Brave new world of service
Digitization has long since reached the industrial sector. It is revolutionizing how we work with one another and with machines − and even extends to the interaction between machines themselves. This trend is creating huge opportunities for service. Bernd Stibi, Executive Vice President Service and Upgrades at Voith Digital Solutions, wants to seize this trend to redefine customer relations.
“The days when service referred solely to a technician with a toolbox headed out to commission, perform maintenance on or repair equipment somewhere in the world are over. This is not to say that such work has completely disappeared. In some cases, customers want and even require such on-site service. However, new technical possibilities now provide us with a wide range of options that are faster and more cost-effective,” says Bernd Stibi, who has been lending his support for more than two decades to Voith technologies in operation at customers’ places of business.
From remote maintenance using image, sound and data links to new services for customers, such as augmented reality or artificial intelligence, digitization offers many new ways to provide machine and equipment operators with even faster and more efficient assistance. At the same time, the new technologies are also creating possibilities for new service business models. “Digitization is giving us the opportunity to completely redefine service again,” Stibi says.
In the digital age, service is commanding greater attention in the competition between cutting-edge technologies. Voith therefore decided to take a logical step by establishing the Group Division Voith Digital Solutions in 2016. Voith Digital Solutions pools expertise in electrification, automation, sensors, actuators, IT and communication technology, and it builds on Voith’s extensive technological know-how. Experts who were accustomed to reflecting on their own fields by themselves now work together on digital solutions for a wide range of products and services.
Service an integral part of digitization
As Executive Vice President of Service and Upgrades, Bernd Stibi is jointly responsible for the new Group Division Digital Solutions, which spans all Voith markets. He firmly believes that “Digital Solutions will considerably change and expand service awareness once again at Voith.” At the moment, he is collaborating with all Voith Group Divisions to establish a globally networked service team that operates at the local level − on site with the customer. The objective is to enhance the previous range of services and seize the new opportunities that constitute service in the age of digitization. “Voith is already capable of inspecting equipment remotely. What’s more, we can measure and analyze key parameters for optimizing how equipment operates and then process that information to come up with practical instructions for service, operating and maintenance personnel,” Stibi says.
From the real machine to the virtual image
These opportunities can be expanded significantly in the future. Translating the contours of a real machine and equipment into bits and bytes provides a virtual copy of them in the form of IT elements that are key to operation and maintenance. In turn, they can be used as the perfect platform for optimum service. The virtual machine copy combines static information from technical documentation with the dynamic operating and maintenance data in Voith’s asset life cycle management system in real time. This is joined by data from temporarily or permanently installed monitoring and diagnostic systems applied by Voith service experts.
The virtual machine as well as the analytics designed to improve maintenance and operation make it possible to achieve the optimum use and service life of the actual machine with minimum operating and maintenance costs.
Ideally, asset life cycle management system interfaces connected with customers’ procurement and ordering systems will streamline logistics for the materials needed for operation and maintenance. This will lead to the optimization of procurement costs and material stocks, in addition to improved machine and equipment availability at the same time.
“In the future, equipment, machines and their components will communicate with one another and with us about their current and future condition,” Bernd Stibi says. “Using this status information, our service specialists will be able to provide assistance remotely and even optimize operating processes during ongoing operations.” Sensitive handling of customer data is a key condition in the new digital service world, which is why at Voith, IT security is part of the company’s long-standing expertise. It is included in Voith Digital Solutions’ range of services as well. Voith lives up to the highest IT security industry standards thanks to a competence center specifically geared towards IT security and through the company’s own data centers.
Around the world in 80 milliseconds
Digitization will also make it much simpler to handle machinery, and it will increase the speed of our services especially,” Stibi predicts. “There is already a familiar saying about traveling around the world in 80 milliseconds.” His remark alludes to the utopian novel “Around the World in 80 Days,” in which the French author Jules Verne penned nineteenth-century visions of future technologies produced by industrialization. In Stibi’s new service world − a part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution − the “travel time” will be significantly faster. The substantially improved pool of data will make it possible to automatically optimize the operation of highly complex machines in real time in the future. As a result, error messages can be taken into account in the development of new products.
Bernd Stibi is convinced that Voith’s future can be found in the symbiosis of two worlds. “We bring the possibilities of digital applications together with a tradition of in-depth understanding for the technology behind equipment as almost no other company can,” he says.