You’re a telco. A storm blows through your territory and wreaks havoc on your cell towers. Luckily, you’ve rigged them all with sensors so you can remotely monitor and diagnose issues in the field. But the problem is hundreds of towers are beaming alerts all at once, leaving you scratching your head staring at a screen full of blinking red lights.
Data collection and analysis should lead to easier decision making and action…that’s partly the promise of IoT. But if all you’re getting is tons of raw info and no way to prioritize and act on it, is that really advantageous? If the worst happens, an influx of data and broken machines shouldn’t make or break you as a company.
Manufacturers and service providers are increasingly tapping the industrial internet to not only better understand/operate machines but also to offer improved service and business models. This is at the root of companies transitioning from selling products to selling outcomes as a service—guaranteed production from certain assets. And automated and connected service lies at the center of this model; however, between dozens of different sources sending service requests, including smart machines’ automated alerts and duplicative human service requests, field engineers can get hit with a massive influx that renders productive service moot.
Meeting customer demand for service with the constant influx of break-fix and incoming maintenance requests is a major challenge for field service teams of all sizes. So how can companies and their techs accomplish this in our newly connected era? The answer lies in scaling processes to keep up with the breakneck speed of connected technology, all while remaining dedicated to your customers.
Be preventive and notice failure
Paying attention to your machines is one of the most effective ways to predict where your next service request will come from. Continually monitoring asset health can help you keep tabs on when service will be needed, developing a baseline for failure that enables companies to react to service demands as quickly as possible.
But providing preventive service—not just proactive—before equipment malfunctions is where you can benefit from connected technology and keep customers happy. As devices send signals and keep constant tabs on machines, companies can identify patterns and learn from repair history to pinpoint the optimal time to service devices in the field. The more in advance you can address these issues as you’re alerted by the machine, the less last-minute, frantic calls from customers. (And this affords you more time to balance incoming requests with routine maintenance.)
Plan maintenance in advance—but be flexible
Now that you’re delivering preventative service before outages even occur, you’d think much of the work would be automated. Unfortunately, dispatching preventive orders can be tough to do when working around emergency outages that come up. So, expect the unexpected. As outages crop up or appear weeks in advance, focus scheduling not only on when these incidents occur but also when previously scheduled maintenance is completed. Tapping into previous maintenance schedules can ensure that equipment gets placed on a realistic (but still proactive) schedule, based off the data collected from these connected machines. And when emergencies come up, don’t be afraid to adjust your timetable—you can just get back on track afterward.
Use IoT data to better outfit customers
With all of this data at our fingertips—and proactive maintenance scheduling at the ready—using the Industrial Internet of Things information you’ve collected to better outfit customers is a renewed possibility. Knowing the details of your customers’ pain points, outages, and opportunities to expand gives manufacturers the opportunity to upsell them on new equipment. It gives service companies the chance to sell continued maintenance.
Customers need to be promised returns. They want to purchase a machine and have it work always—and if it doesn’t work, they want it to be fixed before they even know it’s broken. IIoT data lets service companies offer promised outcomes to customers, whether that’s a dishwasher that always works or a thousand completed flights in one week. No matter what the goal is, connectivity helps us not only service machines better, but better sell them in the first place and ensure they’re working far down the line.
Lubor Ptacek is vice president of product marketing at ServiceMax