Mari E. Haapala, digital lead at ABB Motion, explains how a pandemic-driven surge in the uptake of digital solutions will yield long-term benefits for industrial companies and redefine the service business ecosystem.

With traditional service operations hampered by Covid related travel restrictions and social distancing demands, maintaining the reliability of critical equipment such as drives and motors has become a significant challenge. This has prompted many businesses to re-evaluate their service needs and to embrace digitalization and remote access-based services. They have discovered accessible digital approaches which add tangible value by enabling better decision-making that maximises productivity, improves resilience and reduces costs. At the same time, remoteaccess-based services also helped to reduce safety risks during the pandemic and enabled organizations to keep operating regardless of the restrictions.

A partner with the necessary service expertise can help optimise use of data

Fundamentally, digitalisation allows remote-access based services, such as condition monitoring and support of industrial assets. Connected motors and drives collect data which is transmitted wirelessly to a secure cloud. Cloud-based analytics make sense of the data and produce actionable insights on which sound decisions can be made. This principle can be applied to an individual drive or motor or to an entire powertrain. By gaining deeper insights into the status and condition of their assets, customers can intervene to ensure their reliability and avoid the impacts of unexpected downtime and asset failure.

They can protect their profitability further by reducing the need for travel, avoiding unnecessary maintenance actions, accurately predicting when intervention is needed, and scheduling services at the least disruptive times. Customers using ABB Ability remote condition monitoring include Japanese chemical giant Denka. At three of Denka’s Singapore plants, an ambitious target of reducing motor failure by 80 per cent has been surpassed – with no motor failing in the two years since they were connected.

The same technology enhances safety by helping to keep assets in good operating condition and reducing the exposure of service engineers to potentially dangerous machinery or hazardous locations. Detailed insights can be used to improve operations in many other ways. For example, monitoring and analysis of energy consumption may point to changes which will improve energy efficiency. Importantly, achieving the benefits summarised here depends on much more than the connection of motors and drives and the collection of data. It requires a service partner with the necessary service expertise to make gainful use of the data.

Small steps toward future proofing business

Going digital has become surprisingly easy thanks to plug-and-play products. For example, ABB can supply a small control panel that simply clicks into place on a drive. At the touch of a button, it connects with the cloud and starts collecting useful data. Hyped visions of digitalisation focus on a future of fully autonomous factories, which will require huge transformation and investment. In the real world, digitally enabled services are already accessible to almost every business and can be adopted in small steps as part of a gradual journey. Digitalisation should not be seen as something separate from the normal activities of a customer’s business. That is why ABB Motion packages its wellestablished core expertise in traditional service provision together with its digital leadership and technology. This allows customers to digitalise their operations at whatever pace they find comfortable.

Partnerships and ecosystems

The next step enabled by digital technologies is the movement towards holistic service agreements in which the provider takes responsibility for the outcomes of its work. In other words, the customer buys agreed levels of uptime, productivity, energy efficiency or some other KPI. This will fundamentally change the relationships between service providers, customers, and other businesses, who will now become partners.

These partnerships will ultimately become part of an ecosystem which brings together service providers who can contribute to the overall success of the business. They might include insurance companies, investment and pension funds, finance institutions and businesses in the cybersecurity, AI and machine learning fields. Ecosystems will not just change the game but will define the future service landscape.

The history of industrial standardisation shows a parallel for such interdependency, with companies agreeing on common standards to make business easier and more efficient for all. In the digital arena, there is very little standardisation at the moment. In the meantime, businesses should immediately seize the reliability, safety and profitability advantages of the digital service solutions available today, which have never been so easily accessible and affordable

For more information please visit: ABB Motion Services

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