ThyssenKrupp takes aim at downtime to improve customer satisfaction

rory smith thyssenkruppRory Smith, director-strategic development Americas for ThyssenKrupp Elevator, described at Smart Industry 2015 an initiative that aims to add remote monitoring and analytics of many of the firm’s installed base of 1.1 million elevators and escalators worldwide.

“Our long-term business is maintenance,” Smith explained: elevators are one-time capital placements that can remain in service for a century, but keeping them operating smoothly provides a steady stream of revenue. To ensure ThyssenKrupp remains the vendor of choice, the firm’s development team determined it could shift away from preventive maintenance to a predictive maintenance model, leveraging Microsoft’s cloud-based Azure platform to remotely monitor motor current, mechanical motion, cabin loads and other variables to predict malfunctions before they occur.

A proof-of-concept test began last year in a low-rise building in the Redmond, Wash., area, to determine what additional sensors were needed and if real-time data collection through the cloud could really improve performance. Within two months, the answer came back as yes. “We started with a simple system to minimize IoT [Internet of Things] complexity,” Smith said. “Now we are doing it in the new One World Trade Center.”

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IoT delivers valuable data that simply wasn’t available previously. To illustrate, he cited the ability to monitor the number of times an elevator’s doors open and close on each floor. Doors are a major failure point, and tracking their activity increases the likelihood that a visit by a maintenance technician can be scheduled before there is a breakdown, rather than service them at intervals unrelated to actual use. It also raises the possibility for data sharing with other building systems, such as HVAC units that could be aligned with actual occupancy information on each floor.

To ease “technology backlash” concerns in its technician ranks, ThyssenKrupp’s system is dubbed The Coach, a mentor to help improve technicians’ performance, not to replace them. “The Coach will teach people what to look for” by prioritizing error codes and guiding them to the most likely cause of a mechanical failure, Smith explained. 

Read more about what Kevin Miller, program manager for Microsoft's Azure IoT strategy, had to say about how new, off-the-shelf toolsets are dramatically accelerating IoT implementations.