Keywords: Asset Lifecycle Management, Consulting, Field Services, Invensys, Project Services, Remote Services, Services.
As part of our research for a 2013 update to the ARC Market Outlook Report "Supplier Provided Automation Services", ARC Advisory Group analysts met with several global service executives from Invensys who all happened to be in town at the same time. Services, widely recognized as critical to project success, represent a growing fraction of the automation business. It's also a line of business in which automation suppliers have relative freedom to innovate quickly. By ARC's latest forecast, it's a multi-billion dollar business worldwide.
A Service Culture
Historically, the Invensys corporate culture has placed a high value on customer service. Traditionally, the term "service" was equated with after-market or field services and Invensys still boasts about the deep experience of its field service workforce. But rather than depth of experience, in this latest briefing Invensys emphasized both its new processes and new technology for service delivery. And in today's business, the concept of service has broadened immensely.
Internally, Invensys segments its services into five classes that map onto ARC's Asset Lifecycle Management (ALM) model.
Invensys Mapping of Service Offerings to the Asset Lifecycle
Consulting - In former times, Invensys often provided consulting services at little or no cost, but mainly to major customers. Now, Invensys maintains groups of domain experts able to engage all its customers and deliver asset performance assessments and improvement strategies
Projects - Both greenfield (new build) major projects and modernizations/retrofit projects are executed by professionals in 31 global locations
Software - These services focus on key operational improvements such as advanced process control, online optimization, operator effectiveness, safety, and network security
Learning - Technical training for customers and employees
Maintenance and Support - The classic aftermarket services, now delivered both onsite and remotely
Project services, which tend to occur toward the end of capital projects, are the largest of these segments for most process automation suppliers. Greenfield automation projects are risk averse because any slippage in the automation schedule will often delay the production date for the entire capital project, which may represent twenty times the cost of its automation. Brownfield projects are more concerned with minimizing any disruption to production caused by the "cutover" of a new system. Again, the cost of lost production can dwarf the automation project spend.
ARC noted several aspects of Invensys' story in particular. First, Invensys has applied its own Skelta workflow software to manage project service workflows across the entire global project services organization. This practice reduces the amount of "black art" in project management and delivery, while still allowing customers and project teams to customize aspects of their own project workflows. The potential benefits for customers are more uniform, transparent, and smoothly running projects. For Invensys, the benefits also include greater ability to collaborate internally on the development and delivery of best practices in engineering.
Second, Invensys aggregates all the data from the skills assessment and skills development plans that are an integral part of service personnel performance reviews. Almost every company claims that "our people are our greatest asset." Sadly this bromide seems to be taken seriously mostly by pure consultancies and investment banks. ARC believes it's a good sign to see this focus within automation services. We'd like to see suppliers using such aggregated data to support their credentials.
Third, Invensys service support contracts now include an automated system inventory and health assessment that feeds into an annual system lifecycle evaluation. Invensys then presents this evaluation in face-to-face meetings with the customer. ARC knows several large end users that have recently spent man-years performing this evaluation themselves. Challenges remain, especially the task of growing customer acceptance for remote services. Acceptance of these across different regions varies widely. But suppliers are free to devise new business models and/or services, and this area enjoys a favorable cost trend, which is uncommon in automation.
One last point: Why were a whole group of Invensys service executives in Boston and thus available to speak with ARC at one time? Because the Invensys service organization was receiving an external audit of its services capabilities and performance for SCP recertification to this global services quality standard. ARC sees this as yet another indication that the automation service business is becoming increasingly professional.
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