Businesses provide services to customers in various locations, using the same machinery, equipment, technology, or processes in all locations need to ensure that everything works seamlessly at every site. That’s where a field service engineer comes into the picture.
Field service engineers are needed in industries such as manufacturing, telecommunications, and healthcare. They’re in especially high demand at semiconductor fabrication plants (fabs) due to the recent chip shortage and resulting supply chain recovery.
Keep reading to learn more about field service engineers, how crucial they are to their employers and customers, and how you might become one if you feel it’s a good match for your goals.
What Is Field Service Management?
Before diving into the field service engineering profession, let’s explore field service management (FSM). FSM is known as the tools and processes a company uses to manage and coordinate its field operations, which entails coordinating, scheduling, tracking, and monitoring one or more of its field service technicians working at various sites to support other branches or customers.
Leadership in FSM is responsible for ensuring complete and accurate equipment installation, maintenance, repair, and replacement as needed. They must also provide troubleshooting of systems and assets, relying on field service engineers.
Field service managers manage the company’s resources, coordinating with specialized field service practitioners who hold the necessary skills to take on-site assignments to provide clients with specialized and often proprietary services.
Let’s review a few tasks of field service management leaders, especially when leading field service providers:
- Scheduling and dispatching field service engineers to attend to customers’ requests for service. Field service managers review each service call to find a field technician based on their availability, location, skills, and the number of tickets currently in their queue. They also work to minimize travel time for field service professionals, scheduling and optimizing routes accordingly.
- Creating and managing work orders that lay out the precise issue, so the field service engineers can go in and do their work quickly, effectively, and completely.
- Tracking technicians to monitor their activity in real-time to ensure better response times and accurate updates for customers.
- Monitoring inventory and parts to ensure field service engineers always have the tools, equipment, and parts they need to conduct their tasks with greater efficiency and effectiveness.
What is a Field Service Engineer?
Now that we know a little more about field service management, you might already have a better idea of what a field service engineer is. This career focuses on maintenance troubleshooting for a business’s customers.
Any time that the FSM team gets a call for service, they rely on field service technicians for maintenance, installation, and troubleshooting of technology, machinery, and on-site equipment.
Field Service Engineer Job Description
A field service engineer works in one of many technological fields, using their expertise to design, install, repair, and replace equipment per a customer’s circumstance. They have the experience, knowledge, skills, and support of the FSM team to attend to each situation quickly and effectively to help the customer use the company’s services with as little interruption as possible.
Field service technicians provide a nearly full menu of technical services, providing on-site support to customers in the public and private sectors. These professionals must have strong interpersonal skills since they work directly with customers, helping to troubleshoot and solve issues and providing training for newly installed or replaced hardware.
Here are some additional tasks that field service engineers regularly perform:
- Install new hardware, software, or systems as they monitor any existing problems. They might collaborate with other professionals with the necessary expertise to allow them to fully satisfy the customer as quickly as possible.
- Manage and track newly acquired equipment and systems.
- Respond to calls from field service managers and complete service tasks, including system installation and commissioning, scheduled and corrective service calls, calibration duties, and other tasks as assigned by the FSM team.
Instruct customers on the proper usage of equipment and how to perform operator-level troubleshooting to help them get back up and running on their own faster.
Where Do Field Service Engineers Work?
These professionals work in various industries, providing their services to companies in everything from semiconductor manufacturing to water piping systems and robotics. Ultimately, any business that supplies customers with equipment and support relies on field service engineers for on-the-ground service.
Field service engineers work at IT service providers, oil and gas enterprises, HVAC businesses, and healthcare organizations. Recently, more and more FSEs are being employed in the semiconductor industry to lead the installation, maintenance, and repair of semiconductor manufacturing equipment.
The key responsibilities of a field service engineer include having:
- A general knowledge and working understanding of basic computer software, hardware, and systems. Field service professionals must also have the ability to pick up the nuances within each industry and business where they choose to work.
- The ability to work with people, communicate concepts and instruction, and provide training and troubleshooting. That means that these professionals must also focus on enhancing soft skills in communication.
- An understanding and respect for the chain of command, maintaining consistent communication with the field service management team to ensure prompt response to field service managers. This way, they are always ready and able to respond to a customer’s request for on-site support.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in engineering-related fields is projected to grow 4% from 2021 through 2023.
But at semiconductor fabs, increasing numbers of field service engineers are needed to make quality chips, circuits, and production equipment. To put it in perspective, it’s estimated that each fab needs approximately 2,000 to 3,000 field service engineers.
The median annual salary for field service engineers was recorded at $79,840 in May 2021, notes BLS. However, a May 2023 Salary.com report lists the pay range as typically falling between $60,962 and $75,154. Various factors come into play as far as the pay available to field service engineers, including years of service, educational level, certifications, and additional skills.
In most cases, businesses want to hire field service engineers who hold a bachelor of science degree in a technical, mechanical, biomedical, or another similar discipline. They might desire someone with knowledge and experience in servicing electro-mechanical, electronic, optical, and robotics-controlled equipment.
Here are some additional skills and qualifications that will work to your benefit:
- Out-of-the-box critical thinking
- Equipment installation, calibration, and servicing
- On-the-spot troubleshooting, diagnostic, and remediation capabilities
Are You Ready to Launch Your Career as a Field Service Engineer?
If you’re planning on a career in field service engineering, we hope this post will help you start planning your successful career in this exciting area. Visit our Insight Global job board to find tons of listings, including field service engineer job descriptions!