As a heavy equipment manufacturer, the services you provide to customers after the initial sale are more important than ever. Customers expect loyal service relationships with their equipment manufacturers, and manufacturers are eager to capture longer revenue streams from their machinery sales. With these trends in mind, quality product support is becoming one of the most important after-market success drivers.
But strong product support requires a lot of work and organization. OEMs and distributors of heavy equipment need to manage field processes that run the gambit: installations, break/fix repair, preventive maintenance and inspections. How do you keep these processes organized while making a profit and keeping customers happy and loyal?
New forms of equipment performance data offer a promising answer, namely the potential of Internet of Things (IoT) to revolutionize the way companies provide product support.
The Rise of IoT in Heavy Equipment Product Support
Evidence strongly suggests that heavy equipment technology, and telematics in particular, is delivering positive benefits for machinery manufacturers and users alike, including improved operator productivity, safety and maintenance awareness.
In its 2014 report on the Economic Footprint of the Construction Equipment Industry on the U.S. Economy, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) suggests that the construction equipment industry has only begun to scratch the surface of the ways it can translate machine data into concrete customer, manufacturer and dealer business benefit.
Access to troves of machine performance, diagnostic and maintenance data through connected equipment holds great promise for positively impacting customer service experiences through a more proactive, preventive approach to product support.
Six Ways Equipment Manufacturers Can Use IoT Data to Improve Product Support
Having access to machine data is only the start. With detailed performance information coming from connected equipment, manufacturers and their dealers need to figure out how they’ll use it to inform business decisions and automate service processes. Here are a few ways you can make IoT work for you:
- Receive automated triggers for PM repairs through equipment sensors
IoT sensors in equipment signal when repairs are needed before problems escalate into more expensive issues. For example, instead of scheduling PM assignments in regularly scheduled intervals, you can use sensors in the equipment to activate a work order automatically when a part isn’t working right. As the work order is generated, the system orders parts and schedules a preliminary service call. When the parts arrive, a service truck is dispatched to the site to perform the PM. Each of these steps is done automatically in seconds since no human interaction is required.
- Automate Inventory Management
Over or understocking parts or equipment is a big expense for manufacturer inventory departments. Through the IoT, sensors connected to parts in the warehouse can trigger alerts when you need to stock parts so you always have exactly what you need.
You can also connect sensors to parts in the field so you never have to worry about misplacing expensive or necessary parts. Think about the cost of a worker losing a tool. With IoT, you know exactly where all your parts are and how they’re being used.
- Analyze Big Data
Although access to troves of data is great, manufacturers need to be able to analyze all that incoming information if they want it to help their business. With the right service management system in place, service businesses can display equipment data in charts and graphs according to each stakeholder’s role in the company. For example, service managers might see success rates of service visits or the profitability of a service contract, while a customer portal might display equipment efficiency and energy output.
The ability to analyze key performance indicators can inform equipment production best practices and guide manufacturers to establish more effective preventive maintenance and service programs.
- Improve Scheduling Accuracy
With IoT sensors built into each part, schedulers can see who has which parts and use that information to make scheduling decisions so techs don’t waste time returning to the warehouse to get the parts they need.
And, because schedulers now have real-time access to technician location and availability, they can also optimize routing to get the right tech to the right place at the right time.
- Auto-Inspect Equipment
Self-diagnostics and reporting sensors make late or forgotten inspections a thing of the past. Instead of sending technicians into the field to conduct manual equipment inspections, techs can simply log into the equipment’s portal to inspect its performance levels remotely.
- Track Vehicle Fleets
By connecting your fleet of vehicles with IoT sensors, you can collect information about how well a vehicle is functioning, which parts need replacing, and measure fuel efficiency and driver behavior. With this information, you can initiate company-wide driving codes, which not only improve technician safety and decrease the risk of accidents, but also cut down on the wear and tear of driving too aggressively.
Conclusion: Poised for Service Success in 2015
The future of the IoT is upon us, and manufacturers stand to benefit more than most by using IoT to focus on equipment service programs after the initial sale.
Sophisticated machine telematics technology and the data it produces often stands in stark contrast to the largely manual, paper-based means of delivering and tracking field service for many manufacturers. With greater focus on collecting equipment information through IoT sensors and an investment in mobile field service software to deliver and analyze that information, your service department will be poised for success this year and beyond.
Joanna is the content marketing manager at MSI Data.