A Conversation with Toshiba IT and Zinier on Field Service Automation

Zinier Team
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Published February 3, 2021

This article originally appeared in Japanese on https://k-tsushin.jp/interview/kt56_zinier/ as well as Nishin’s Management News No. 56 (March 2021).


Strengthen “Rush Support” for On-site Work by Automating Operations with AI

Toshiba IT Service Co., Ltd. handles “field services” such as inspection and construction of servers and network equipment. The company is currently working to improve the efficiency of related operations because field services that require sudden operations such as “rush response” require prompt personnel arrangements and proper management of maintenance parts. Here, we interviewed Mr. Sugiyama of Toshiba IT Service and Mr. Ono of Zinier who supports the company through business automation. They shared the details of improving work efficiency.

* The following is an excerpt from Management News No. 56 (March 2021), and the article is from the time of the interview.

Inventories tend to be bulky in case of a sudden “incident”

Please tell us about the business of Toshiba IT Services.

Sugiyama: We are engaged in the maintenance, integration, installation, and operation of ICT equipment such as servers and network equipment. Maintenance is a particularly important task for our company, which has customers who provide social infrastructure, and a total of more than 500 maintenance personnel are enrolled at approximately 100 bases nationwide. In addition to pre-inspection where the schedule is managed, we also provide maintenance support in the event of a sudden “incident” at the customer’s site. However, dealing with these incidents tends to be problematic due to the last minute nature.

What kind of issue is it?

Sugiyama: For example, it takes time to assign workers to the site. In the event of an incident, the operator will arrange workers who meet the conditions such as “qualifications required for work”, “travel time”, and “vacant schedule”. However, it takes time for each worker to check in manually, which may make the customer wait.

Ono: In addition, companies that provide field services also have the problem that the inventory of parts used for maintenance tends to be high. Although parts have a theoretical lifespan, it is difficult to predict when they will actually fail, so you have to keep extra inventory in case of a catastrophic failure. 

Sugiyama: These are long-standing challenges for the field service industry. In order to solve these problems, we have introduced the management operation automation system provided by Zinier, and are working to improve the efficiency of operations.

“Manual work by humans” is always occuring. Management work is the key to improving productivity.

What kind of system is it?

Ono: First of all, we can automate the arrangement of personnel in the event of an incident. If you enter conditions such as qualifications required for work, site position, work time, etc., AI optimises based on all information such as individual schedules, worker position information obtained by GPS, and whether or not you have experience dealing with the same customer. It will propose personnel to the operator. If the operator approves this, the instruction will be sent to the worker’s smartphone.

In addition, for incidents that are likely to occur due to the operating environment, it is possible to reduce inventory by utilizing the AI ​​recommendation function.

How can it be achieved?

Sugiyama: We will make use of the function that AI proposes to inspect equipment at the right time. We accumulate all kinds of maintenance data for the purpose of statistically grasping when equipment malfunctions at our customers. If you import this data into Zinier, AI will analyze and predict when a problem may occur. We believe that if we can prevent incidents, we will be able to reduce the inventory of maintenance parts.

Please give some advice to managers who are experiencing issues with the productivity of field services.

Sugiyama: In the case of coronavirus, where various business restrictions arise, more efficient business execution is required than before. Above all, prevention of incidents and speeding up of rushing are of value to our customers. Improving the efficiency of management operations will be an important measure in order to increase the service value. Our company, which has a SOC (*), believes that it will also lead to improvements in security services.

Ono: In order to increase overall productivity with field services that always require manual work by humans, it is essential to improve the efficiency of management operations that make it easy to utilize IT. “Zinier” is the world’s most advanced service as an automated system for field services that utilize AI. It is already being introduced in a wide range of industries in Europe, the United States and the Asia-Pacific region. If you are interested, please feel free to contact us.

* SOC: Abbreviation for Security Operation Center. An organization that monitors networks and devices and detects and analyzes cyber attacks.


Profile of Yasushi Sugiyama

Born in Chiba prefecture in 1963. After graduating from university in 1987, he joined Toshiba Engineering Co., Ltd. (currently Toshiba IT Service Co., Ltd.). He Engaged in technical support for control system computers (minicomputers) at that time. After working in the service department, sales department, and sales promotion department, he joined the current service product / technology development department in 2016, and has been in his current position since 2019.

Profile of Daisuke Ono

Born in Tokyo in 1965, After graduating from Meiji University, he joined Fujitsu Limited. He engaged in optical broadband communication system and mobile phone system business from the beginning. Since the 2000s, he has been a country manager at telecommunications and security companies (Extreme, Broadcom, Nokia, Microsemi) in Silicon Valley, USA. Joined Zinier Inc. in 2020 and is in his current position.

Toshiba IT Service Co., Ltd.
Established October 2002
Capital: 1,053 million yen
Revenue: 38.8 billion yen (fiscal year ending March 2020)
Number of employees: 1,627 people (as of April 2020)
Business services: Platform integration service, kitting & device management service, construction service, remote management service (including SOC), on-site management service, maintenance service.
URL: https://www.it-serve.co.jp/

Zinier Inc.
Established January 2016
Capital: 120 million US dollars (about 12.5 billion yen)
Number of employees 200 people (as of January 1, 2021)
Business services: Providing a field service AI and automation platform.
URL: https://www.zinier.com

For inquires about Zinier, please email us at hello@zinier.com.