Logistics and Support

Rolling out any technology solution at scale requires an efficient logistics and support process. While this sounds obvious, these areas tend to get little focus during pilots and trials, introducing the risk that technologies are selected on functional requirements without proper evaluation of the accompanying logistics and support processes.

In terms of logistics, important aspects include not only the ability to manufacture products in volume with stringent quality controls but to have full traceability by production batch, device serial number and even components. This, coupled with a good reverse logistics process (product returns under warranty or for defect analysis), is critically important in the event of a quality issue – being able to narrow down any issue to affected units only significantly reduces the risk of a stoppage of all shipments or large-scale recalls.

For Internet-connected devices, the manufacturing and logistics process should also extend to the provisioning of devices for cloud access. This is best done using “manifests” that not only track which devices have been despatched to which customer but also determine what a device should do when first connected to the cloud. A manifest-based provisioning approach provides the opportunity for significant cost savings and shorter delivery times through larger volume manufacturing and “late customisation” (e.g. delivering a device with generic firmware which is updated with the latest firmware approved by the customer upon first connection to the cloud) and has clear security benefits as only those devices that are explicitly white-listed can connect to the cloud platform.

Considering that digital energy services are usually aimed at improving customer engagement, satisfaction and retention, providing a great customer service experience should be a priority, not an afterthought. Providing quality customer support can quickly become prohibitively expensive for large projects unless the chosen technology platform was designed with quality, cost-effective customer support in mind. This is why evaluators and buyers of digital services platforms should understand both the factors that drive the need for customer support (such as the ease of use and reliability of the solution) and the tools available to aid support agents in solving customer problems. Digital energy services platforms should also help customers monitor and manage large numbers of devices in the field, through “fleet management” tools that offer operational analytics such as the number of devices that are actively connected, the firmware versions they run and any error codes generated. Without such tools, the company operating the services is flying blind and not able to proactively address issues or maximise its return on investment.

About the authors

This white paper was written by Rik Temmink (Chief Data Services Officer) and Adrian van den Heever (Chief Technology Officer) of geo, the UK’s leading smart energy technology company. If you would like to explore the topics discussed in this white paper in more detail, please contact geo by phone on +44(0)1223 850 210 or by email at marketing@geotogether.com.

Download the full white paper here