Article
31 May 2021

How connected machines streamline service for industrial equipment manufacturers ?

Through IoT solutions, OEM companies can maintain a valuable link with the machines installed at their customers’ sites. In the event of an incident, experts now have the data they need to reach their goal : solving customers’ issues faster and streamlining their operations.

Until now, once the machine was installed in the customer’s plant, the OEM had no visibility into its use or the evolution of its condition. In the event of an incident, the factory teams would call the after-sales service, and the first technician would come to diagnose the breakdown and schedule a new intervention for the repair. This can be a very time-consuming process, especially when the customer’s plant is located halfway around the world.

Connecting the customer’s machines to the OEM’s system has many advantages and will speed up this process considerably. More than a practical tool, it is a new way of approaching customer relations by offering a centralized communication channel at a time when tracking interactions is a real challenge for customer services. It is also a very concrete example of the answers that IoT technology can bring to the challenges of the manufacturing industry.

 

Complete traceability of events, interactions and operations that have taken place on the equipment.

 

(Re)connecting the manufacturer to “its” machines

A simple conversion of machines to IoT

In order for service experts to have remote access to the machines and their usage data, the first step is of course to connect them to the network thanks to IoT gateways such as those offered by eWon for example. It is generally not necessary to modify the machine or to add sensors, gateways collect the information provided by the PLC and send it on the cloud through a secure VPN. It can be installed as part of the initial setup or on existing equipment. For this solution to work, it only requires a good internet connection or sufficient cellular networks coverage to transmit the data (3G or 4G).

 

Integrated management of machines and users

On the manufacturer’s side, the implementation of connected machines system at the customer’s site requires to be able to easily find its machines, for example by following a hierarchical system based on the ISA 95 standard: each machine is linked to a production line, to a production site and to a customer. This process can be automated by connecting the solution directly to the manufacturer’s ERP.

In order to guarantee data confidentiality, user access must be perfectly controlled. For example, customers only have visibility into their own machine fleet. The manufacturer has a global view, with the possibility of creating a hierarchy of rights with users groups by profile: technicians, after-sales service, etc.

In practice, a connected solution such as InUse MRM natively integrates these functionalities (connectivity, user management, machine declaration, digitalized machine documentation, etc.), which are essential requirements to enable equipment manufacturers to offer new connected services to their customers.

 

Incident report example

 

Digitization of the after-sales service

Ticketing: incident reporting goes digital

In the event of a breakdown or incident with the connected equipment, the plant operator, rather than looking for a sticker with a telephone number stuck on the machine, will create a ticket within the software provided by the equipment manufacturer. By filling in the incident report form, he will describe the problem encountered and give valuable information about what is happening. The status of the reported incident will allow the manufacturer’s teams to provide an appropriate response. Far from slowing down the process, its digitalization will accelerate the response time.

 

An intelligent, precise and immediate diagnosis

By crossing the operator’s indications with the data transmitted by the machine, the after-sales service has the necessary information to make a diagnosis and identify the source of the problem. The experts will be able to analyze all the machine’s usage data. The time series allows the history of all the parameters to be reconstructed up to the moment of the incident, in order to target the cause, whether it is the result of a slow deviation that is often not identified by the supervision systems, or a particular event linked to misuse of the equipment, for example. Such a diagnosis would previously have been possible only by coming on site. Being able to reconstruct the use of the machine is a considerable advantage in determining the precise cause of a breakdown.

 

The after sales department can directly visualize the past data of the equipment.

 

Towards faster incidents’ resolution 

Remote solutions made easy

Thanks to the accuracy of the diagnosis, the manufacturer’s teams can determine the most efficient way to resolve the incident and get the machine up and running again as soon as possible. If the problem identified is not too complex, the large amount of data at their disposal offers the possibility to consider a remote repair, by directly involving a factory operator with a list of precise instructions or a video assistance in which an expert guides the operator in real time. This allows for extremely fast resolution of the incident. This saves valuable time for machines owners, especially if the breakdown affects the production of other machines on the line.

 

Optimized on-site interventions

In the case of a more serious breakdown, an on-site intervention by one of the OEM’s technicians will be necessary. Once again, the data provided gives a decisive advantage in preparing it. Based on the reported incident, the service department has greater flexibility to assign the intervention to an available technician thanks to the shared calendar and assignment functionalities included in the application.

Prior to his mission, the technician receives a work order containing precise information to prepare him in the best way. He will arrive at the factory equipped to solve the most likely causes identified by the diagnosis, having in particular the necessary tools and spare parts. In the event of a more complex problem, the data collected is again put to good use and will make the “traditional” investigation carried out on site by the technician more efficient.

 

Overview of the status of current incident tickets.

 

Streamlined customer relations management

An exhaustive follow-up of the actions carried out on the machines

The actions carried out, remotely or on site, as well as the technician’s observations are summarized in an intervention report validated by the customer by electronic signature. This document enriches the history of the machine. The manufacturer thus has additional monitoring information, which is extremely valuable for analyzing a future breakdown. This “health book” of the machine, to which the customer will have access, will also enable a more proactive approach to maintenance. A series of recurring events may reveal a particular weakness or misuse that can be transformed into an actionable insight. The OEM will then be able to alert his customer and advise him on the solutions to be implemented.

 

Augmented teams

The quality of service offered by the equipment manufacturer’s after-sales service teams is greatly improved thanks to its digitalization. To perform diagnostics or prepare their interventions, users such as technicians or automation engineers can rely on a network of expertise among the organization in parallel with IoT data. The application gives them access to their colleagues’ experience sharing on similar incidents. They can then, if necessary, ask them directly for clarification or advice through collaborative features.

 

A global vision for the equipment manufacturer

The equipment manufacturer can find in his environment all his different customers and their production sites using its machines. It thus has access to all the data relating to all the connected machines installed at its customers’ sites throughout the world. A sum of information with very high added value.

When properly exploited, this data can be used in many applications : to improve the design of machines by correcting recurring weaknesses, or to develop predictive maintenance processes, by creating artificial intelligence algorithms that will make the anticipation of incidents possible. Improving incident resolution is just one example of the solutions offered by InUse MRM. The IoT allows the equipment manufacturer to take on a new role with its customer, providing advice and proactive support throughout the life cycle of its equipment. An unprecedented innovation for after-sales services.

Kévin Tanguy
Customer Success Manager
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