Field service is a well-established industry. However, with rising modernization and digitization processes, the sector is transforming along. As a result, new technologies, techniques, and work tools are entering the field.
When it comes to field service, the most vital part of the business is the workforce. Field service engineers and technicians are the representation of your company. Although their primary duties are repair and maintenance, they are also responsible for communication with customers and upselling opportunities.
Therefore, experienced engineers are necessary for running a smooth field service business. However, becoming an engineer isn’t easy. In many industries, engineers must hold at least a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. In addition, a master’s degree in a relevant field may be necessary for senior-level professionals.
In turn, that means that hunting down the best talent will be difficult. However, gaining a better understanding of the field may aid in both finding and managing engineers. Thus, we have outlined all the necessary information – from the basic responsibilities and the role they play in a company to improve overall productivity.
What Do Field Service Engineers Do?
Field service engineer is a similar role to service technicians. They perform everyday field service tasks such as repair, installation, and maintenance. On top of that, these professionals manage the team, assign tasks, conduct reports, and maintain customer relationships.
Field service engineers travel to calls and carry out mechanical and electrical assignments such as installing lighting, configuring hardware, maintaining security settings, and others based on their job specifics. Additionally, they also perform troubleshooting, demonstrate equipment to clients, and show how to use it.
Instead of being stationary workers, engineers have many workplaces. As a result, they are required to appear on-site and provide the necessary services. In turn, that means they will have to visit many companies each week.
Generally, a team of field service engineers will be headed by a manager who works from the office. Previously, communication between engineers and the business office was primarily done through phones. Nowadays, many organizations that are involved with field services use dedicated management software.
Depending on the management philosophy and software, engineers will likely be required to report many details – service quality, time, and many other notes. In the meantime, managers will support field service engineers with the necessary data, planning, and everything else.
Daily operations of a field service engineer
Field service engineers are the lifeblood of any company that delivers on-premise technical work. As they help clients manage their equipment over the long term, they provide a necessary service to any business that operated technical facilities.
Generally, a significant amount of work will revolve around facility management. Facilities management is a business process focused on the efficient and effective delivery of support services for the organizations that it serves. Put, it is the process of properly managing the people, technology, and space within a facility.
Facilities managers will often call upon field service engineers to ensure the proper functioning of the facility’s technical (and, sometimes, space) side. Technology maintenance is probably the most frequent request engineers receive from facility managers.
Outside of taking care of facility management’s technical and maintenance side, engineers might be asked to devise strategies for or evaluate certain aspects of a business. For example, one of the current facility management trends is to use wide-scale data analytics to evaluate energy efficiency and the possible areas of improvement.
In regards to devising strategies, engineers might be requested by facility managers to implement sensor technology within the equipment. Sensor technology is a developing facility management trend that allows a company to create a network of Internet of Things (IoT) devices out of equipment. Widespread adoption within a company of such technology allows facilities professionals to use facility management software to perform remote monitoring.
These are just a couple of examples of what a field service engineer might be required to do. They would have to provide an implementation plan and provide support or even execute it as required. Of course, companies employing field service engineers generally provide all the necessary support, making the process significantly easier.
Finally, since it may fall on the field service engineer to ensure proper security precautions are taken, they might be required to analyze facilities, especially older buildings and other real estate, according to global standards. Many companies focus on becoming certified (e.g., ISO) in relevant areas. A facility manager may turn to a field service engineer to ensure the relevant areas of safety, security, and quality are of acceptable standards.
Therefore, the role of a field service engineer within a company is highly varied and complex. While most of their work will be related to facility management and maintenance, they may be called upon to devise more complicated plans for improving operational efficiency and safety.
What Are the Differences Between Field Service Engineers and Technicians?
Although both occupations are quite similar, engineers initially take on more responsibilities. In turn, engineers must hold a bachelor’s degree, while technicians only need an associate’s degree. Additionally, the former usually perform more strategic work (such as planning improvements, innovation, and maintenance) while the latter works more directly with equipment.
As their responsibilities revolve around strategy and other business processes, field service engineers will rarely perform direct repairs on maintenance. Instead, those responsibilities are often shifted to the technicians. However, engineers do take the brunt of responsibility as they most often lead the technicians.
For clarity, the responsibilities of field service engineers may include:
- Scheduling tasks at each job site
- Troubleshooting issues
- Performing emergency services
- Writing detailed technical reports
- Training others to use equipment
- Ensuring proper adherence to safety requirements in facilities
At the same time, the responsibilities of field service technicians may include:
- Reading schematics
- Managing parts inventory
- Communicating effectively with customers
- Documenting their work
- Keeping tools and facilities clean
- Performing maintenance work on schedule
Therefore, engineers are required to have more soft skills. In addition, they must be able to manage people, communicate effectively, and develop an in-depth understanding of the technical side of businesses. In other words, technicians are more hands-on while engineers are closer to technical project management.
How to Become a Field Service Engineer
As mentioned, a field service engineer has to have at least a bachelor’s degree in the desired engineering niche. Many continue with a master’s degree to expand career opportunities and reach senior positions. However, even with an MSc, staying up-to-date with all the advancements in technology is of the utmost importance.
Outside of a degree, a competent field engineer should showcase some of the essential skills:
- Mechanical skills
- Clear communication with team members and clients
- Knowledge of computer software and hardware
- Problem-solving abilities and analytical thinking\Organizational skills and tasks management
- Attention to detail
Many people get into technical fields expecting to work with equipment mostly. However, as mentioned above, field service engineers and even technicians will always be surrounded by people. Therefore, providing excellent customer service becomes a necessity for any successful field service engineer.
Thus, while technical skills are required to be able to do the job, soft “people” skills are the way to build the entire career. Going up the ladder towards higher-level work will be based on communicating with clients and understanding their needs.
However, working in heavily technical fields has several benefits. Knowledge acquired through field service generally works across the entire world and in almost all companies in related industries. While the work itself is geographically locked, relocating to any place across the world will be significantly easier.
How big is the field service engineer salary: breakdown by country
The field service engineer position requires a degree and a lot of expertise in the industry. But if you are willing to put in the hours, field service engineers make around $69,275 per year on average. Senior positions with a master’s degree can earn close to or above 110 thousand USD per year.
Salaries per year in other countries:
In general, field service engineers are well-paid positions. However, it requires a proper combination of soft and hard technical skills to deliver upon expectations. Therefore, being an engineer is everything but easy.
Additionally, salaries can vary highly depending on the industry. For example, computer hardware engineers are among the most paid positions, while mechanical engineers lag significantly. Differences between these two groups, in particular, can easily reach nearly 30 thousand USD per year.
Finally, as with all highly technical professions, the job market will likely remain stable for long periods of time. Field service engineers are the lifeblood of any company that does on-premise work. However, there is often a distinct lack of highly qualified unemployed engineers available, making the position highly desirable. Thus, companies are forced to compete and offer higher benefits or salaries, improving the profession’s quality over time.
Software for Field Service Engineers & Management
Field service engineers are highly dependent on proper management practices. Previously, when most communication between the office and on-premise work was done through phone calls and messaging, ways to improve employee productivity and well-being were limited.
At the same time, extensive logging, note-taking, and documentation is required for any field service work. While field service engineers might not necessarily have to take care of documents like invoicing, nearly everything else, from customer service and technical logs to in-depth reports, is part of the daily life of on-premise work.
Thus, while high-quality communication with field service teams stands at the top rung of the importance ladder, the process is ridden with challenges and high costs. These challenges within organizations and companies are the reason for field service management (FSM) software development.
Field service management software is the first line of defense against the common problems of on-premise engineers and technicians. It answers the proliferation of data, connected devices, mobile apps, and technology in general. As equipment becomes more complex and numerous, the amount of data and information increases in tandem, making engineers more reliant on external sources of information.
FSM software allows all employees to maintain a direct line of communication with all the necessary details. For example, a common occurrence within field service is that on-premise teams lack some important information as it wasn’t possible to predict that necessity. As a result, companies that run field service management software can deliver the necessary information quickly and improve equipment fix rates.
Additionally, FSM software provides support for both the back-end office and on-premise workers. For example, as software logs in-depth data from the field, office employees may use analytical tools to optimize routes, provide additional information for specific tasks and service providers, or provide alternative solutions. On the other hand, field service engineers will collect customer feedback, take notes, and manage required logs more efficiently.
In its essence, all FSM software aims to improve the overall capabilities of on-premise teams and reduce operating costs of all related services. In addition, proper use of field management software may improve productivity and improves the overall employee experience.
While some field service companies are hesitant to adopt FSM systems for their daily operations, there is a rising trend to focus on IoT devices, making such software a necessity. Moreover, outside of the necessary technological advancements, usage of FSM systems optimizes solutions by enabling remote monitoring.
Therefore, even if adopting FSM software has some related soft costs (such as the aversion to change shown by employees), in the long run, such implementations may significantly reduce operating costs and improve the overall capabilities of the entire company. Essentially, there is no good reason to avoid such software.
Managing the operations of field service personnel
As field service engineers are a highly desired role worldwide, companies will have to engage in heavy competition to get the jobs filled with highly skilled employees. Even then, hiring the best people is only one step in the entire process. Implementing efficient workplace strategies and management practices to improve the employee experience is a necessity.
One of the current key trends that may be applicable and deliver better productivity results is establishing a clear line of communication between field service engineers, human resources, and management. In addition, providing feedback and having it acted upon has been shown to improve the employee experience greatly.
Additionally, field service is a unique technical industry. Few other industries hire as much technical personnel and areas involved with technologies as field service. Therefore, learning to lead and manage highly technical teams by implementing methodologies is a necessity.
A field service manager (and, in part, the facility manager) has to ensure two key details for field service teams – clear workflows and access to informational resources. Workflows provided to teams must be well-connected, transparent, short, free from roadblocks, and cover many alternative scenarios. Ensuring that field teams know what to do if something unexpected happens in facilities or other workplaces enables them to reduce overall costs greatly, improves the employee experience, and allows them to retain control even in the worst scenarios.
Access to informational resources provides field service teams with the capabilities of providing a better service. In addition, clients will often expect clear communication, reports, and predictions. If engineers and technicians can access a wealth of information from both the field and the office, they can focus on delivering the best possible result.
Finally, performing “mental inventory management” (e.g., measuring teams’ overall emotional and intellectual state) semi-regularly leads to better results on several leadership aspects. First, human resources and other overseeing departments may get involved in data-driven decision-making by acquiring more data on employees’ states across the company. On the other hand, employees will derive greater satisfaction from their work, knowing that they can provide actionable feedback.
Middle and upper management should always take heed as field service teams are generally harder to manage due to the numerous workplaces, logistical difficulties, and more complex communication. However, there’s nothing a little human intervention can’t solve if things got rough.
Field service engineers fill a critical role in many companies and are a highly desired profession in the entire industry. However, both becoming and managing one is not without challenge.
Those looking to become field service engineers should keep in mind the high standards and numerous requirements for the profession. In addition, managers and company leaders should heavily focus on employee well-being and experience.
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