Mark Hessinger, VP Global Customer Services, 3D Systems
Several years ago there was a great deal of talk in the Services industry about the desire to have connected machines, and, many companies providing medical equipment led the way in leveraging this technology and capability. Today it has become a standard expectation for hardware to be connected back to the support provider. In order to enable connected machines IT plays a very important role. Connectivity, security, and data management are all required to enable machine-to-machine (M2M) or Internet of Things (IoT) applications.
Connected systems will send messages, statuses and alerts to the services team, allowing the support personnel to have a current, accurate pulse of how all their hardware is performing. This is live and real-time information that enables a proactive Services model, and as teams leverage the technology to their fullest, they in turn become predictive.
The Path to Servitization
Servitization is the concept of creating value-added solutions for services in the manufacturing world. There are many ways to add value in services and one that is very important in manufacturing is the guarantee of up-time of the asset. In order to develop a Services solution that can guarantee up-time it is essential that there is a strong partnership with the IT team to build out the solution.
To illustrate this, let’s look at an example. An engineer just created an intricate design and is ready to manufacture it using additive manufacturing technology; leveraging 3D printing. As they start their “print” which can be a multi-day job, they want the best assurance that the part creation will be successful. Expectations for this technology and other manufacturing technology is for high levels of system up-time to ensure consistent production output.
In order to develop a Services solution that can guarantee up-time it is essential that there is a strong partnership with the IT team to build out the solution
Beyond the performance and quality designed into the system, there is an expectation that an advanced support structure will ensure their ongoing success with the product.
Collaboration between the IT and the Services organizations to address data management and security all while innovating new approaches is critical to maximize uptime on the manufacturing floor, and attain expected ROI on capital equipment investments.
Artificial Intelligence Driving Servitization
With a growing breadth of capabilities, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is rising in importance in Services. AI technology aids Service teams by leveraging their global knowledge to make better decisions faster. A requirement for effective use of AI is access to all global services data sources. These may be in customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), IoT, Knowledge Management or other systems. By connecting these data sources, AI tools can create information and knowledge at a faster rate than just leveraging people. This allows the technical experts to start working at the knowledge level instead of the data level; leading to much quicker decisions about the solutions and future improvements.
A simple, valuable example is as basic as having user maintenance completed properly. If a user forgets to clean the air filter on their 3D printer – which impacts system cooling – the system is able to notify Service that the internal temperature is fluctuating and, for a short period, went out of range. Service then proactively contacts the customer and mitigate the issue before it results in costly down-time. Historically without this connected system the support team would only hear from the customer when they see a warning message or have an undesired output or part failure. The ability to have a sensor read information, be processed and compared to what is expected, send an alert over internet that triggers a case in the CRM system, and is resolved in minutes, is all enabled by an underlying IT infrastructure supporting the customer-focused value-add solution.
Merging the two technology solutions above to enable predictive services is the game-changer. When the data and intelligence come together in advanced learning structures the tools will be able to predict when something will happen allowing Service teams to get ahead of any issue before the customer is ever impacted by it. The result is improved system uptime which enables more efficient production which helps manufacturers deliver products on time to meet customer expectations.
Without IT, Services cannot mature to what it can truly be nor what customers are demanding. Thus the true partnership from these teams will move companies forward, enabling a strong competitive advantage.