Toward a Services-Oriented Business with Connected Machines

Doug Bellin, Global Lead, Manufacturing and Energy, Cisco
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Doug Bellin, Global Lead, Manufacturing and Energy, Cisco

Priorities are changing in our fast-moving marketplace. Digital disruptors are shaking up the rules of the game, and simply building a good product at a competitive price is no longer good enough. Now the focus is turning toward what happens after a product is sold.

"In our increasingly connected world, the only certainty is that business imperatives will continue to evolve"

To tackle this new priority, more and more companies are moving from product-centric strategies to business models that are more service-oriented. When done right, a service-oriented approach can pay huge dividends. It can unlock major new revenue streams; deliver a superior experience that engages customers; and drive efficiency and cost savings.

Companies that are successful in adopting a services-oriented approach can set the stage to drive their own disruptive new business models. They can take a step beyond charging for products and physical assets, and instead charge for performance and business outcomes.

Innovative Directions for Manufacturers

Manufacturing is one industry where a services-oriented model is especially relevant. Cisco surveyed 600 manufacturing leaders in 13 countries, and 86 percent responded that the transition from product-centric to services-oriented revenue models was a core part of their growth strategies. Yet only 29 percent of respondents indicated services would grow faster than products in their firms.

One promising technology that can help organizations jump-start their migration toward a more services-oriented model is connected machines. Connected machines use Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to connect machines and factory robots beyond the plant floor—all the way up to the machine builders that created them.

Sharing data with people who know the machine best can create new opportunities for machine builders as well as manufacturers. Companies can set up and install machines more quickly. Manufacturers can partner with machine builders to spot problems before they occur, so they can schedule maintenance more proactively, before components or operations fail. If a problem turns up, manufacturers and machine builders can track it down to the source faster, and repair it more quickly.

Putting Connected Machines to Work at Mazak

Mazak Corporation is pulling ahead of its competitors with an innovative connected machines deployment. A global leader in the design and manufacture of machine tools, Mazak has partnered with Cisco and machine-to-machine solutions provider MEMEX, Inc. to dramatically improve digital integration across all its processes. Mazak was looking for a way to improve its overall productivity, and respond to changing customer and market demands more quickly.

The solution is called a “SmartBox,” and it provides access to real-time manufacturing data and analytics from Mazak machines. The SmartBox is part of Mazak’s iSMART Factory concept, and uses the Cisco Connected Machines to deliver better insight into machine operations. It employs a fog computing model, gathering manufacturing data from Mazak’s precise metal-cutting machinery using the MTConnect protocol. MT Connect software agents run directly on a ruggedized Cisco Industrial Ethernet 4000 switch, and deliver real-time data and visibility into the factory floor.

“What Cisco has brought to us is the idea that we can integrate to the Internet of Things and go much farther,” explains Brian Papke, President of Mazak Corporation.

The improved insight into factory operations gives Mazak and customers immediate awareness about program stops, feed holds, spindle overrides, tool changes, and other issues that can disrupt operations. Manufacturers can also analyze the data to identify and easily fix inefficient processes that could create downtime.

The solution goes beyond simply keeping individual machines up and running. With cloud and fog oriented data analytics, Mazak can pull out the data from a machine, perform whatever analytics are needed locally to optimize it, then use that data together with related data from the manufacturing environment. All this context helps Mazak drive better throughput and equipment utilization, as well as lower downtime—and higher quality.

The new iSmart solution attaches to any Mazak machine—or even a competitor’s machine, regardless of machine type, model, or age. Mazak can use SmartBox to support not only for its own installed base, but any other machine in a factory. Mazak’s SmartBox fundamentally changes their customer experience, driving even more value as customers move towards connected factories.

“We have an incredible number of directions that we now go to can take this to differentiate our company by making a more productive solution for our customers,” says Papke.

In our increasingly connected world, the only certainty is that business imperatives will continue to evolve. With the right technology and planning, companies can meet these new expectations today, and continue to keep pace with changes in the future.

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