zebra logo

The Visible Value Blog

Field Service Gets Smart: An Interview with Zebra Technologies

Posted by Joanna Rotter

December 8, 2015 at 8:00 AM



A version of this post originally ran on MSI Data's website.

Our "Field Service Things" series explores how leaders in industrial industries can take advantage of the IoT to increase service margins. In part 1, we look at how smart, connected products will transform equipment manufacturing. 

As manufacturers deliver ongoing customer value through smart products, new service-centric business models have taken over. The emergence of smart, connected products through the Internet of Things (IoT) is shifting the OEM business model from one based on selling individual products to one that sells systems of connected products, sensors, data, and services.

To learn how the IoT is impacting the manufacturing industry, I spoke with Jim Hilton, Director of Global Solutions Marketing at Zebra Technologies. Zebra Technologies is a global solutions and services company focused on making businesses as smart and connected as the world we live in and making the IoT the transformative technological initiative of the decade. Hilton is in charge of manufacturing, transportation, and logistics solutions, which, for Zebra, is all about tracking the visibility of goods, assets, people, processes, and places.

Zebra’s products provide visibility from inception so end users and service organizations can see how efficiently an asset is functioning and set parameters to alert them when it’s performing below a specified level.

“It used to be that maintenance for an asset was reactive,” said Hilton. “The machine malfunctioned on a production line, therefore the red light went off because someone pressed a button and the engineer came running with a screwdriver. Preventive maintenance used to be a technician walked up with an index card and checked off the vitals of that asset.”

“That process has evolved and revolutionized to the point that now you have an enterprise grade ability to do predictive maintenance. In other words, the sensor in the asset essentially tells the maintenance department: ‘you should take a look at this because the vitals are not looking the way they’re supposed to. And, by the way, if you ignore it, in about 3 weeks, the machine is going to stop working completely.’”

This sort of insight into equipment health and performance is what prevents machine downtime. And as Hilton emphasized, there’s nothing worse for a production floor than unplanned downtime.

Turn Big Data into Meaningful Action

One of the biggest challenges of having access to smart, connected equipment and the data it provides is making sense of all the information coming from machines. 

With the ability not only to collect machine intelligence, but also make sense of it, service organizations will be able to offer customers advanced service packages that end users may not have even known were available. The best part – every decision is backed by concrete data so manufacturers aren’t wasting time focusing on areas that don’t work or trying to sell service contracts customers don’t need. 

Hilton says that manufacturers have been capturing data since the 80s but it was so difficult to get that many businesses didn’t do anything with it. The emergence of the cloud and the IoT type products built into machines today make collecting and analyzing data easier and less expensive. 

“Because of the cloud and smart, connected products, data can be handed up without the ball and chain of a network. IoT has taken what was just simple automation and made it actionable. Through the cloud, with systems to store and display data, anyone around the world can see that data while there’s still time to do something with it. 

You need both: the ability to capture and interpret data. For example, Hilton said, if there’s a two week delay for service businesses to see insights from data, what good is that? There needs to be instant access, which is where a cloud, enterprise solution is key. It allows you to see critical data at a time when you can still do something with the information. 

Joanna is the content marketing manager at MSI Data, a field service management software provider and creator of enterprise field service app, Service Pro. Find her on LinkedIn.