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Unforeseen breakdowns that stop the assembly line. Service disruptions that inconvenience customers. Higher maintenance costs due to repeat visits. Lack of insights into potential product deficiencies.

For some manufacturers, it’s the stuff of nightmares.

For the agile, digital manufacturer, these scenarios are a thing of the past.

Manufacturers need to change to survive—to develop new capabilities by transforming themselves into digital companies that leverage every system, device, process and asset across the organization.

The new reality in today’s connected world is all about intelligence. While the Internet of Things (IoT) has shown tremendous potential to the field service industry for some time, companies often stop at connecting devices. This leaves true benefits under-realized to the field service organization; it’s not just the data from sensors that is needed, but insights from data that is actionable. Insights that manufacturers can use to create new services, new sales opportunities, and to ultimately build a new kind of relationship with customers. This is the core of what digital transformation is all about.

Cost center to profit center with Microsoft Connected Field Service

Manufacturers that embrace intelligent customer engagement, and the digital technologies that power this, can find a wealth of new opportunities to grow their bottom line.

With the release of our new Microsoft Connected Field Service solution—based on technologies including Azure IoT Suite, Analytics Platform Services, Power BI, and Cortana Intelligence Suite—manufacturers now have a powerful way to transform service into a revenue stream, evolving from a costly break-fix model to a proactive and predictive service model. And with the inclusion of IoT and machine learning capabilities, manufacturers have more options than ever to deliver unprecedented levels of predictive service to their customers.

With Connected Field Service, manufacturers can transform the way they do business in the service economy by:

Improving the customer experience with remote monitoring and management that, when combined with consumer sentiment, can help you to proactively engage with customers and deliver a comprehensive, integrated service approach. A great example of this is Sandvik Coromant, who has partnered with us to develop a scalable service model that leverages Azure IoT Suite, Cortana Intelligence, and Dynamics 365, allowing the company to provide services that help customers make more informed decisions and more easily calculate the financial return on a new machining tool. That translates into additional revenue, more satisfied customers, and greater flexibility in how technical experts connect with customers.

Reducing costs and delivering better service with predictive maintenance and other advanced services that automate action, preempt equipment failure, and provide a first-time fix every time. thyssenkrupp Elevator recently showed the world how they have integrated HoloLens and Skype into their operations to improve efficiency for service technicians. Using the predictive maintenance capabilities of Azure IoT, the company can already identify potential problems with elevators, which allows them to make time-saving interventions and quicker fixes for customers. Now, with the use of Microsoft HoloLens, they can work hands-free while on the job and remotely collaborate with more experienced technicians. Initial field trials have already shown that a service maintenance intervention can be done up to four times faster.

Creating high-margin service revenue by supporting the creation of end-to-end digital services and service-centric relationships that provide significant value for customers and high-margin revenue opportunities for the business. One of my favorite showcases of this type of innovation is the work we did with Rolls-Royce to help them utilize the intelligent cloud and systems of intelligence to build better engines and a better customer service model. Rolls-Royce demonstrated how they are accelerating and maturing their digital transformation strategy from selling services to selling flight time. This is a disruptive way to lead the industry in terms of keeping passengers in the air and helping airlines run at reduced costs with longer lifespans for their aircrafts. However, their story is more than predictive maintenance. It’s about achieving a new level of predictive intelligence that couldn’t be realized before. This intelligence is helping to govern what Rolls-Royce can do in terms of a product redesign, improvement, or even the development of a completely new product.

Connected Field Service in action

An effective connected field service strategy extends across the entire value chain. It all starts with the connectivity within the product that enables two-way communication to collect data in real-time and send updates when required. This connectivity also gives us the opportunity to know when things are not working, and to then deliver a real-time service that was not possible before.

For example, imagine an industrial pump sends status data in real time to a monitoring center. Any change automatically creates an incident ticket, and depending on the scenario, a virtual engineer can either implement a remote fix, or connect remotely to guide an onsite service engineer through the process. In this way, we can use the power of connectivity to overcome any skills shortages in the labor pool. While onsite, the engineer can also carry out preventive maintenance tasks during the same visit to ensure increased uptime for the customer and lower maintenance costs for the manufacture. This “faster than real-time customer service” is one of the biggest transformations made possible by IoT.

However, device connectivity yields benefits far beyond just day-to-day operations. Product performance and usage data also enable product planners and marketers to understand product strengths and weaknesses as well as customer needs in order to design and market the next generation of products and services.

In the fictional case of the industrial pump manufacturer, if an analysis of the pump shows that the design needs reengineering, R&D might utilize crowdsourcing of ideas then leverage the scalability of the cloud to design and test out the options. Digital transformation enables secure collaboration with suppliers. 3D printing accelerates development of a working prototype.

So, we come full circle: new products are produced, and shipped out to customers where they are installed and connected. The monitoring center picks up the new signal and the cycle of innovation starts all over again.

As you can see, there is much that can be gained from bringing service data into the business development functions of the organizations, to both create new products and reach new markets.

I encourage you to learn more here about Microsoft’s Connected Field Service solution and get started with your own transformation today.


LinkedIn: Chris Harries

Twitter: @chrisharauto