Solving customer problems and earning repeat business are central challenges for any business, but in manufacturing, the stakes tend to be higher than average. When a manufacturing customer has a problem with a product, it may cause costly downtime. The longer it takes to fix the issue, the more expensive the customer’s problem becomes. This can lead to frustration that damages the manufacturer’s brand and customer churn that drives up customer acquisition costs.
The industrial internet of things (IIoT) can help manufacturers reduce these issues by reducing the time it takes to identify and resolve problems with their products. Wireless sensors that report operational data on their production operation, eliminate unplanned downtime, reduce maintenance time and costs, and identify areas for product improvement.
Wireless sensor data supports better service and maintenance
When equipment makers add wireless sensors to their products to record temperature, vibration or other operational data, they enable customer support teams and field technicians to solve customer issues faster or prevent issues from arising in the first place. Here are a few examples of how IIoT connectivity supports better service and maintenance.
An aerospace manufacturer using remote vibration sensors on its products can provide field technicians with real-time data on equipment in need of service or repair. This allows technicians to quickly identify and resolve equipment issues, which reduces downtime and improves safety. This also reduces the time field techs spend on each service call, so the company can serve more customers efficiently.
An industrial power-tool maker includes wireless vibration sensors on its products and can use the data they collect to provide personalized guidance when customers call with questions or problems. For example, a review of a tool’s data can show whether it’s being used outside of its intended range or whether it needs repair. In many cases, the data can help tech support guide customers to operate the tool within its specified range for better performance and longer product life.
Some manufacturers are using sensor data to enable predictive maintenance as a service on the equipment they sell. For a manufacturer like Carbon, which makes industrial 3D printers, predictive maintenance is a selling point. This model relieves their customers of responsibility for scheduled and reactive maintenance and lowers the likelihood of unplanned downtime. This approach also reduces technician time in the field for repairs and scheduled maintenance, and it generates service subscription revenue for the manufacturer.
Manufacturers can also analyze wireless sensor data from their products in the field to improve them. For example, environmental sensor data can show an increase in problems with tools when humidity is high and could lead to a redesign of those tools to reduce moisture ingress and deliver more consistent performance.
Better service and maintenance create a better customer experience
Adding wireless sensors to products has benefits beyond faster maintenance and lower costs. Business buyers, as well as consumers, have increasingly high expectations for the experiences that companies deliver. They’re also increasingly inclined to do business with companies delivering great experiences, even at a higher price point. However, manufacturing currently lags among other industries in customer experience rankings.
In 2019, manufacturing ranked tenth out of 12 industries for customer experience, according to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report. As more manufacturers adopt IIoT-driven service and maintenance models, however, the industry’s reputation for providing great customer experiences can improve.
Solving equipment problems quickly and relieving customers of maintenance tasks are major customer experience improvements, but they’re not the only ways the IIoT can help manufacturers meet or exceed customer expectations. For example, when products are connected to the IIoT, all of the manufacturer’s employees that a customer interacts with can access the same real-time data.
Unification of customer-facing data supports the kind of customer experience that will get B2B buyers to return. As Holly Kelly, senior industry architect in manufacturing practice at Microsoft, writes, many manufacturers silo their data in product lines or business functions.
However, fragmented data creates a fragmented customer experience, and “the consensus among analysts is clear: if the customer is not considered from product design through the delivery of the finished good, organizations run the risk of becoming irrelevant in the market.” Consistent, real-time information available from wireless sensors can create a better, lower-friction customer experience. This in turn, builds customer loyalty. Eighty-nine percent of business buyers say “the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services.” A larger base of loyal customers allows manufacturers to earn more repeat business and more revenue per customer. A.T. Kearney found that B2B companies offering a seamless customer experience have average revenue growth of 8.1 percent, twice the rate of competitors that don’t provide a unified customer experience. “In some industries, converting a single-channel customer into an omnichannel buyer increases the buyer’s average spend by 21 percent.”
All of these benefits—faster and better equipment service, reduced service call costs, the option to offer maintenance as a service, improved products, better customer experience, more repeat business and more buyer spend—start with sensor data. With wireless sensors on their products, manufacturers can see benefits in the short run and over the long term.
About the author: Ray Almgren is the Chief Operating Officer at Swift Sensors, a developer of cloud-based wireless sensor systems for industrial applications. Prior to his role at Swift Sensors he was the Vice President of Marketing at National Instruments.
In the News
Covered on these news sites. Click image to read more.