Aquant’s 2023 Medical Device Benchmark Report outlines the state of medical device services and showcases challenges the industry must overcome to keep networks operational, detailing ways to ensure service accuracy and overcome obstacles.

Below, Sidney Lara, service principal at Aquant, highlights key takeaways of the benchmark report and discusses top medical device service challenges, talent shortages and the widening skills gap, how AI can help, and more.

24×7 Magazine: Please describe the report and how Aquant compiled the data.

Sidney Lara: Aquant’s 2023 Medical Device Benchmark report relies on data collected from 44 organizations that employ more than 15,000 technicians, including analysis of more than 4.6 million work orders covering more than $3.4 billion in total service costs. Across each company surveyed, there was an average of 3.5 years of service data gathered—including service tickets, inventories, and even technicians’ handwritten notes.

24×7: At a high level, can you describe the current state of service organizations in the medical device sector?

Lara: The data shows that the medical device service industry had a 2.5% increase in field events and average service costs decreased by nearly 4%, meaning organizations were getting more business and, concurrently, experiencing cost savings. A massive win for the industry, however, many of those successes can be attributed to organizations strategically leveraging the right technology. Those who did not invest and implement the necessary tools did not experience the same success.

24×7: What are the top challenges medical device service organizations experiencing at the moment?

Lara: Despite overall positive growth, the medical device service industry struggled with significant workforce challenges. Talent shortages and the retirement crisis is making it difficult for organizations to maintain a workforce that has the required skills to get their jobs done efficiently. Service leaders are also struggling to upskill technicians quickly and design efficient training programs, analyze hard data to understand organizational performance, and identify the areas with the greatest opportunity to improve efficiency/cut costs.

24×7: What is causing the skills gap in the industry?

Lara: The widening skills gap is largely a result of the retirement crisis (i.e. more-tenured technicians retiring faster than their replacements can enter the workforce). This means there aren’t as many seasoned experienced workers to train the younger generations and those that are still around are busy with their own work, hence why organizations lack the ability to upskill less-experienced workers quickly.

Further reading: Closing the Skills Gap in Medical Device Field Service

The engagement crisis is just as bad. Data from the Service Council’s Voice of the Field Service Engineer survey reveals that 65% of Gen Z, 67% of Gen Y, and 54% of Gen X are either not sure they’re going to be or won’t be field engineers for the duration of their career, 40% of which are leaving the role within the next three years. This level of churn is detrimental to the industry, hence the need for technology that better allows teams to share knowledge across the company easily.

24×7: Why did the knowledge gap shrink in the top 20% of organizations, but dramatically increase in the bottom 20% of organizations?

Lara: Successful teams are proactively adjusting their operations and investing in the right technology to combat issues associated with the knowledge gap. They understand the importance of knowledge-sharing technology and are seeing improvement and increased productivity across their workforce after deploying these technologies.

24×7: What will happen if organizations do not address the skills gap?

Lara: This year’s data showed that lower performers cost organizations 86% more than top performers. While organizations can’t control inflation or ever-changing workforces, what they can do is stabilize certain areas of their business — like their workforce’s performance. Even companies with higher-than-normal levels of turnover can survive changes and maintain excellent customer satisfaction, especially when they have the right processes and tools to upskill incoming workers quickly. But those who don’t will struggle to stay operating, let alone competitive.

24×7: What are successful service organizations doing to get ahead – and stay ahead?

Lara: Top-performing companies got ahead—and stayed ahead—by investing in critical technology initiatives like AI. An AI-powered platform called service intelligence gained popularity in the industry for its predictive analytics and diagnostic capabilities. Leading companies leveraged service intelligence to enhance knowledge and accuracy among their workforce—and make more strategic, data-backed decisions. For service leaders who have never had visibility into their team’s performance metrics, AI-powered platforms provide service leaders with KPIs that help them to understand how individual technicians are performing.

24×7: What is service intelligence and how does it benefit service organizations?

Lara: Service intelligence is a type of AI technology that gathers, organizes, and extrapolates both historical data and subject matter expertise (direct insights from a company’s best workers) in order to identify problems and opportunities across the organization. It helps managers objectively see how their team is performing, where specific assets are experiencing challenges, and whether a customer might be close to an escalation based on hard data. It is a natural evolution of field service management software but it goes beyond traditional dashboards, like BI. 

Unlike reactive software, service intelligence helps leaders see the root cause of issues and will generate prescriptive and customized insights to address the issues at scale. These new platforms eliminate the need for data exports and pivot analysis. Instead, service intelligence concisely packages critical information to be delivered directly to decision-makers. It also equips field service technicians (or any frontline, customer-facing agent) with the knowledge they need to diagnose and repair an issue on the first visit, subsequently improving customer interactions and reducing costs.