A growing number of software vendors offer predictive maintenance services that go beyond simply preventing equipment failure, such as workforce management and inventory control.
The main value of predictive maintenance is to prevent unexpected and costly equipment failures. Industrial equipment can cost a bundle to replace — around $450,000 for an oil well or more than $100 million for a gas turbine — so it’s always better to replace or repair a part before it breaks.
Analytics in such a predictive maintenance platform usually involves comparing real-time IoT data against a historical model of part failure developed through machine learning.
Predictive maintenance, though, has other capabilities, such as the ability to extend the life of an asset even after its warranty expiration. The two capabilities — preventing equipment failure and optimizing production — could generally be called “asset performance management.”
Beyond Part Replacement
There are, however, two other capabilities sometimes included in a predictive maintenance platform: automated field services and inventory control. That turns predictive maintenance into somewhat of a comprehensive field service, and the IoT these days is not about parts but services.
“As connectivity is embedded into devices, business value shifts from products themselves to the services that are delivered through them,” according to a post from Jahangir Mohammed, founder and CEO of Jasper, which was acquired by Cisco.
There are a number of vendors that offer a portfolio of predictive maintenance services. PTC, as part of its Axeda platform, offers the ability to integrate alarms and alerts into enterprise business systems and automate field services, including the deployment of spare parts and the scheduling of maintenance tasks.
One curious development is Microsoft’s goal to integrate predictive maintenance as a tool in its customer relationship management suite.
A May 23 announcement explained that the update, dubbed the Spring Wave of Dynamics CRM, will include the new “Connected Field Service” tool. The tool continually monitors IoT devices for anomalies and when detected, sends real-time alerts or triggers work orders. Gartner has named Spring Wave of Dynamics CRM a leader in the Magic Quadrant for CRM Customer Engagement Centers.
“In a Connected Field Service scenario, IoT-enabled devices are continuously monitored and anomalies are detected, generating alerts that trigger automated actions or service tickets and workflow according to service-level agreements,” explained Jujhar Singh, general manager of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, in the announcement. “Availability and proximity of service technicians with the right skills and tools are then matched against the service requirement and routed to customer locations to take preventive action.”
Also included in the update are new web portals that will allow companies to create communities to engage customers. The portals come with self-service profile-management capabilities, configurable extensions and security features such as access control and permissions. The Connected Field Service tool will also include service automation to streamline customer engagement from sales to billing and delivery.
Microsoft’s platform and others may portend a shift to customer service in the IoT.
“We predict that by 2025, many manufacturers will make more revenue from services than from selling actual products,” writes George L. Koroneos for Verizon Enterprise Solutions. “And with the push by manufacturers to focus more on delivering service outcomes versus providing products, the role of IoT will also grow in importance.” –Chris Raphael and Sue Walsh