Five Reasons Why Industrial Equipment Manufacturers Need a Cloud 

Five Reasons Why Industrial Equipment Manufacturers Need a Cloud 

Posted by: Steve Shaw | Posted on: Friday, September 28, 2018

For many people, particularly manufacturers of industrial equipment, a cloud system is not urgent.  The cloud is a nebulous, ethereal concept – where is the “Cloud”?  And more importantly, why should I care? 

At SMC, we believe manufacturers need a Cloud with a Purpose.  People don’t buy a shovel because they need a stick with a piece of metal on the end, it’s because they need a hole.  We have the same approach for cloud – it’s a tool for manufacturers to gain insight into their field-installed equipment.  The sole purpose of our SMC Cloud product offering is to enable manufacturers to better support, service and manage their customers. 

Having launched the SMC Device Management Cloud in January, 2018 with 10 partners, we’ve gotten excellent feedback from manufacturers on how they are using, and want to use, our Cloud. 

 

1. See Inside

For years, the adage was “no news is good news”.  After equipment is installed, hearing from the customer implies a problem or defect.  No news = working systems. 

But today, equipment with external data ports for communication with local management systems are becoming routine.  The data about your equipment, how it’s performing, how much use it’s getting, how often it’s being maintained – is available, but it’s not getting to you, the manufacturer. 

Envision the NASA command center from Apollo 13. 

Rather than monitoring one piece of equipment, you’re able to monitor every piece of equipment your company sells and installs.  And rather than needing a giant room with big monitors, it’s all available via the browser on your computer (or even phone). 

Filter views by make or model; by region or geography or customer type; by active, inactive, in need of maintenance; it’s all there.  Now you can see inside the field, and inside your products, all from inside your office. 

 

2. Save A Truck (roll)

With cloud-based connectivity to installed equipment, manufacturers can dramatically improve customer service.  We like to believe our customers are smart and savvy users of our equipment.  But in reality, communication breakdowns happen.

The ability for a technician or knowledgeable support person to remotely connect to field-installed equipment and assess the state of operations can dramatically shorten time to resolution. 

At the end of the day, the customer wants the equipment running properly.  Rolling a truck and technician takes time and money for the you and the customer.  Hours or days when equipment is offline translates to hours or days of lost productivity.  If remote access can save a fraction of truck-rolls, and get the equipment back online faster, both you and your customer will be happier. 

 

3. Send A Truck (roll)

While remote access is crucial, the reality is that things break, particularly industrial equipment with heavy workloads.  It’s often necessary to send a technician onsite to accomplish repairs or maintenance. 

Cloud connected devices can improve the outcomes of truck-rolls and at the same time improve the customer’s satisfaction with your service.

First, the connected equipment will be providing basic ‘heartbeat’ data to the Cloud.  Is it on?  Is it working properly?  Is it in alarm?  Just this basic information is enough for the manufacturer to become pro-active in its support activities. 

Automatically log a support incident and get a support person to track down the issue.  Proactively reach out to the on-site contact (if available), or to the reseller/field installation company tasked with providing support and notify them of a problem. 

And when the truck finally does go on-site, you’ll know exactly what the problem is and more importantly – what skills and parts are needed to resolve the problem.  By some measure, 1 in 7 truck rolls (15%) result in a second visit within 30 days simply because the wrong person, or part, is sent to the field. 

 

4. Never forget!

I recently read that, because of (I)IoT and the information available at the edge, the world will have doubled the amount of data collected in the next 2 years.  Wow. 

Don’t collect data for data collection’s sake – the goal is a ‘cloud with a purpose’.  In this case, it’s possible to collect a tremendous amount of data from equipment in the field.  But collect the right data. 

One of our customers wants to collect a lot of data over the course of a very short (1-2 sec) event, and then move the polling interval out to days.  They know that failures occur during the short event, and when their equipment is in steady-state, failures are virtually unheard of. 

It’s relatively easy to tailor data collection profiles based on any number of variables.  Ultimately, your engineers know your equipment best.  This means they know what to track, and they know what to look for in pools of data. 

In data analysis and analytics, there’s no substitute for knowing the equipment inside and out. 

 

5. Hello! It’s the (Service & Subscription) Economy, Stupid!

Certainly the ‘economy’ is, and always will be, important.  But in the last 10 years, we have started to see a shift from ‘good & services’ to ‘services & subscriptions’. 

Companies realize that competition and margins remain tight, and that service & support (and subscriptions) can be both lucrative and crucial in maintaining relationships.  How would your service or support contracts change if you knew operational and performance data about your equipment in the field? 

Offer an ‘active’ management service – with real-time monitoring for crucial systems.  A new service plan with notifications of a problem. 

Consider what percentage of your customers buy a service contract today?  With concrete data, could you construct more appealing service plans?  Could you double the ‘take-rate’?  What would that be worth?

 

You don’t just need a cloud, you need a cloud with a purpose – a cloud that allows you to make more money, save more time, and boost your business. Contact us if you'd like to discuss how to bridge your business gap with the SMC Cloud.