to the central help desk and relay information. Now, this system has become more optimized due to AI and AR technology.

How Augmentir is Shaping the Industry

Fadel and other Augmentir co-founders recognized that current trends in technology would lead to a “fourth industrial software revolution.” Remote technology can solve what Fadel calls a “skillset gap.” Pieces of equipment are now more complex, maintenance is more technical, and instructions given to service workers are more difficult to communicate. A more efficient training system for technicians is needed.

However, companies don’t have to always rely on in-house service workers as they can now hire third-party technicians to service their products. End-user companies may also allow regional service centers to step in. Through Augmentir, third-party general technicians can become experts on all types of equipment.

Customers are now also able to repair and maintain their own equipment. This is important when travel restrictions are in place due to a pandemic or natural disaster. Aside from repair and maintenance, instructions for installation and calibration can be done via augmented reality. This will give end-users the ability to set up their equipment without the need for technicians to visit the site.

A Company that Embraces Change

Augmentir is Russ Fadel’s fifth startup. He says that he has now gotten used to overcoming obstacles related to running a company and developing new products. However, he says that these obstacles are overcome only through resilience and passion. Challenges arise as companies need to come up with solutions to market problems, provide additional value to consumers, and gain market acceptance.

Fadel shares that his strategy in leading Augmentir is to look beyond the large organizations, or “marquee-recognizable companies.” Instead, he reads about interesting entrepreneurial ventures by smaller organizations. Smaller companies are more agile at adopting new systems, while some large organizations are unwilling to change their systems due to risk or expenses. He quotes Jim Heppelmann, the CEO of Parametric Technology Corporation, when he says that “Inertia is the enemy of progress.”

To Fadel, openness to new ideas and the ability to adapt are the two most important factors to a successful company. Company leaders must be attentive to new ways that may help improve customer experience, and a company’s focus should always be to serve customers in the best way possible. He adds that the best field service providers are those who put customer experience at the forefront.

Lessons Learned as CEO

As a CEO, Fadel shares three important things that he has learned throughout his career. The first lesson is to have faith that everyone will take care of their responsibilities. Fadel shares that in the past, he would micro-manage and intervene during a project’s early stages. This proved to be counterproductive. What he has learned to do is to trust his co-workers. “You have to trust the people you work with,” he shares, “and they will almost always come through for you.”

The second is to commit to his decisions. A leader needs to stand firm in his choices and focus instead on execution.

Most of the time, CEOs won’t have enough information before making a decision. They instead have to trust their instincts. This is even more important with start-ups, as a small company only has enough resources to implement one solution. Committing to one solution is crucial even if there may be many ways to solve a problem.

The third is to focus on helping others to grow. Fadel shares that whenever he hires someone, his objective is to increase the person’s asset base. He wants that person to become more valuable as an employee and eventually be able to ask for higher salaries. Fadel adds that if the employee chooses to join a different organization, then he would be happy to see him “go out into the world and continue to grow.”

To Fadel, putting the needs of the employees always generates great results.

The Future of Field Service

Russ Fadel sees 2021 as a new era for the frontline service workforce and calls this the age of “Industry 5.0.” He thinks that more effort will be placed into upgrading tools used by frontline service workers in the near future. He also sees automation as the next step to optimizing the equipment manufacturing process.

Within the next decade, Fadel thinks that more AI-based support bots will be used by field technicians. Data from interactions between customers and technicians will help create an AI-based support infrastructure. This will lead to a widespread virtual system that will help all field service workers. The important thing now is to gather and organize all available information.

He also foresees better support models within the next ten years, due to the more widespread use of augmented reality. AR will lead to a restructuring of field service support. Installation, calibration, repair, and maintenance work would be distributed. The problem today is that end-users have little knowledge about specific types of equipment. Augmented immersive experiences will help anyone become an instant product specialist.

For Fadel, the focus should be on empowering all types of people to do equipment service work.

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