Ahead of giving a presentation on this topic at Field Service USA, Scott E. Day, Executive Vice President, Thyssenkrupp Elevator Corporation, gives us his insight on taking the right path on the journey to embracing digital services...
When we embark on a mission to digitalize our business processes, it’s easy to just jump in and assume that if we can get it done we will be more efficient and make more money.
While digitizing is a smart move – it is important to think about: data structure, data cost, hardware and access carefully.
The goal is to make sure your strategy is complete and ensure your customers need your services above all else. So, before jumping in to keep up with competitors, realise that data is not the only consideration.
What’s Your Business Model?
It’s important to know what your business model is and what you’re trying to accomplish with an Internet of Things (IoT) solution.
You might be seeking efficiencies, like those found by thyssenkrupp via our MAX solution (more on that later). Or you might have other ideas like Splunk’s CEO, Godfrey Sullivan did - using data to determine the likelihood of lease renewals and the health of tenant’s businesses based on the frequency of the elevator stops at each tenant’s floors.
Whatever your business model and reason for getting into IoT, this is the leading decision that drives the remaining components of the infrastructure you use.
So let’s start with data. What data will your technicians consume and what data will your customers want? Many companies want all the data, which makes it easier to do analytics down the road.
However, if you are sending raw data from hundreds of thousands of complex machines, you’d better have deep pockets.
If this level of data is needed, data compression algorithms are widely available and should be considered critical in setting up schemas to get the data to the cloud and to the consumers.
If your project requires attaching hardware to equipment you service, it’s important to understand the full costs and trade-offs between a one-time hardware expenditure and long-term data costs.
Depending on the industry, choosing low-cost solutions like LoRa, a long range low power wireless platform, are great for low consumption applications. This is not the case for elevators, they require cellular connectivity because multiple processors are connected within a single unit each one sending massive amounts of data.
If using cellular, consider if your customers, your call centres or your technicians will need realtime access to the state of the machine to find a balance between cost and performance. If you are sending massive amounts of data, compare the costs of 3G versus 4G/LTE services versus the time to transmit and the coverage of those technologies.
Keep in mind that 3G may appear to be cheaper, but it won’t be long before 4G/LTE services become the new norm and the piece of hardware you installed may need to be replaced or upgraded if you’ve rolled out with lower bandwidth and slower technology.
Make vs. Buy
When thinking about hardware beyond telecom, it’s important to weigh time to market against core competency.
Are you an engineering company that specialises in building microprocessor and telecom devices? And can they communicate serially and temporarily store data until the right condition is met to send it?
If not, it might be best to look for off-the-shelf hardware that will allow you to get the total solution adding value to the business and customers sooner.
Cloud Solutions and Predictive Analytics
For thyssenkrupp, this is the next frontier. We are moving our business into a more predictive, condition-based maintenance model.
This will allow our technicians to work on the right issues during every single visit to a customer’s location. This is where efficiency and customer value meet.
Fixing it right the first time, or using lifecycle models to predict and replace parts before they fail are key to a customer base that is looking for guaranteed up time and always-on performance.
Microsoft Azure, GE Predix, and IBM Watson are to name a few, and each have their niche in Industry 4.0.
Digitization to Digitalization
When planning the business benefits for IoT solutions, transparency of information is where digitization meets digitalization. As in the Splunk example, can you monetise the data?
Does making it more accessible to make your field workforce make them more efficient?
Many businesses have begun providing portals full of information to their customers. Our experience has been that many times this data sharing is overwhelming for customers who don’t necessarily have the time to read it.
To demonstrate value and monetise the solution, it’s got to be the data or services that the customer wants and will spend money for.
At thyssenkrupp, our vision is to provide technicians with access to a wide variety of information specific to the building which will help them service the elevator more effectively in turn improving the elevator experience for tenants.
This is possible, via access to live data from the elevator controller (brain) and to schematics and manuals.
At the same time, destination dispatch kiosks at every floor allow customers to not only select their desired floor, but to also see streaming services displaying things like weather, stock market and news feeds. RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and NFC (Near Field Communication), Wi-Fi and Bluetooth applications make it easier to recognise people so the elevator system can place the call automatically for them.
So, what seemed like a simple case of connecting a machine to a cloud and making your technicians more efficient is really a more sustaining decision that requires a well thought out strategy.
Digitizing your current processes is the simple part, and many are doing it. The strategy needs to include how to turn digitization into digitalization through the right infrastructure.