The basic formula is simple enough: The more real-time information you have about the status of a customer's equipment, the better you can maintain it. Ideally, you can detect potential problems early enough to prevent them from even happening.
Working along these lines, KONE has for years employed remote monitoring systems for its equipment. In early 2016, the company dramatically widened these efforts by partnering with IBM to make use of their IoT Watson Platform. The result, a year later, is 24/7 Connected Services, a setup that offers customers the quickest path from monitoring to maintenance results, ensuring the least possible interruption to people flow. The services have been piloted in Finland and China and are now being rolled out on a country-by-country basis.
“It was quite a logical step,” explained Markus Huuskonen, KONE's Head of Maintenance Processes. “This ability to remotely monitor equipment thas been one of our targets for a pretty long time, but now IoT really enables us to do it efficiently while scaling up our operations.”
The procedure starts with sensors that measure variables such door operations, number of starts, temperature, stopping accuracy so on, which are then transferred via wireless GSM connection to the IoT cloud. The millions of collected data points are then run through Watson's analytics engine to find symptoms that might indicate a pending problem. The information is forwarded directly to maintenance technicians along with suggestions for what components to check or adjustments to make during the next regular maintenance visit, thereby minimizing the chances of a breakdown.
“Even in cases where we might not be able to prevent a breakdown, that information would automatically go to our analytics as well as to our call centre so we would be able to inform the customer immediately. In many cases we are actually already on our way to fix the problem before the customer even realises there is a problem,” said Huuskonen.
Empowering customers through transparency
In addition to allowing KONE to better perform its maintenance duties, Huuskonen pointed out, 24/7 Connected Services will mark a drastic change in the relationship between KONE and its customers by providing them access to real-time information about their equipment.
“If you think about traditional maintenance, the customer only sees us when we come every 1 to 3 months. With 24/7 Connected Services, they're constantly aware of what's happening, what we're doing and how we're making sure the equipment is safe and reliable. It's a big difference from the customer point of view and a whole new way of seeing the maintenance picture as a whole,” he said.
Putting information in the hands of KONE customers will also make it easier for them to answer questions from their own customers, such as building tenants, about ongoing repair work as well as to make financial plans in advance when further repairs or upgrades are needed.
Phase two and beyond
The new IoT-based services will initially encompass only elevators, with other equipment such as escalators and doors to be added at a later time. KONE's goal is to have one million pieces of equipment connected to the cloud within four years.
As Huuskonen points out, the project is still in its first phase, which focuses on predictive maintenance and better people flow through improving the safety and reliability of equipment. He predicts that the monitoring capabilities will widen to include parameters such as vibration and noise, factors that affect the quality of the ride. Phase two, Huuskonen says, will involve using Watson's cognitive abilities to further optimize how people move through buildings.
What phase three may look like is harder to forecast, but the company is already looking at ways to encouraging third parties to develop additional services that could be integrated into its cloud platform.
“We are improving all the time so the more data we get, the better our service will be. The analytics engine is self-learning so these kinds of connected services will definitely come into the bigger play in the future,” Huuskonen said.