Industrial Internet revolutionizes service solutions for fleetThe research programme titled ‘S4Fleet – Service Solutions for Fleet Management’ has made valuable contributions towards the development of national scientific expertise in data-based services and promoted collaboration on industrial service research across the faculty boundaries at TUT.
Increasing emphasis will be placed on data-based services within the manufacturing industry following a more widespread adoption of the Industrial Internet. The development of data-based services depends on a thorough understanding of customer needs and the availability, management and refinement of the right data. In the past few years, the Industrial Internet has increased the capability of manufacturing companies to closely monitor their own processes and the operations of their customers and enabled them to shift their focus towards data-based services.
The related challenges have been explored during the research programme titled ‘S4Fleet – Service Solutions for Fleet Management’ coordinated by DIMECC and funded by the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation Tekes, companies and research institutes. The programme is scheduled to end at the turn of the year. TUT holds an important and cohesive role in the S4Fleet programme, as researchers from five different research teams in the University have participated in all the three projects in the programme.
The research programme has been productive for TUT: it has resulted in interesting publications, dissertation data, international mobility, active sharing of research results, and international collaboration with leading scientists. The combination of expertise in industrial management, mechanical engineering, and information management will continue to open up fascinating research opportunities in the field of industrial services, as digitalization and the diverse applications of the Industrial Internet spur industry to seek continuous innovation. Research on the topic continues, among others, within the Smart Machines and Manufacturing Competence Centre (SMACC) administered by TUT and the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.
Increasing customer orientation
Service solutions are always based on customer needs, which in industrial contexts are often connected to the value adding capacity, usability and utilization rate of the manufacturers’ equipment and, thereby, the core processes of their customers. The manufacturing companies involved in the S4Fleet programme were keen to tap into the opportunities offered by the Industrial Internet and develop increasingly effective service solutions for the globally distributed installed base of equipment.
”This research programme has allowed us to explore the adoption of service thinking into sales, the identification of service needs as part of solution deliveries, the revenue model of services, the ability of customers to embrace new services, and the global standardization of service systems,” says Professor Miia Martinsuo, who headed the project focusing on service operations.
”Manufacturing companies will need to collaborate with software companies, retailers and external service providers to offer services to their customers. This triadic collaboration between manufacturers, customers and external stakeholders may pose additional challenges to the development of service solutions,” she adds.
Integration of financial and equipment data
Profitable service business requires combining information on customer needs and the value adding capacity of the fleet with profitability elements of the manufacturing company. Conventional financial reports may not be enough to support decision-making processes, but refined financial data, especially when it is combined with other relevant customer and equipment data, may lend significant support to the development of service business.
”We achieved startling results by combining financial and equipment data during the project. We were able to accurately forecast active customers, the extent of their purchases and even profitability. This kind of information helps in the selection of indicators and, most importantly, enables the effective and appropriate allocation of resources,” says Associate Professor (tenure track) Teemu Laine. He was in charge of the sub-project on profitability-driven service business renewal.
Close collaboration with companies and other research groups helped the researchers at TUT focus on the right questions and resulted in findings that have both theoretical and practical value.
Paving the way to further business success
The development of service solutions for fleet requires that the Industrial Internet is as broadly adopted among customers as possible and that comprehensive and consistent fleet data are available for determining the service needs and levels. According to Professor Kari T. Koskinen, the simultaneous deployment of multiple data sources makes the development of digital solutions for factory environments challenging. However, the solutions hold considerable business potential.
”System of Systems modelling helps illustrate the state of the fleet and helps predict the required services. If these factory solutions become more widespread, the efficiency of service business will grow and pave the way to the further success of large corporations and SMEs,” says Koskinen.
The manufacturing companies participating in S4Fleet made significant advances in the deployment of factory-level data during the programme. Fleet-level and predictive models will become available in the future.
”Future artificial intelligence applications will open up even more radical opportunities for service-level optimization,” says Koskinen.
Professor Miia Martinsuo, Center for Research on Operations, Projects and Services (CROPS)
Associate Professor (tenure track) Teemu J. Laine, Cost Management Center (CMC)
Professor Kari T. Koskinen, Mechatronics Research Group