Are we at the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning? Despite many calls to begin relaxing Corona restrictions, scientists and leaders in many of the world’s largest economies are clear that lockdown is far from over. On April 23 German chancellor Angela Merkel warned “we are still far from out of the woods. We are not in the final phase of the pandemic, but still at the beginning”. On April 27, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “I want to get this economy moving as fast as I can, but I refuse to risk a second major outbreak.”
Pandemics change everything. They always have. The Coronavirus is no different. Today, industries from aviation to automotive to tourism are preparing for a ‘new normal’. But what factors will drive the new normal for Field Service after this pandemic?
FACTOR 1. Air travel will be more limited and more expensive
Currently, nearly two-thirds of the world’s 26,000 passenger aircrafts are grounded. By the end of May 2020, most airlines in the world will be bankrupt according to Aviation industry consultants CAPA (the Centre for Aviation) (1). In fact, most analysts agree that it seems unlikely that air travel as we previously knew it will return back to normal.
In a Statista survey of air travelers commissioned by McKinsey, 37% said they intended to reduce the number of foreign flights they took after the pandemic and 27% would reduce their domestic flights too (2). The prices of passenger airfares are predicted to rise significantly (3) – challenging news for businesses looking to transport Field Service engineers and teams to remote sites.
Flight availability may change too. A recent paper from Imperial College London (4) predicts that governments will need to “turn lockdown measures on and off”, with the result that air passengers may be restricted to “windows of opportunity to travel that last only weeks or even days… Seats will be limited and we could see dramatic increases in pricing during those windows.” (5)
Obviously essential air travel will remain a non-negotiable ‘must-have’ in the event of severely damaging stoppages. However, with air travel predicted to be both more expensive and potentially more difficult to book, Field Service organizations could be protecting themselves from significant risk by ensuring they can offer teams in the field real-time expertise and guidance remotely, wherever they are.
FACTOR 2: The global economy will keep shrinking, with companies under more pressure to stay competitive
In 2020 Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US are all expected to go into recession (6). According to Bloomberg Economics, the global economy will shrink by 4% in 2020 in a best-case scenario, including major shrinkage in the US, Europe and Asia. On the positive side, interest rates are expected to be slashed.
This will enable cheaper loans and more investment. However, the economic outlook remains challenging. Shareholders will still be looking for companies to prove they can be ever more competitive—delivering better results more quickly for less CAPEX and OPEX spend.
For Field Service organizations in this scenario, Remote Guidance tools could quickly move from being ‘nice-to-have’ solutions to ‘need-to-have’ solutions, enabling significant reductions in travel and labor costs, fewer stoppages and reduced downtime.
FACTOR 3: A younger, less skilled workforce may well be entering the industry
The manufacturing industry was already facing a major skills shortage, particularly amongst older, more experienced technicians, before the Coronavirus. A US Manufacturing Institute report (7) predicted that between 2018 and 2028, 53% of all US manufacturing positions would remain unfilled. Globally, the manufacturing industry saw an older generation of skilled workers retire, taking their technical skills with them. Sadly, that particular trend could be strengthened by the pandemic, with older staff more vulnerable to the disease.
Simultaneously, unemployment in many other sectors is rising dramatically. April 2020 saw unemployment reach record highs in the US, with 26.4 million people, more than 15% of the total US workforce, applying for welfare support (8). Field Service companies are highly likely to see an increase in new applicants, often less skilled, but frequently younger and digitally savvy.
In this high-churn scenario, Remote Guidance solutions offer a robust bridge for central help desks to support new novice technicians in the field with real-time guidance that does not require specialist skills or complex instructions to get fast results.
REMOTE GUIDANCE: A 3-in 1 SOLUTION
As we’ve seen, Remote Guidance solutions could go a long way in helping solve all three of these challenges that the ‘new normal’ will present. Remote Guidance is a no-travel, cost-effective, seeing-is-believing solution. As companies face this pandemic the need to share and transfer expertise has never been more urgent. Now more than ever, field technicians must be able to feel that even if they’re on their own, they are not isolated. In times of lockdown and social distancing, a tool that genuinely helps field technicians to connect with, and support their peers, is a powerful investment. Reassuring them and their colleagues that expert guidance is still there. Help will still be at hand.