My first experience in service and repair came in the early ‘90s, working with leading telecommunications companies in the U.S. and Europe.  With deregulation, cost pressures and new technologies, telcos needed to completely change how they planned, dispatched, delivered and managed field service work.

It was a tough mandate: Maintain service quality while increasing the productivity of field technicians, inventory and assets.  We designed new operating models that transformed how work was performed, measured and managed in both the depot and the field.  Enabling this were critical breakthrough technologies, including dynamic routing and dispatch tools, as well as handheld devices that dispatched jobs, captured and reported field data, and connected via landline.

The results were dramatic, with some companies achieving over $100 million in annual cost savings while simultaneously improving network quality, inventory and customer service performance.  At the same time, however, the service and repair business was still reactive, and customer experience often took a back seat to cost and quality concerns.

Transformation Redux

Fast-forward to today. I see another exciting shift underway, this time for medical device makers. The change is spurred not only by the need to cut costs, ensure quality and grow revenue but also by the changing nature of medical devices, themselves. As these devices become increasingly “smart” and connected via the Internet of Things (IoT), the playing field is shifting for service and repair, as well. No longer is it enough for this function to be transactional and break-fix oriented; it will increasingly generate new types of business value and serve as the face of the company to the customer.

Leading medical device companies are looking to emerging technologies, such as IoT, smart products, data analytics and cloud platforms, to transform their operations and re-envision the customer experience.   Specifically, we see companies reaching new service and repair heights by pulling three key levers:

  • Process harmonization and organizational change management. Because of the diverse practices they need to manage, global medical device manufacturers with multiple operating companies often struggle to drive enterprise improvement in service and repair.  These organizations need to quickly define and align on a shared, “harmonized” future state. The good news is that a number of today’s leading service and repair platform solutions offer best-in-class processes out-of-the-box that are tailored to the life sciences industry, and medical devices in particular.  When customized for specific enterprise needs and combined with a rigorous organization change management effort, such solutions can propel leaders to quickly align on a single future state and, just as important, identify and preserve those critical differences that create true value.  The result: enterprise buy-in and support for a harmonized vision of future-state processes, organization designs, data and governance models, as well as the associated system requirements and localized deployment strategies needed to bring the vision to life. 
  • New SaaS service and repair solutions. The harmonization of processes and practices is a moot point if you can’t enable them.  We’re helping clients move to cloud-based solutions specifically designed to execute on their vision for service and repair, as well as quality management.  While these platforms provide the immediate benefits of simplification and reduced legacy system costs, their real value is in the harmonized operational and performance data they produce.  This real-time, standardized data provides global insight into the productivity of engineers, inventory, products and assets needed to improve daily operations. It also provides the foundational information needed to achieve the desired customer experience.
  • Digital field service transformation strategy. At the heart of any service and repair transformation is the need to envision and understand the impact of smart connected products on the medical device industry.  As I write this, every medical device company with which I interact is heavily investing in and charting their digital device strategy and roadmap.  There are two keys for doing this right:


    • Understanding how to use the data generated by products that sit at the network’s edge to solve operational challenges.
    • Stepping back and developing new, customer-focused service and repair operating models that transform the customer experience.   


The design of these new operating models requires orchestrated changes in the role service and repair plays with each member of the medical device ecosystem, including sales, marketing, new product development, product management and regulatory, all aligned around a shared strategic vision of the future, including (and especially) the customer experience.   Under this re-envisioned operating model,  service and repair pivots from being a reactive, break-fix source of cost for customers to proactively serving as the driver of new partnerships, where both customer and medical device companies are focused on product uptime, performance, innovation and patient outcomes.

We are well past the theory stage; all of this is happening in real time, now.  Going forward, the majority of medical devices will be “born” smart and connected and will require re-envisioned operating models and capabilities that translate information into differentiated customer experiences, services and value.  In this new model, service and repair will be front and center in designing and delivering proactive, predictive and preventative services – and a whole new level of customer value and relationships.

If you plan to attend the Field Service Medical event Feb. 27-March 1, 2017 in San Diego, Calif., please stop by the Cognizant booth to discuss these issues further.

Michael Zirkle

Michael Zirkle

Mike Zirkle leads Cognizant’s Supply Chain Consulting Practice in life sciences and has over 20 years of strategic consulting experience. Mike and... Read more