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The Internet of Things (IoT) offers huge potential for all capital equipment industries.  Through predictive maintenance algorithms and health monitoring applications, alerts warn us of impending equipment failure.  Early detection using thermal or vibration sensors embedded in the equipment can catch a failure before the function of the equipment is compromised.  These sensors pick up small deviations in the physical properties of a piece of equipment, deviations that are not detectable by human senses.  This advance notice offers tremendous benefits when it comes to reducing maintenance and warrantee costs and increases operational availability and safety for equipment operators.

Once we are alerted, responding to complex equipment failures often takes expertise from multiple people, across multiple domains.  Product engineering needs to evaluate design changes, aftermarket service departments must deal with warrantee claims, supply chain departments have to consider spare part availability, and the list goes on.  All of these stakeholders exchange emails, interrogate logistics and engineering systems, and create spreadsheets, presentations and databases on their local desktops.  The path to a solution is a highly iterative, complex and unstructured process.  There is no linear path to solve complex problems, nor can a single application provide solutions for all the functional domains that are impacted.  Complex equipment failure requires collaboration across multiple people and functional domains.

Collaboration in the digital age calls for a new approach, an approach that enables a seamless transition from the alert phase to the action phase.  The SAP Innovation Center is currently working on a collaboration tool that does just that.  The concept is called the Knowledge Workspace, and it is meant to bridge the gap between machine intelligence and the human intelligence that is required to solve complex problems.  The intent is to bring all relevant data sources together into a single workspace, assign the relevant people to the workspace, explore all aspects of the issue on the fly across multiple functional domains, reach conclusions on the remedy and act on these conclusions.  The application provides out-of-the-box tools to work with, and visualize, all data types from logistics data, engineering data, telemetry data and even news and weather reports.  The fact that it is not a predefined user interface allows flexibility to analyze unique issues on the fly and retain the analysis and decisions for the creation of a knowledge base or collection of best practices.  But don’t take my word for it; I would urge you to view a demonstration of the product via the link below to see the application in action. It is truly a unique and innovative means of collaboration for the digital age.