(Click here to view article in digital edition)
Servitisation is one of the latest additions to the bank of industrial terminology that has gained traction in recent years. System integrators need to be aware of servitisation as it will be changing the way they purchase products and equipment in the coming years.
Traditionally, purchasing equipment has been a reasonably straightforward process — plant managers specify what their requirements are to system integrators, who identify a supplier that provides a suitable product and purchase it. This was especially true for industrial PCs, with there often being little difference between two similarly specced models, provided both are designed for the same purpose and operating environment.
This has changed with the wider adoption of servitisation, which sees product and equipment manufacturers focus more on providing ongoing service rather than simply selling a product. This service could involve anything from engineers visiting a site and installing equipment for free in under one hour, to an ongoing maintenance routine from the equipment manufacturer itself.
Service from suppliers
With an increasing number of manufacturers adopting more service-focused business models, the quality of the service is now the key differentiator between companies. After all, the product will serve the same function regardless of which seller it comes from.
One of the finest examples of this is also one of the earliest. In the 1980s, Rolls-Royce popularised and trademarked the phrase “power by the hour”. This program provided an ongoing aircraft engine replacement service to customers, which created a value chain for Rolls-Royce and generated revenue beyond the sale itself. More importantly, it assured customers that the products they had purchased would perform and be maintained properly.
In effect, Rolls-Royce was selling peace-of-mind to customers as opposed to just an aircraft engine. This philosophy underpins the concept of servitisation, with the customer and their interests being the most important factors that product providers consider. Businesses do not want products for the sake of buying them, but rather for the benefits and results they can provide.
What this means for system integrators is that they must consider the whole system before beginning to browse products. For example, those working for companies in the food and beverage sector who are considering a new food-grade industrial PC must bear in mind that the new product will need to be compatible with existing infrastructure. Therefore, an industrial PC manufacturer that provides a set-up service and network compatibility checks, as well as cloud-hosting of data, would best serve the integrator’s interests.
However, it is not just equipment manufacturers that can take this approach of service instead of sale. Even suppliers that distribute on behalf of manufacturers can provide services that help with either the specification or installation of products, which will often take the form of consultancy or a site survey.
For example, the first step that Distec takes with customers is to visit the site to get a comprehensive understanding of plant requirements. This allows us to not only specify the right industrial computing product for an environment, but also one that aligns with the manager’s objective. For example, plant managers that operate in the packaging sector must always be prepared to adjust processes in accordance with changing demand. Distec specialists take this into account to provide a solution that isn’t just right at that moment in time, but also future-proofed to provide effectiveness in the long-term.
An additional benefit of this is that system integrators can draw from a specialist’s experience to determine if what they are requesting can realistically achieve their goals. It is not uncommon for plant managers to believe one PC is enough to control their entire system, when in reality two or three are required.
Production as a service
Interestingly, system integrators can take more from the rise of servitisation than just an expectation of better service from suppliers. The fundamental idea behind servitisation is that products should be considered as more than just an individual piece of equipment and rather as a piece of a bigger picture.
For example, astute plant managers will understand that an industrial PC must be specified to system integrators based on not only its own performance but its performance within a system. It is not always enough to select an industrial PC to control processes simply because it is fanless and therefore more energy-efficient with a longer life cycle.
Rather, system integrators must look at how that specific model could improve performance, whether that means using two-hand gestures to stop the unit being accidentally triggered or using in-built RFID sensors to manage user access.
These features improve performance by ensuring operational safety. This minimises the risk of downtime or under-production due to accidental gestures, factors that are not often considered by plant managers prior to purchasing industrial equipment.
Servitisation might have only become a prominent industrial term in recent years, but the principles underpinning it are as old as trade itself. With manufacturers and suppliers now selling service rather than products, system integrators must ensure they know precisely what they require before buying.
Print this page | E-mail this page
Discover the future of engineering today
Download a copy of our digital magazine