Service Technology

The Conjurer (School of Hieronymus Bosch, after 1500)

Predictive Maintenance: Myths, Promises, and Reality

By | AI and Machine Learning, Field Service, Service Lifecycle Management (SLM), Service Technology | No Comments

The industrial Internet of Things and its Digital Twin surrogate are fueling exciting conversations about business process innovation on the factory floor and in industrial equipment manufacturing. One hot area in particular is the broad and often loosely-defined practice of Predictive Maintenance (PdM) of complex machinery. As is frequently the case when technology innovation is trying to penetrate (should I have said “disrupt”?) an established business practice, there’s a good dose of hype and optimism on the side of technology pundits, countered by skepticism and resistance to change from maintenance organizations and experienced field service technicians.

A business associate sent me an article written by a technology vendor seeking to debunk what the authors deem to be myths about PdM (try searching for “predictive maintenance myths” and you will find a few on the topic). That article and recent vendor presentations I attended suggest that further examination of misunderstandings and perhaps exaggerated expectations from PdM technology is in order. Read More

Elevator Out of Service

An Elevator Pitch: IoT Improves Elevator Service

By | Internet of Things, Service Lifecycle Management (SLM), Service Technology | 3 Comments

The Risk of Market Commoditization

For companies that operate in a commodity market, competing on price alone is usually a stressful and futile business strategy. When the only protection a company has against competition is lower price, an aggressive new entrant offering an even lower price for the same product or service can disrupt the business overnight, luring customers away from an established business that had nurtured customer loyalty for decades. Indeed, low-cost products and services often mean subpar quality and poor customer service, and by the time the newly-recruited customer realizes it, the damage has already been done and is difficult to reverse. As the old adage goes, it costs much more to regain a lost customer than to keep an existing one.

McKinley Elevator Corporation is a family-owned business that specializes in elevators, accessibility lifts and car lifts for homes, public facilities, and businesses. Even with reputation for top-notch customer service, the company is constantly at risk of losing market share to lower-cost competitors, and under pressure from elevator manufacturers seeking to drive down cost in a highly commoditized and price-competitive market. Read More

Airstream by Ralph Goings (1970)

Get Real: How to Build a Useful Augmented Reality Application

By | AR/VR, Internet of Things, Service Technology | 2 Comments

Gauging Value in AR Service Applications

You know I have been very vocal in criticizing augmented reality (AR) applications that, in my opinion, demonstrated too little business value.  You have heard (or read) me referring these as righty-tighty lefty-loosey systems.

From time to time, clients and attendees of my public lectures challenge me for guidelines to help them gauge the potential business value of AR applications. If a simple air filter replacement procedure isn’t useful, then what is? Read More

Righty-Tighty, Lefty-Loosey

Augmented Reality and the Righty-Tighty, Lefty-Loosey Demo

By | AR/VR, Field Service, Service Technology | 4 Comments

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR) technology seems like a natural fit for personnel performing intricate assembly, maintenance and repair jobs. AR technology is used to annotate physical objects by superimposing physical objects, in real-time, with virtual information from documents, databases and sensors to assist technicians in performing complex tasks. For example, the AR annotation layer could highlight a part to be replaced, identify special tools needed for the task, prescribe detailed work instructions, and display warnings about potentially hazardous materials and activities.

Unlike virtual reality, which replaces the physical world, AR adds information that augments and enhances the real-world experience.

Work on using augmented reality in industrial settings dates back to the 1990s. The renewed interest in applying AR in service and maintenance tasks stems from two converging trends. Read More

Augmented Relaity

Virtual Reality is Awaiting its iPhone Moment

By | AR/VR, Field Service, Service Technology | No Comments

I have been involved in developing, evaluating and selecting tools and methods for field service and failure diagnostics in complex equipment for many years. Among the many technologies, virtual reality (VR), the technology that was heralded and then flopped in the 90s, seems to stage a comeback, thanks to significant improvement in hardware and visualization technologies, and eye-catching products like Google Glass (discontinued earlier this year), Oculus Rift (acquired by Apple in 2014) and Microsoft’s Hololens. A client sent me links to articles on virtual reality that appeared in a recent issue of The Economist and asked for an opinion.

The longer article, titled Grand Illusions, offers some historical perspective and discusses numerous opportunities for virtual reality applications, mostly related to gaming and gaming-like areas. The article cautions readers to “curb your enthusiasm”, citing multiple technology, human physiology and social barriers. Read More