From proactive, reliable, affordable machine maintenance that helps companies make productive use of their machinery without unplanned interruptions, to transforming customer and vendor relationships with collaborative innovation and many possible equipment-as-a-service scenarios, the internet of things (IoT) enables an optimal customer experience within systems of engagement. When it comes to the machinery deployed in industrial and enterprise environments, many of the IoT advantages associated with real-time visibility and connectedness make so much sense that they will rapidly become what companies expect to see as a matter of course.
Machine management to enhance the customer experience
Customer-focused machine management requires machine manufacturers to provide IoT-connected machinery, which can provide a wealth of data related to its operating conditions, performance, and wear and tear. With the right reporting and analytical tools, that raw data can become meaningful and actionable for manufacturers and their customers. Once machinery is in the industrial IoT, machine manufacturers gain the ability to improve the customer experience by delivering timely, responsive support to keep machines in the best possible working condition and ensure that customers receive a high return from their investment.
There are many advantages to IoT-powered machine management. To begin with, it offers manufacturers and customers the opportunity to be fully informed about any aspect of a machine’s operation. Machine data can be centrally accessed and managed through companies’ ERP systems or specialized applications that integrate with them. In many cases, this will mean that manufacturers for the first time ever have real-time visibility of machine usage, performance, and behavior.
Increasing uptime, reducing costs
Informedness about actual machine operating conditions can help manufacturers perform more timely and proactive maintenance, addressing potential issues before they become problematic. Notifications from the IoT-connected machines can help avoid unplanned outages and achieve reductions in maintenance costs. As customers and manufacturers learn from the machines’ IoT data, they can also establish more effective schedules for regular maintenance and reduce the need for ad-hoc maintenance to a minimum. Predictive machine maintenance can become significantly less expensive and more reliable.
Customers who use connected machines in the industrial IoT can interact more directly and productively with the manufacturer, receiving targeted machine updates and performance enhancements, and ordering and receiving parts as they require them, without needless delays. Because machine documentation and user guidance can be downloaded and updated through the IoT right at each individual machine, user training and workers’ ability to use the machines properly can also become more effective.
Incorporating collaboration into the customer experience
Much more becomes possible when machines join the industrial IoT. Machine manufacturers and their customers enjoy greater liberty to structure their relationships based on their goals. For example, they can collaborate more closely not just to ensure that a certain type of machine performs well and without interruption, but they can also use findings based on IoT data analysis to improve the next generation of the machines. Or, they can create a design that addresses specific business needs of an enterprise customer or a customer segment, without the exorbitant research and development costs that typically characterize custom improvements to machinery. Innovation can then take place more affordably and incrementally, throughout the life of a machine, not just in design phases in between releases.
Machines within the IoT can become the key components of a service, as opposed to a one-time, high investment. Many companies are already exploring service scenarios that become feasible and manageable with the IoT and the cloud. For instance, ownership of the machinery can remain with the machinery manufacturer while the customer is charged based on usage. For the customer, this reframes the costs associated with the machinery. Instead of capital expenses, they are now operating expenses. This trend is sometimes referred to as “servitization” or “equipment as a service” (EaaS).
In our next posts, we will take a closer look at three IoT-enabled usage scenarios that involve machine users and manufacturers.
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