Field Service Management for Mission-Critical Assets

Nov. 2, 2018
Predix ServiceMax Asset Service Management, GE Digital’s new version of ServiceMax for asset-intensive industries, brings the field service management software to operators to help them maintain equipment uptime more efficiently and effectively.

We’re at a point in Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) adoption where companies have begun to pull back and reevaluate their programs, according to a recent report from Gartner. Companies that might have rushed in to sign up for IIoT capabilities are now revisiting their objectives, trying to figure out what the technology should really be for.

One of the applications that can truly benefit from IIoT capabilities is service delivery—helping to understand when and how to deliver service to increase the uptime or the economic output of a machine, according to Lubor Ptacek, vice president of product marketing for ServiceMax at GE Digital.

With the launch of Predix ServiceMax Asset Service Management (ASM), GE Digital is bringing its field service management software into the realm of asset-intensive operators. Customers of ServiceMax have typically been service-only organizations or OEMs that provide service contracts along with their equipment. In fact, as one of the largest OEMs in the world, GE was a key customer before it acquired ServiceMax about two years ago. ServiceMax ASM focuses on operators of mission-critical assets, such as in oil fields or power plants.

With all the intelligence they’re able to get from machine data, every one of GE’s customers is somewhere along its journey from reactive to a more proactive maintenance plan, Ptacek says. “We’re on a journey to use more machine learning to give customers more data-assessed decision capabilities rather than relying on a gut feel like they used to.”

ServiceMax ASM can be used regardless of an operator’s level of automation or connectivity, Ptacek adds. A solid first step is moving from a reactive maintenance approach to condition-based service—much as you might do in deciding when to get the oil changed on your car. If you bring your car in for an oil change every three months or 5,000 miles as recommended, chances are you’re over-servicing it, Ptacek comments. But the cost of doing so is relatively low compared with the chance of getting stranded on the freeway. With a large gas turbine, on the other hand, it’s worth getting a better degree of accuracy. This can be done with relatively simple rules, but with somewhat more precision.

“The beauty of condition-based maintenance is it can be done on a connected infrastructure, but you can also do it using manual readings,” Ptacek says, explaining that a technician could be out in the field gathering readings from meters and capturing them with a mobile app.

But if the infrastructure is connected through IIoT technologies, operations can move to predictive maintenance, which is where asset performance management (APM) comes in. “APM can be very sophisticated about when and what type of service it can recommend,” Ptacek says. Combining ServiceMax ASM with GE Digital’s Predix APM provides access to root cause analysis, risk assessments, diagnostics and recommendations.

Feeding information back into APM when a technician has finished a service job can help to improve the model that APM has on a particular piece of equipment, providing a better understanding of how that asset will perform in the future, Ptacek explains. The data can even be fed all the way back into engineering, which could use it to design a better part. “It’s a very powerful closed loop that we have built with those two products,” he adds.

Regardless of whether they’re planned, predictive or reactive service jobs, ServiceMax ASM can orchestrate service delivery on any asset and across all service needs. The software offers service execution capabilities that effectively address the complexity of today’s maintenance realities.

ServiceMax ASM helps planners and dispatchers most effectively deliver the right resources for each service job. Ptacek calls dispatchers the “unsung heroes of service,” making technicians as efficient as possible—sending the person with the right qualifications, stacking the jobs in the right way so that they’re not sitting in traffic trying to get to a job or sitting at Starbucks waiting for their next assignment.

“There’s quite a bit of science that goes into that, as you might imagine,” Ptacek says “What’s going to be the best order of jobs, depending on drive times and traffic conditions? How do you optimize for your highest-quality technician, but not at the cost of overtime? How long is the job going to take? How long is traffic going to take?”

ServiceMax ASM features include: shift planning to address the 24/7 nature of planned maintenance; crew management to easily create and assign resources for every job; assisted dispatch for recommendations on the best technicians with the right skillsets, certifications and availability; map views and drive time estimates to deliver effective scheduling; and other useful features.

A consumer-style mobile app helps technicians, crews and contractors work more efficiently, offering views of all jobs, resources and map locations to better manage their day. The system also supports work orders with complete data on assets, location, service history and parts to deliver the most efficient service. The app works with any device, providing access to required information even when Internet connectivity is unavailable, helping technicians follow safety and compliance procedures in any setting. The new software also allows operators to better leverage sensor data and analytics as well as view and manage their asset data to ensure the right parts are available where they are needed.

ServiceMax’s traditional users are focused on maximizing their own customer satisfaction. For asset-heavy operators—where asset failures can cost companies hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue, wear out assets faster, and present significant safety and compliance risks—reducing unplanned downtime and improving asset performance are high priorities. To reduce the likelihood of failures and to improve the efficiency of service activities, ServiceMax ASM supports three major pillars: optimizing resource utilization, using asset data for smarter maintenance, and improving safety and compliance.

Although the latest software release is built on the original ServiceMax and shares common capabilities in service delivery, a key difference with ServiceMax ASM is its greater emphasis on planned service, Ptacek notes. The software can handle the day-to-day servicing that’s common with traditional service-only organizations, but it also helps to coordinate the planning that’s required for regularly scheduled services—from an operational standpoint and also a service delivery standpoint. “It becomes quite a different beast in terms of the complexity,” he says.

ServiceMax ASM is currently available in beta and will be generally available in early 2019.

About the Author

Aaron Hand | Editor-in-Chief, ProFood World

Aaron Hand has three decades of experience in B-to-B publishing with a particular focus on technology. He has been with PMMI Media Group since 2013, much of that time as Executive Editor for Automation World, where he focused on continuous process industries. Prior to joining ProFood World full time in late 2020, Aaron worked as Editor at Large for PMMI Media Group, reporting for all publications on a wide variety of industry developments, including advancements in packaging for consumer products and pharmaceuticals, food and beverage processing, and industrial automation. He took over as Editor-in-Chief of ProFood World in 2021. Aaron holds a B.A. in Journalism from Indiana University and an M.S. in Journalism from the University of Illinois.

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