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Currently everybody is talking about the terms Digitization, Digital Transformation and Digital Business. In this blog I will discuss the impact of digitization on Aftermarket Service in the Industrial Machinery industry. What opportunities arise for Service, how does Service change and improve? Is there a Service 4.0 like the Industry 4.0?

Innovations in IT are the drivers for digitization. These innovations open opportunities for companies to improve their competitiveness in their traditional areas of business as well as in new areas. The main technology cornerstones of digitization are:

  • Super Computing: extremely powerful computers, allowing real-time processing of Big Data as well as artificial intelligence
  • The Internet of Things that allows to link physical assets and devices with the Web as well as with each other
  • 'Intelligent' Products with integrated software and sensors
  • Cloud Computing for a fast and simple usage of infrastructure and applications via the Web

These technologies open new opportunities for Aftermarket Service in four main areas: the products, the business models, the business processes and the Service employees.

When R&D departments develop new products, they can make them ‘Service-friendly’ by design. Intelligent and connected products are able to resolve technical issues on their own or at least make it easier for Service employees to do that. IoT-based access to products opens better options to resolve issues remotely. Furthermore, these digitized products build the foundation for new business models and improved Service processes.

Tennant, an American producer of floor cleaning machines, equips these with sensors and connects them via the Web. Based on that Tennant is offering their customers the IRIS® Asset Manager – for improved Service and allowing accessing machine data through a customer portal.

Digital technologies also are enablers for new business models. So the Aftermarket Service may offer advanced contracts, up to a 'all-round carefree service package' with guaranteed asset availability. Asset manufacturers offer operator models, remaining to be the asset owners and caring about the asset availability and performance. The customer just needs to pay for the outcome produced by the product. The Service department has the task of ensuring the asset availability.

The German producer of compressors Kaeser offers the operator model SIGMA AIR UTILITY®. Kaeser provides the compressor to the customer, who just pays for the volume of produced compressed air. Kaeser guarantees the permanent availability of compressed air. This new model is enabled by the Kaeser Service that cares about asset availability through web connection, condition monitoring and predictive maintenance.

Companies also leverage the new technologies to optimize the business processes in Aftermarket Service. They optimize maintenance strategies by predictive analytics based on asset condition data. These anticipate potential errors and propose measures intended to prevent these errors. With that, the service engineers will appear on the customer’s site even before the error may occur.

GEA, a global leader in food industry equipment, optimizes the performance of their customer assets through predictive maintenance. They perform a permanent condition monitoring and vibration analysis of machines, combining machine condition data and asset-related data from the business applications. Based on predictive analysis maintenance activities will only be triggered when they really are required based on the machine condition.

Another new option are cross-enterprise business networks for asset information. Manufacturers, operators and service providers use these to store and share asset-related information centrally in the cloud. With that, Aftermarket Service organizations have permanent access to current customer asset data in the as-maintained status. They are able to fast and easily provide information for asset operators and to collaborate with operators and service partners.

Finally, the Service employees will benefit from digitization. Their ‘electronic tool box’ is supplemented with new tools making their daily work easier. Field service employees use mobile apps to access all information they need to perform their tasks – not just in textual form, also through videos and interactive 3D drawings and work instructions. The next trend is Augmented Reality, applications that present instructions via data glasses. With those, the service engineer has both hands free for his work. Service employees also use their mobile devices for the communication and the exchange of information between one another.

The technological foundation for this transformation is a digital enterprise platform. The ‘digital core’ is the next-generation ERP to support the core business processes with complete real-time data processing and new analytical options like predictive analytics or real-time simulations. This ‘digital core’ is enhanced by applications to support own employees, to collaborate with suppliers, service partners and customers and to integrate assets and devices via the Internet of Things.

The Aftermarket Service as a ‘company within the company’ will benefit from all of these elements of a digital enterprise platform, moving towards a ‘Service 4.0’. Companies that intend to take these opportunities and actively drive their digital transformation should develop a road map for an evolutionary growth of their own IT landscape towards a digital enterprise platform.

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