Delivering Value-Added Service For Business Advantage

Successful SLM environments leverage a digital thread that provides end-to-end application and information connectivity and feedback.

Service lifecycle management (SLM) is a strategic approach to service that helps shift initial service engineering and planning activities to earlier in product development and maintain a service focus throughout the product lifecycle. It supports Design for Service (DfS) to help maximize product uptime for the user and service revenue for the manufacturer or service provider. SLM encompasses a holistic process of service from request to delivery to maximize value over the life of an asset including defining and coordinating the service resources, service offering, process, and execution. It also aligns service parts management, technical communication, asset performance management, field service management, product design and development, and product support operations as part of comprehensive SLM.

Historically, product service has been considered a “must do” but was not a key business imperative. While customer satisfaction was important, it was not the driving factor in how service was delivered by either the companies that produced and sold products, or third-party companies that serviced those products. Minimizing the warranty, maintenance, and service cost was generally the primary business factor. That approach is dramatically changing.

Profitable operations and maintenance services of today’s complex, smart, connected products require companies to accelerate servitization. Product OEMs and third-party service-only companies are applying the latest technologies, customer-centric service strategies, and more aggressive sustainability goals to turn service into a competitive advantage in customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Definition: Servitization is the transformational processes whereby a company shifts from a product-centric to a service-centric business model—adding value through services. It is a paradigm shift that allows manufacturers to create new business models and revenue streams through innovation, by delivering added value features to their products in the form of services.

Successful SLM environments leverage a digital thread that provides end-to-end application and information connectivity and feedback across design, production, and service. The digital thread helps maintain a comprehensive, actionable digital twin containing each managed asset’s up-to-date configuration. Effective SLM environments are built on technology platforms that support flexible, open service ecosystems that enable service providers to rapidly adopt new technologies, processes, and solutions while optimizing and leveraging their previous service solution investments.

Ongoing challenges for industrial manufacturers include managing the increasing complexity of products, systems, and processes and improving efficiencies in how a product is designed, produced, commissioned, operated, maintained, and decommissioned. To address these challenges, SLM strategies at industry-leading manufacturers are evolving rapidly with a push toward servitization. Service is no longer viewed as a costly necessity, but as an opportunity to create business models that generate revenue, improve customer operational performance, and increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Key drivers accelerating servitization include:

·         Designing for service to address circular economy requirements, expand asset lifecycle performance, improve quality and reduce cost of service, and decrease overall total cost of ownership.

·         Defining and managing the complete as-maintained physical asset configuration as it evolves throughout its operational life.

·         Equipping service teams with the product knowledge needed for service efficiencies, to deliver service right the first time, improve customer relationships, and to generate revenue with upselling opportunities.

·         Enabling efficient spares and inventory management and optimization.

·         Optimizing asset utilization through predictive maintenance and closed-loop collaboration—minimizing downtime and increasing customer loyalty.

Effective SLM uses information created and maintained in multiple sources, not just data from the managed asset itself. Integrating the diverse, distributed data that often exists within these complex business and IT environments requires creating and managing a digital thread drawing from the extended enterprise and feeding the associated digital twins. Key capabilities of the digital thread are to establish closed-loop feedback from service departments to R&D and manufacturing, to provide full lifecycle digital traceability of physical changes to the assets.

Characteristics of a Successful SLM Solution

As SLM becomes a more critical driver to improve customer loyalty through better service outcomes, SLM environments must be designed to reduce:

  • Commissioning time—get the asset into productive operations quickly and efficiently.
  • Unplanned downtime—establish predictive, proactively scheduled maintenance practices that improve service turnaround times and reduce disruption of customer operations.
  • Rework when service is required—drive a model of first-time-fix using the right tools and skills, knowing the right configuration and right spare parts, and providing access to the right, up-to-date, visually rich service instructions.
  • Cost—effectively manage ongoing asset upgrades, ensure that accurate spare parts inventory always exist, and optimize the locations and quantity of inventory to minimize capital costs.

Other important SLM goals include:

  1. Leverage AI to evolve from predictive to prescriptive maintenance and further reduce turnaround time.
  2. Maintain asset availability and performance while empowering service teams to be revenue generators as part of an asset-as-a-service business model.
  3. Ensure traceability and auditability of distributed service information and events to support ongoing quality and compliance.
  4. Support Reliability, Availability, Maintainability, Safety (RAMS) to simulate and optimize system design early in the product engineering phase through a model-based approach.
  5. Create more effective service level agreements (SLAs) between manufacturers and operators.
  6. Increase service engineer and technician productivity.
  7. Improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  8. Create design retrofits for existing products.
  9. Improve the designs and serviceability of next-generation products.

Comprehensive SLM should enable a company to aggregate, contextualize, simulate, and analyze operational data captured from managed assets into actionable insight that can drive service planning activities and identify possible asset design changes and upgrades in R&D. This feedback enables engineers to design for serviceability and for manufacturing to produce the asset in a manner that better facilitates service.

Major questions SLM must answer:

  • What configuration is installed?
  • What information is being recorded from the asset and why?
  • Are visual and up-to-date instructions necessary to correct an issue—and is this information available?
  • Are changes critical to performance and service?
  • Was the required information captured correctly?
  • Why do I see a different part installed?
  • How do dependent assets impact each other?
  • How and when can the asset (and the service environment) be upgraded?
  • What does the issue imply for similar assets across a fleet or entire customer base?

Finally, comprehensive SLM should encompass three major areas:

Service engineering (aka Design for Service)—ensure compliance and quality while increasing efficiency and iteratively improving the serviceability and design of the next product version.

Service operations and execution—minimize asset downtime, improve service efficiency, logistics and parts/spares inventory management, and customer satisfaction, while empowering service agents as value providers that generate revenue.

Asset performance management—track usage, wear, downtime, execute performance analytics, and create and optimize predictive service activities, performance controls, and schedules. Be able to work with MES and monitoring systems to actuate beneficial operating conditions (e.g., speed, flow, etc.).

Comprehensive SLM environments must be architected to enable and increase connectivity among each of the three areas. Full connectivity across these areas significantly reduces the time to make needed changes such as updating or replacing an asset or to repair non-performing or out-of-service assets.

Each Asset Must Have a Digital Twin

Quickly resolving operational and service problems requires accurate knowledge of an asset’s compete physical configuration. A digital twin is the ideal approach to meet this requirement. To maintain the accuracy of each digital twin, the SLM solution must fully and accurately manage configurations throughout the assets’ lifecycle (e.g., maintaining complete and up-to-date as-serviced and as-maintained BOMs). This includes providing the capabilities and tools to capture data from distributed assets and perform appropriate analyses on that data, including algorithmic model simulations. This enables a company to use asset performance data to proactively manage service activities and optimize spare parts inventory (spares, number, location) required, among other things.

Additionally, an effective SLM environment must provide easy-to-use applications that can be “personalized” or tailored to corporate, business unit, functional domains, and individuals (e.g., service technicians versus product engineers) to deliver consistent, contextually relevant user experiences all while enforcing appropriate processes and standards. By creating such a decision support and action environment, enabled by a closed-loop digital twin, organizations gain the ability to continuously optimize performance and increase utilization.

COMPARISON: A digital thread is a communication framework that connects information flows which can be used to produce an integrated, holistic view of an asset’s data from physical and virtual systems (i.e., its digital twin) throughout its lifecycle across traditionally siloed functional perspectives.

A digital twin is a virtual representation (i.e., digital surrogate) of a physical asset or collection of physical assets (i.e., physical twin) that exploits data flow to and from the associated physical assets, continually evolving as it accompanies its real-world physical companion throughout its lifecycle.

Today’s complex smart, connected physical assets must be operated efficiently and meet strict customer, regulatory, and serviceability requirements, often over many decades of useful life. Efficient customer-oriented service is key to improving the profitability and success of many businesses (both OEMs and third-party service providers). Product manufacturers need to design for serviceability and provide comprehensive SLM solutions so that they and their owner/operator customers can effectively and efficiently operate and service their key assets. Asset service also needs to be proactive, not reactive, cost-effective, and enabled across a heterogenous, extended enterprise environment. OEMs and service providers in all industries need to embrace servitization and transform to a customer-centric service approach. A holistic, open SLM solution is required to support servitization, enable service excellence, ensure sustainable long-term operations, and drive improved customer satisfaction and loyalty.