By Tom Paquin
Manufacturing firms across a variety of disciplines have been looking for ways to implement more service-oriented solutions into traditional manufacturing processes. This true for organizations that work with capital and industrial equipment as much as it is for any other manufacturer, but for industrial manufacturers, there are a variety of unique challenges that must be considered.
Industrial assets—especially those that will become part of a broader manufacturing workflow—exist in a more mature service market than some of their manufacturing peers. As tools that are largely leveraged in business environments, the need to provide thorough service is much more than a courtesy. Broken assets means money out of the pockets of your customers, so offering detailed service plans, especially if you can guarantee outcomes around things like uptime and output, are the path forward. These new outcomes-based business models will ultimately define the future of field service for industrial manufacturers, and many businesses are already embracing outcomes today.
The actual requirements and technical specifications necessary to embrace outcomes-based service will invariably differ from use case to use case, but the bottom line is that to offer contracts around guaranteed performance, manufacturers need to have the internal capabilities to measure and validate performance among often complex systems. Bridging that gap requires some mechanical and operational forethought, as well as a robust and full-featured service management utility that is capable of managing extensive and complex assets, processes, and workflows. Here are some considerations for how to do this correctly:
Consider Your Framework for Connected Assets
Thinking specifically about the assets that you manufacture, what are the current internet-enabled capabilities built into these systems? Saying that you should consider incorporating connected sensors in your products is easy for me to say from behind my computer. It requires a lot of pre-planning and forethought, and requires the synergy between product, planning, procurement, and numerous other fields. There are, however, plenty of sue cases to pull from to better prepare yourself. Making smart moved with respect to IoT, whether it’s before or after you deploy best-in-class service software, will pay dividends in the long run.
Predictive Maintenance is King
An obvious corollary to connected assets is the potential of predictive maintenance in service processes. This requires that your connected assets be compatible with your service software, and that your service software have the implicit power under the hood to deliver predictive insights. How does your asset management system connect to your service management system? Is there a seamless handoff so that appointments can be quickly and easily scheduled? Predictive is a naturally complex process, and getting it right requires the answer to these and many other questions.
Clean up Your Data
We see a surprising number of businesses who discover that they’ve built biases into their data collection. Whether it helps them make it seem like uptime is higher than it is, or that they’ve hit a higher SLA rate than they actually have, sliding scales eventually break. When they do, your customer will wonder why it appears as though you’re hitting their outcomes while their own performance lags behind. Resolving this requires a combination of deep data auditing, from outside practitioners if applicable, and the implementation of smart data inputs to begin with. It could be what keeps customers invested in their outcomes contracts.
Get a Holistic View
I’m quick to point out the importance of tying internal systems together, and we’ve talked a bit already about how service needs to touch asset monitoring for businesses to be able to properly gauge the outcomes that can be offered to customers. For all of this to work properly, your service management software needs to be the grand central station through which everything passes through: You asset information, your parts data, your service-level agreement criteria, and so on. This is the lynchpin to successfully embracing outcomes-based service.
While outcomes-based service is a fantastic benchmark, if you haven’t started on your servitization journey, it will certainly inform it. The good news is that the power that best-in-class service software offers for outcomes-based service is just as applicable to the beginning of your service journey, and if you start out with an outcomes-based mindset, you’ll be ahead of the pack right out of the gate.