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Servitization in Play, with Intelligent Assets

Amitabh Dubey
September 16, 2020

No doubt, the machines on the shop floor, the degassers in the oil rigs, the excavator on the construction site – they all need  zero downtime when they run. In some cases, an asset’s downtime disrupts the production line and can create safety hazards. Industry is aware of this problem and has come up with various innovative solutions to achieve maximum uptime and optimum returns from industrial assets. So, we are not really discussing something unknown to the industry, which has gone through so many revolutions in last 200+ years. We are already seeing Industry 4.0 in action with Smart and Digital Factories and we are ready to usher in version 5.0.

So, in a way, most of the industry has started the journey, wherever they are. Some have a fully operational Digital Factory even though they are managing it with their SCADA systems. But, do they have an integrated holistic view of their assets? I mean, it is not only about corrective, preventive, or predictive maintenance operations. As we will see, it is much more than that.

You certainly need a strategy for your own business type based on multiple parameters like your asset’s value, impact of downtime on production and sales, your strategy on after sales service, your future strategies on servitization models for your products, and most importantly, the customer experience you wish to achieve. In last two decades of my SAP consulting work, I have never seen business requirements of one matching another, even though they are in the same industry. They are always different somehow. That’s why, I would assume you will look at each aspect of this topic, contextualizing your needs.

Getting to the main topic now. We are going to take a look at one of the SAP product suite – Intelligent Asset Management (IAM) – which will have answers to most if not all, of your needs. And we can always look at tailoring the suite the way we want.

When SAP came out with a portfolio of offerings after the announcement of Leonardo, Connected Assets was one of them and made sense to a lot of customers. The product went through many evolutions and gradually matured into an end-to-end offering for managing your assets in an altogether different way. Based on SAP’s future development roadmaps, the suite is now migrated from Neo to Cloud Foundry. An all-cloud landscape gives a lot of opportunities to the developer community to extend and enhance the individual IAM components to make almost anything possible.

As I said earlier, your assets need more than just maintenance plans. You need to ensure that they are not over-maintained, your strategies are aligned and planned on facts and not just some predefined guidelines, you are able to connect with multiple stakeholders of the asset (customer, OEM, supplier, operator, inspection personnel, etc.), your procurement and marketing strategies are driven by proposals from your predictions, and most importantly, you have these insights available across your system of records.  These would be applicable for different industries in different contexts. Industry A wants to ensure they have an uninterrupted production and assembly line, whereas industry B wants to take a step ahead by also ensuring high availability (HA) of the finished good produced and monetizing this HA of the asset with product-as-a-service, equipment-as-a-service, fleet-as-a-service, and many more.

The Intelligent or Connected Asset portfolio can help you adopt these business models by implementing smart. I will investigate the implementation approach in an upcoming blog and focus here on understanding the capabilities.

The figure below gives you a view of the components and capabilities of the suite. The list is longer, but I wanted to focus here on what I think matters most. Possible partner extensions and add-ons are not included.

After getting a view of the suite, let’s see what all can be easily accomplished:

Move your masters to a future-ready platformAsset Central (AC) plays a crucial role in setting up a masters for the future by having the foundation of your digital twin. AC manages your EAM masters in cloud and allows the same to be accessible to AIN, ASPM, PdMS, and Digital Manufacturing Suite, etc. AC can be further integrated with partner products such as Utopia if you want.

Create a network for your assets – Think of an asset used in your production process that needs periodic instructions and updates from the OEM and needs to be made available to a company that is responsible for maintenance. We just spoke about three different parties and you know the possibilities of other parties/partners that can get involved in this process. Asset Intelligence Network (AIN) helps your OEM, or you as an OEM, or you as a customer to manage this collaboration seamlessly over a secured and role-based network. It has a structured way of representing your assets, which comes in handy to share announcements, instructions, documents, and drawings. Your network can view and add their updates. This process of sharing and collaboration is a key that most asset management solutions lack.

Analyze and plan asset goals and strategies – Most of the time, your maintenance strategies are either corrective or preventive and sometimes not at all aligned to what your asset demands. You need a tool such as Asset Strategy and Performance Management (ASPM) to realign your maintenance strategies by analyzing them with multiple industry-proven assessment templates, such as RCM, FMEA, etc. The assessments can be run along with multiple stakeholders using and serving the asset. This certainly improves decision making, reduces bottlenecks, and prevents unwanted incidents by providing a holistic view of your strategies.

Give your digital twins the power of predictive maintenance – Once you know the measurable pointers of your asset that can be sensed with a physical sensor, you are ready to have them as digital twins in the IAM suite as an equipment/fleet, etc. Your ingested sensor data and historical trends become inputs to your Predictive Maintenance Service. Your machine learning models in PdMS then start predicting anomalies, vulnerabilities, and failures of your asset well ahead of time. The accuracy of predictions depends on how well you train the model, and that’s something a seasoned data scientist can explain. Certainly, PdMS needs some preparation. But the power is immense as the models become intelligent every day.

Consume IAM services and execute maintenance activities – Now, we come to the real tasks of maintenance which happen on the ground. The work our technicians, crew members, suppliers, and service providers do in the field should not go unrecognized. You need an interface to record, share, and post information crucial in the maintenance execution. Asset Manager helps you with a mobile app deployed on SAP Cloud Platform and natively connected to your backend ERP system to handle notifications and work orders raised from your maintenance strategies, to capture field data, to record time spent, and material consumptions in your ERP system. It also allows intra-team interactions. It also has offline capabilities. Asset Manager also integrates with IAM to bring in key information for the personnel in the field.

You can have multiple backend systems connected to your IAM Suite and they will have information coming in real time. You can use Leonardo IoT and Edge platforms to manage the digital twin of your asset. But if you already have an IoT infrastructure where you are already managing your sensor data, it can be integrated.

Extend the capabilities by integrating with other on-demand services such as Ariba (for procurements), Hybris Commerce and Service Clouds (for customer service and commerce activities), SuccessFactors (for time bookings linked to MRS), and Qualtrics (to analyze the asset usage experience which would be crucial for some business models). Dash boarding can be done using Analytics Cloud.

Capgemini has recently implemented a remote maintenance assistance solution using Microsoft HoloLens for an auto major. You can imagine how strong the suite can be by integrating such AR/VR-based extensions. With Altran in the groove now, these solutions get a core industrial engineering flavor much more imbibed in our offerings. I will try to showcase a servitization business model implementation with the suite in my next blog, focusing on some key implementation considerations. See you soon. Please reach out to me or David Lowson, if you want to see how we can help.