Abolishing the service visit

“Service used to be an act of damage control,” said Salesforce’s Peter Coffee at the recent Dreamforce conference. “You are bleeding brand equity until that problem is fixed.”

Coffee’s view is that the internet of things is an opportunity to delight the customer with proactive service that allows companies to fix customers’ problems before they happen.

Zero planned maintenance

Taking this idea further is GE’s Chief Economist, Marco Annunziata, who sees the internet of things as an opportunity to introduce the concept of Zero Planned Downtime where there is no need to stop machines for scheduled repairs and maintenance.

“A lot of the maintenance work is done on a fixed schedule,” Annunziata. “You end up wasting time and money servicing machines that are perfectly fine.”

“On the other hand you might miss that something is about to go wrong between two maintenance periods.”

“The idea of the industrial internet is that by gathering so much data from these machines themselves – plus having the software to analyse this data – you will have information that flags to you when intervention is needed.”

Annunziata’s view is that connected machines won’t need to have regular service intervals, instead of insisting a car has  an inspection every ten thousand kilometers where the tyres are replaced and the oil changed, often unnecessarily, the vehicle need only be called in for maintenance when its sensors flag that a part or consumable needs attention.

Finding the benefits

While that can mean big savings for car owners, it’s in fields such as aviation, mining and logistics where the greatest benefits of Zero Planned Downtime would be found.

For businesses it’s another example of how they will fall behind if they don’t invest in modern technology as those who invest in newer, connected equipment will be able to reduce downtime and maintenance cost.

How achievable Zero Planned Downtime is in many fields remains to be seen, not least because of regulatory hurdles in sectors like aviation, however the idea does promise to change the business model of companies that depend upon service revenue.

About the author

Paul Wallbank is the founding editor of Networked Globe and has nearly twenty years experience of working in and reporting on computers, the internet and the future of our connected society.