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Manufacturers, but also suppliers of spare parts, wears or consumables are constantly looking for new services designed to strengthen their customer loyalty and to support their unique position.  Those who are digitally mature can leverage the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and machine-to-machine communication to create predictive maintenance services.

The article answers four questions:

What is predictive maintenance?

"Predictive" maintenance of machines means that service appointments are not triggered by general runtime hours or generic time frames. Predictive maintenance leverages measured data to find the perfect time to replace parts or stack up on consumables.

Wear components are used as long as possible, and are replaced (only) when needed to. This ensures machine availability, avoids downtimes while also keeping costs down. 

To realize this, digitized machines deliver millions of data via sensors to a decentralized network (edge computing) or directly to an IIoT hub for further processing. This data is then analyzed by the manufacturer and evaluated using machine learning technologies.

That’s what makes it "predictive": The evaluation determines the probability of failure of certain components within a defined period ahead. Accordingly, they are replaced at the right time, thereby reducing costs.


What are the benefits of predictive maintenance?

When compared to other maintenance approaches, predictive maintenance offers some advantages. For example, to reactive maintenance: Here, downtimes are the trigger for a chain reaction to replace parts.

Contrasting this, preventive maintenance addresses issues well ahead: Here, "trouble makers" are replaced on suspicion at fixed intervals. This is often done prophylactically and earlier than necessary. Predictive maintenance is the way to avoid the mentioned disadvantages by calculating the optimum point in time for the job. This adds up to clear benefits of predictive maintenance:

  • machine downtime is kept to a minimum
  • expensive, specific individual parts do not have to be kept in stock
  • -production efficiency is increased

The decisive advantage for suppliers is the interaction between predictive maintenance and the machine: Events such as a malfunctioning warning are generated from the machine and collected by sensor technology.

These events can then be used as the basis for new services and business models. They provide the customer with a considerable benefit - and the machine manufacturer with a competitive advantage.


Do you need a customer portal to offer predictive maintenance?

Monitoring machines takes place by displaying the machine as a digital twin in a dashboard within a customer portal. The user can take a look at general status information, so to speak the "heartbeat" of the system and easily gather information on potentially problematic components.

The dashboard is also the starting point for after-sales service. Events are picked up in a customer portal and linked to the commerce solution where parts, consumables or services can be directly purchased.


A predictive maintenance example

Your machine is digitized via IIoT. Sensors measure vibrations, temperature and rotation speed.  You collect these data in your IIoT hub. Based on your knowledge of system-critical components and a machine learning algorithm, you are constantly aware of the system’s stability and can determine at which point in time a certain component could fail in what probability.

A modern sales solution that seamlessly connects all your data sources, tools and systems, is able to push this information to your customer via a the connected after-sales portal, or even via a connected app.

By linking to e-procurement functionalities, customer employees can immediately reorder the critical components. Your subsequent service offers are also integrated in the portal. For example, machine operators can directly book an appointment for maintenance with the manufacturer.

By this, you create an all-round package of services adding value to the machine or system as such. This way you don't just deliver a machine to your customers, but a digital organism that will be cost-efficient and reliable for many years to come.

Modern commerce solutions can support manufacturers in many ways. Did you know that you can also sell configurable machines in a customer portal?