How do Equipment Manufacturers really feel about the Internet of Things?

The coming of age of IoT in Oliver’s company.

“Good morning Greg, this is Oliver from the Remote Services Department.”

“Hi, Oliver. How are things going?”

“I’m looking at the data from this morning, and it seems that the Sorting Process 341 in Hall 9 has slowed down since last night. I see you already identified the issue as someone already checked the belt in the optical sorting machine 6 and made some configurations.”

“Yes, you’re right. We had our on-call technician make a small adjustment.”

“It improved the speed, but I would like to suggest another check-up in a related area, as there’s a risk for the issue to recur in the next 12 hours.”

“Sure, that would be of great help. I’m listening.”

When IoT hit Oliver’s desk the first time, he was busy solving client requests which had all sorts of equipment breakdowns. IoT was just noise. He had better things to do, such as sending his servicing teams on-site than look into a trend that was probably overstated.

As a Service Manager at a large industrial equipment manufacturing company, Oliver has two main objectives: ensuring product reliability and creating new business value. If you look closer, both are closely linked to Greg, Oliver’s customer.

Diving into IoT requires vision and frankly, a bit of gut. The guts to be amongst the few ones to admit and trust IoT’s value before it reaches a tipping point.

And this is what Oliver did.

Instead of taking calls from clients with maintenance issues, he’s now proactively warning them about potential malfunctions, helping them avoid financial losses. Oliver’s company has its industrial equipment connected and remotely monitor their condition based on the collected data. Oliver acknowledged that having access to data about the equipment is the first step towards making their equipment smarter.

With a first step taken on the IoT path, Oliver now looks farther.

FIGHTING DOWNTIME WITH DATA

The company Oliver is supplying with industrial equipment is a leading producer and processor of potatoes, owned by Greg. Both of them are aware of the fact that even though there’s a pretty good understanding of what happens on the ‘factory floor’, there are plenty of situations that require a stronger expertise and much more than a daily routine check.

With access to a vast amount of equipment data, Oliver wants to draw insights from it, to make it actionable. He wants to understand how the equipment is working, identify behaviour patterns, why some parts are failing and how do they communicate with each other. Connecting all this digital data to Greg’s ‘factory floor’ is what Oliver perceives as a prerequisite for predictive maintenance.

Instead of making that early morning call to Greg, where he warns him of a potential malfunction, Oliver provides to Greg predictive maintenance schedules to help his company anticipate and prevent unexpected failures. They’re mapped on the equipment’s specific behaviour, taking in consideration technical parameters, historical data, the sorting & processing plan, etc.

More than that, the sorting machines are advanced enough to learn to optimise by themselves and use those smart maintenance and servicing schemes to launch a configuration or to place an order for a spare part without any external assistance.

This is what it means to make data actionable. On the one hand, equipment information is finally starting to make it over to Oliver, who can interpret it and use it to fine-tune his equipment. On the other, Greg benefits from a service that increases the overall equipment effectiveness and avoids costly downtime.

HOW FAR ARE YOU FROM BECOMING A SERVICE COMPANY?

In between hundreds of maintenance reports and calls from clients asking for technical support, you might understand why Oliver had trouble in seeing innovation anywhere close to his priorities list.

However, innovation has many faces. When Oliver decided to act on the data he’s gathered it was nothing but a step in shifting his business towards a more service-oriented model. This is still innovation, but with a more friendly name. This is also Oliver’s 3rd step on his IoT path.

Remember us mentioning Oliver and Greg both being aware of the occasional lack of expertise on the “factory floor”?

“Hi Oliver, this is Greg.”

“Hi, Greg. What can I do for you?”

“We’ve done the additional check-up, as you suggested, but our mechanic can’t seem to manage to fix that sensor.”

“I’ll have one of my colleagues guide you through the process. Just make sure you have your AR headset ready. We should be done in about 10 minutes.”

Any hardware is a commodity because it becomes replaceable at some point. The long-term value that the OEM aka Oliver can bring to his client, the Potatoes Producer and Processor aka Greg, lies in guaranteeing a certain degree of service quality and reliability. This is not a business opportunity just for Oliver, to bring intelligence to his equipment and benefit from new revenue streams. It is also a business opportunity for Greg, which can rest assured that his company benefits from increased productivity and improved cost efficiency.