Overcome Lifecycle Management Challenges With Connected Services

Overcome Lifecycle Management Challenges With Connected Services

Pre-pandemic, the distribution and fulfillment (D&F) sector primarily dabbled in the integration of industrial internet of things (IIoT) technologies into maintenance operations. In spite of its ability to drive sustained, measurable operational improvements — by increasing equipment reliability, limiting unplanned downtime, enhancing performance, and supporting a predictive, automated maintenance and operations (M&O) model — pre-2020 market conditions simply may not have been compelling enough for most organizations to pursue such data-driven insights.

In the COVID-19 era, pre-existing M&O technician labor challenges and other weaknesses have posed greater threats to operational continuity. With distribution centers (DCs) running at continuous peak throughput levels to keep up with consumer demands, it’s becoming even more critical to ensure material handling equipment (MHE) is online as much as possible. Yet social distancing measures and a limited talent pool of veteran technicians have made it difficult to attain this goal. 

In this “new normal,” organizations have recognized the opportunity cost of not embracing connected technologies in lifecycle management programs. Not only have the costs associated with downtime risen significantly, they also begin accruing within minutes, rather than hours. And as downtime leads to missed service level agreements (SLAs), a company’s brand reputation and well-earned customer loyalty are also jeopardized.

Leveraging Connected Services

As a result of these challenges, the fundamental structure of lifecycle management programs is evolving to a more connected services model that helps companies mitigate market uncertainties. These programs are designed to:

  • Connect equipment/asset infrastructures and software to enable remote, continuous monitoring and analyses of system health
  • Support M&O services by augmenting gaps in technician staffing, automating work orders, upskilling existing resources, and enabling remote technician support
  • Provide outcome-based commercial agreements with flexible financial models that accommodate seasonal order volumes and business profits

Here’s an example: By continuously gathering and analyzing data on a sortation system — such as motor temperature, vibration and electrical current draw — a connected solution could detect a potential system failure before it occurs, then automate a workflow for work order creation and issue resolution.

  1. Issue is detected that poses a significant threat to uptime.
  2. Work order is created in a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS).
  3. Resolution instructions are sent to a technician via a hands-free, voice-directed system.
  4. If needed, a live video chat is initiated with a remote support technician using augmented reality smart glasses or another video-enabled solution.

The Benefits of Connected Services for M&O

There are numerous benefits for organizations that embrace the connected services model. They include:

  • Accelerated issue resolution
  • Technician upskilling and/or training
  • Improved hiring by reducing the skill level needed by candidates
  • Reduced labor hours to maintain systems
  • Limited frequency and duration of unplanned downtime
  • Scheduled/planned downtime during off-peak periods
  • Lowered quantities of stocked spare parts

The unpredictability of 2020 has prompted many companies to kick-start their connected initiatives to help drive out operational inefficiencies. Read this On The Move article to learn how to begin your journey to more predicable M&O and lifecycle management strategies. 

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