Partner perspectives: Predictive maintenance on the frontlines (Part 2)

 |   Microsoft IoT

Many different asset-intensive industries have recognized the benefits of a predictive maintenance strategy — for example, improving product quality, enhancing customer engagement or developing innovative business models.

We’re continuing our conversation on predictive maintenance with our partners from BlueMetal, Dynamics Software, Harman and ICONICS, whose responses are listed in alphabetical order below. In case you missed the first post in our series, we talked about what got our partners started with predictive maintenance and the benefits they’ve seen in their customers’ businesses. In this post, we’ll discuss common business objectives and concerns as well as the barriers to adoption partners encounter when talking with customers. Edited excerpts follow.

Bob Familiar, Director, National Practice, BlueMetal
Eric Veldkamp, Partner at Dynamics Software
Wim Pluimers, Product Director, Maintenance Management at Dynamics Software
Punit Kulkarni, Head of Marketing, Software Enabled Businesses, Harman
Melissa Topp, Senior Director of Global Marketing, ICONICS  

What is a common concern your customers are looking to address with a predictive maintenance solution?

BF, BlueMetal: Manufacturers embarking on a real-time business transformation journey are looking to increase customer satisfaction, improve product quality, drive higher profitability through cost-savings and identify net-new revenue opportunities.

EV, Dynamics: One concern that organizations have is how they’ll manage the large volumes of sensor data from a widely distributed base of connected devices. It challenges the conventional data storage and management capabilities of most businesses. The volume and velocity of sensor data flowing into organizations make drawing insights particularly challenging. Many organizations lack stream-processing capabilities, which are essential for the collection, integration, analysis and visualization of data in real time.

PK, Harman: Adding onto that, many customers want to increase the efficiency and performance of their maintenance teams. Predictive maintenance helps surface any suboptimal performance by service teams, achieve high-quality production runs in the factory, and reduce inventory overhead of spares caused by preventative maintenance.

MT, ICONICS: Our customers want the ability to predict when equipment will start to degrade and perform at suboptimal efficiency long before it fails and causes any significant downtime. Predictive maintenance solutions, when implemented properly, are a perfect fit for this outcome.

“Rip-and-replace” is a major concern for many companies that have made decades of investment in industrial equipment. What has been your experience with this?

PK, Harman: In my experience, some customers are using aftermarket solutions to combat their concerns with rip-and-replace. They’re also leveraging and upgrading existing equipment wherever possible. We’ve also seen that customers are open to upgrading the designs of future equipment, which they are bringing to the drawing board.

MT, ICONICS: Rip-and-replace or retrofitting equipment is especially a concern for businesses with lots of industrial equipment. For companies with extensive investments, it can mean upgrading or removing existing pieces of equipment, which creates forced downtime. Today, downtime has been minimized or eliminated altogether now that system upgrades have become more readily available to keep costs low.

To get around this, we built our end-to-end software — ICONICS’ IoT Gateway Suite — to get around this rip-and-replace situation. By putting a few low-cost IoT gateway devices inside the plant itself, secure transport protocols create a bridge between on-premises industrial equipment and the cloud. This enables manufacturers to push data to the Azure cloud and immediately start getting value from the predictive maintenance solution, with no need to rip-and-replace their existing equipment.

What do you suggest to customers as they get started?

EV, Dynamics: As customers evaluate M2M and IoT solutions, it’s important to think about how they will interact with and display the data they collect and analyze — and what business outcome(s) they are driving toward. All the data in the world isn’t going to provide value to your organization if it isn’t displayed and analyzed effectively. We stress that customers should look for a solution that provides a user-friendly dashboard view of connected assets that makes it easy to pivot through and discover information at a glance.

MT, ICONICS: Typically, we recommend going after the low-hanging fruit first — the most critical and/or costly to repair equipment. Starting with predictive maintenance on a few of your most critical assets can help reduce maintenance costs and keep your business profitable. It’s unlikely that predictive maintenance will completely replace traditional preventive maintenance in every customer’s business, so this gives customers the fastest ROI on their investment.

We also recommend that customers leverage our preconfigured fault rules whenever possible, and then fine-tune or extend them to additional types of equipment using the customization options built into the solution. This cuts down on upfront implementation costs, reduces deployment times and lowers the total cost of ownership.

You’ve been doing this for a few years — what’s new with predictive maintenance?

PK, Harman: Predictive maintenance solutions are part of a greater paradigm shift to the “factory of the future,” also known as the “Smart Factory” approach. The increase in connectivity from sensors on equipment is enabling the faster exchange of data, therefore providing manufacturers with real-time response capabilities. In addition, advances in machine- learning algorithms are enabling manufacturers to have more accurate predictive analytics. This is lowering the rate of false maintenance. Since these benefits are quickly realized by early adopters of predictive maintenance, we’re seeing increased customer awareness and adoption.

MT, ICONICS: ICONICS’ predictive maintenance solution was not always built on top of the Azure IoT Suite. We were offering predictive maintenance years before Azure itself even existed. But once the Azure IoT Suite was announced, we recognized that the related tools and services contained therein would enable us to take the next big step and offer more advanced and intelligent algorithms, visualization, analytics and reports to our customers.

Learn more

Our partners have worked with a variety of customers to create predictive maintenance solutions that get the most value quickly. Creating high-value predictive maintenance solutions doesn’t have to be a complex journey, whether for managing your data or connecting your devices.

Interested in learning more about our partners? Read more about the different solutions delivered by BlueMetal, Dynamics Software, Harman and ICONICS. And for more information about how IoT can transform your business, visit

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