Machines today are not just a part of a manufacturing setup, they are assets to companies, from accelerating sales by generating products to increasing business revenue through the use of automation and IoT.
Customers too no longer just buy the oil, metal and other elements that make up the machine — they now buy a “subscription” to the IoT connectivity that provides ongoing service and benefits, leading to the concept of machine as a service (MAAS).
Rolls Royce, for instance, offers clients options that involve paying for a fixed hour of operation of a machine, rather than purchasing the machine, so does Pearson Packaging System. It allows customers to ”rent” Pearson’s machines – they produce sealers, and compact palletizers – paying just an established price per case but without the upfront equipment investment.
Machines in a Smart Factory
In a smart factory, machine-to-machine engagement, as well as machine-to-human engagement are both important in the efficient delivery of key data and KPIs. Manufacturers who design these machines have to now keep the ‘smart factory’ in mind, in order to generate additional revenue.
Unlike earlier, machines and equipment on the factory floor today must have sensors that are able to collect and transmit data to IoT gateways. They should also be able to connect to factory IoT platforms, and Human Machine Interfaces (HMIs), playing a major role in enhancing efficiency within the factory. These machines must be able to generate revenue for the factory, as part of internal factory value chains and external client supply chains.
What is absolutely critical is that the staff should be able to engage with these machines through the use of their smartphones and PCs on site and also remotely. The staff must also be equipped to access big data collected and processed from these machines to be utilised in predictive maintenance, data-driven quality control, product optimisation and other factory-related requests.
So how does MaaS work?
One model is manufacturers can sell their machine at little or no cost, and receive a small sum for every item or product produced by the machine.
In another model machinery on the factory floor is outsourced to customers or clients that want to use that machine as part of their production lines and assemblies.
In this type of machines as a service model, one factory would purchase a machine and other clients/manufacturers could then, using a subscription-based paid service, use this machine in their assembly lines.
Ali Hosseini, Director & Chief Executive Officer, SenRa, told The Blue Circle, “Machine-as-a-Service (MaaS) puts the cost of ownership on the OEM, which in turn reduces the financial burden of the client/manufacturer. This will allow for the manufacturer to have additional budget for investing in advanced manufacturing methods leveraging the Internet of Things. MaaS also removes the need for manufacturers to learn how to deploy and maintain their machinery (smart or not), allowing for increased output of goods and reduced maintenance time.”
Many Medtech manufacturers offer device-as-a-service to their customers for products such as MRI and ultrasound machines. These algorithm-driven systems collate and compare valuable data for their patients in a cost-effective manner.
Most automobile manufacturers today offer their customers subscription packages. This includes personalised services such as car servicing, insurance, roadside assistance, choice of accessories, and even concierge delivery, among other benefits.
Components of MaaS
Service lifecycle management
The foundation of MaaS is built on service lifecycle management, which involves installation, maintenance and repair. Earlier, installation was all about assembly of various physical parts and materials. Maintenance was dependent on industry standards, and repair was when the machine broke down.
In a smart factory, these three processes look very different. Installation means implementation of an operating system within a machine, that will then connect it to IoT. Greater connectivity brings in an accelerated pace and frequency of machine-to-human interactions. Speaking of maintenance, the machine will be able to tell you when it needs support or service. This will also help to run your business at a fast pace, increasing production and accelerating revenue.
Service life cycle management also includes software updates with enhanced features, so that your machines can support larger business goals.
Customer touch points
Earlier, customer touch points were only about the product. For example, touch points would start from the purchase of the product, continue through account setup and other processes, and then end with the occasional service request under warranty.
With greater proliferation of IoT and other technologies, MaaS offers a window of opportunity to expand the portfolio and in turn, the capabilities of a machine. It also helps to extend the shelf life of a product, which in the traditional case, would have phased out. With the onset of the IoT, the third stage is extended through continued software updates until the end of the life of the product.
While MaaS is a path-breaking model, there are certain challenges that it faces. First of all, there is the problem of outdated legacy infrastructure and shop floors, apart from standardisation issues, talent shortages and staggered customer demand.
Another challenge is resistance to change from the factory workforce, especially since they fear job losses. Also, since the average age of the worker is 40 years, especially in the Indian context, it gets even harder to convince them.
Lastly, bringing out an overnight change is impossible. It is important to develop a culture of change through constant innovations that add more value to the machine-as-a-service model.
The adoption of machines as a service model is definitely something both machine manufacturers and factory owners should consider in order to increase their revenue and profits.
Smart factories of the future look set to adopt the machines as a service model increasingly, since it lowers capital expenditure, the factory can be set up and production can start quickly. Machine manufacturers/OEMs benefit from this model since they can receive a consistent income stream from their machines and increase their market share.
“Connected floors will become the norm as OEMs incorporate smart solutions in their MaaS offerings in an attempt to realize higher return on their upfront investments. I foresee a rapid increase in smart manufacturing projects, as more OEMs shift their offerings towards a service based model,” said Ali.