Can Field Service be Globalized?
The aging workforce is a real problem. Here’s one of many references to it, quoting from the August 4 issue of the “Above the noise” e-newsletter by AMR Research:
“In the United States, 60 million baby boomers will leave the workforce by 2025, while less than 40 million will enter it. There are dire predictions that we will need twice as many experienced IT professionals as will be available in the near future. We also see significant talent issues in building effective global supply chain organizations. Talent will continue to be a major issue for the foreseeable future. …That all said, if we assume that the potential productivity benefits from this changing nature of work won’t be enough, then globalization comes into play. The world population is predicted to grow to more than 9 billion by mid-century from 6.5 billion people today. In the next 20 years, 1.2 billion people in India and China will enter the workforce, and the rest of Asia, Eastern Europe, and Central America will add significant numbers as well. The bottom line is that each of these emerging economies represent growing sources of labor, and should more than make up for shortages in traditional first world countries. We’re already seeing this is in the massive growth of India, Inc. service firms. We expect this to continue with much of the global talent pool increasingly coming through third-party services organizations.”
Now consider field service in the “first world”, where the labor force will be shrinking. Field service, as we know it today, requires on-site physical presence, so it depends on locally available workforces. Field service productivity will rise. New technologies will reduce the need for field service visits, possibly through “self-healing” or remote maintenance. However, will such developments be enough to offset the gaps in talent availability? Probably not.
So bear with me as I ask a strange question: Is it possible to utilize the growing talent pool from emerging economies to close the talent gap for first-world field service? Is it possible to do so without relocation? Can we imagine a technician in Bulgaria fixing a washing machine in California?
“Remote field service”? Sounds like an oxymoron, a built-in contradiction. More to the point, it also sounds impossible. However, extraordinary challenges justify extraordinary questions. Here’s one idea for future development: Remember that we have over a decade before the worst part of the crisis hits. Maybe the service organization would dispatch a robot, or gain temporary control of a household robot, and the remote technician will tele-operate that robot? After all, it shouldn’t be more risky than remote surgery, which has already been successfully performed many times.
Do you agree that the upcoming talent gap is a real issue for field service? If so, what do you think can be done about it? Do you see any solutions which involve the paradox of “remote field service”? Let me know what you think.