Predictive maintenance – the journey from a break-fix service model to an unfailing one

Oct 11, 2019 Anjan Barman

Field service – service at the equipment location or customer premises. The definition is age-old but a tectonic shift in the technologies involved has brought about an unprecedented change to the way it’s rendered. Technology has, in some ways, turned the concept on its head and things aren’t the same as they used to be before the miracle arouse.

The foundations of customer service - high efficiency, low costs, and better output stay untouched but the success rate of achieving these and exceeding expectations has grown manifold. The internet, arguably the last thing to change the face of the world, is being leveraged in field services to achieve what was deemed impossible until a few years ago.

Consider

You are the proud owner of a classic motorcycle and it’s your faithful companion in your weekend expeditions to the nearby counties with your fellow bikers.


Scenario-1

You get the bike serviced only when you feel it’s operating at below optimum or expected levels. This is reactive maintenance – fix it after it breaks.

The catch

As the action is initiated only after a discernible drop in performance, it leads to sudden breakdowns and unexpected downtime. You don’t want to get stranded on a deserted highway on a cold Sunday evening while returning from your latest adventure because the machine has given up halfway, do you?

The extension

This is particularly harmful when a system failure, say a conveyor belt, leads to the loss of critical productivity and hence, financial losses, or when there is a risk to life (say a fire suppression system). Also, a sudden need for service may catch the service team off guard, leaving it desperate to arrange for the required spares or manpower.


Scenario-2

You get the bike tuned-up on pre-set dates even if there’s no apparent problem, not unlike how most vehicle owners do. This way, you keep sudden breakdowns at bay and try to maintain the engine at the optimum level. This is preventive maintenance – periodic actions to prevent failures.

The catch

Lack of desired support from the service team and poor schedule compliance are the bottlenecks of preventive maintenance. Your long-planned road trip begins tomorrow but all the service workshops in proximity are either shut down for the upcoming festival or operating at a smaller scale. The bike desperately needs a fresh suspension but the retailers are out of stock. What do you do? Abandon the trip or embark on it without attending to the problem? The first is disheartening while the second, downright stupid.

The extension

TThe problem, when extended to business organizations like a manufacturing unit, carries the risk of customer dissatisfaction due to inventory mismanagement. No spares implies unhappy customers and overstocking depletes revenue. Also, occasionally there’s an overwhelming number of cases while on the other days, business runs dry. And you have a hard time arriving at the number of workers you should employ to serve your customers.


Scenario-3

The motorcycle need not be taken to the workshop abiding by any schedule and would still be in great shape. That’s because whenever a problem arises, even a minor one which you aren’t even aware of, both you and the service team get an auto-generated notification. The team instantly initiates the next course of action and tries for a remote fix. If the problem persists and demands a job at the workshop, a work order gets created and you are notified of the same. If the engine doesn’t ignite and needs a field visit to the spot, arrangements for the same are made including assigning of agents. This is an example of predictive maintenance – proactive actions to avoid problems.

The benefit

Predictive maintenance is revolutionizing the way field service is perceived as it helps organizations attain impressively high accuracy, efficiency, and revenue, and hence customer satisfaction. This is the primary reason why organizations using Microsoft Dynamics 365 connected field service are magically transforming their service department.

The extension

Because of continuous monitoring by Dynamics 365 CRM, stakeholders can take proactive steps to avoid future issues. This ensures minimum system downtime and avoids business loss. For systems dealing with data, there’s zero data loss. Also, the timing for the service or repair work can be set with the help of predictive maintenance.


The science behind the magic

Sensors are attached to the system which is connected to Dynamics 365 CRM for field service through the cloud – Microsoft Azure IoT in this case. Rule-based monitoring by the sensors detect anomalies and sends the data to the cloud. The incoming data stream is analyzed using Azure Analytics and the output is sent to Dynamics 365 for field service as a notification. Customized dashboards allow service agents to act on the issue near-real time by triggering automatic actions or generating work orders, followed by precise scheduling of manpower, spares, and remote support.

Dynamics 365 for connected field services, with the help of IoT cloud and sensors attached to your motorcycle’s critical components, constantly monitors the vehicle health and initiates actions as soon as a problem is detected. That’s how you prevent glitches rather than tackle them once they pop up. If the issue isn’t serious and can be fixed later, a service session is scheduled as per your convenience. The data from the sensors is also be used to derive AI-insights to improve service and customer satisfaction.

With Dynamics 365 for connected field service, your bike stays as good as new for uninterrupted trips.

Anjan Barman

Anjan Barman is a technology enthusiast with primary interests in the applications and possibilities of Cloud, RPA, AI, CRM, and the like in modern businesses. He loves exploring how innovations help organizations improve their efficiency while reducing the operating costs and presents the same in an atypical way. His other indulgences are non-fiction paperbacks, oriental music, and cricket.