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Digital Machine Data Management:
Key to Digital Services

Digital machine data management allows manufacturers to digitize their service operation, increasing customer satisfaction and opening up new sales opportunities.

Every piece of equipment on the factory floor needs to be documented and the data need to be managed, for instance to be able to set up efficient maintenance schedules or because the documentation is required for ISO certification. While an Excel table may be sufficient for these purposes if the number of machines is relatively small, from a certain volume upwards a special IT solution is the only sensible way. The problem is that most of the available solutions are stand-alone. Data exchange with the central ERP system is rarely unproblematic, and duplicate data maintenance is required.  Added to this is the fact that the functions offered by these solutions tend to be very limited: they allow machine and equipment data to be recorded, but will not allow maintenance schedules to be set up. That requires yet another piece of software. The number of applications thus quickly rises, and none of them talk to each other, and all of them need to be operated and maintained.

Web-based solutions – of benefit to the customer and the manufacturer

Web-based solutions that fit seamlessly into the existing system landscape are much more convenient. Not only do they ensure a consistent database. They also allow the machine and equipment data to be accessed from any location. Ideally, such a solution for digital machine data management should come directly from the machine or plant manufacturer, providing the customer with a simple way of keeping an overview and a convenient method of organizing all servicing activities centrally. This will increase customer satisfaction dramatically. And the digital machine data management will provide the manufacturer with a starting point for offering a number of additional digital services – thereby potentially increasing their sales.

Service portal compiles data

The technological basis for digital machine data management is a service portal based on an e-business solution (such as SAP Commerce Cloud). In such a portal, manufacturers can keep records of all the machines  operated by each customer, enhanced by a variety of data. In addition to the machine name, this can include the serial number and chiffre, the machine type, and the technical specifications. This basic data can be complemented by additional details that are useful for organizing and handling servicing tasks, such as the relevant building, production line, or step in the production process. Also, numerous documents relevant to the machine can be added, including manuals or technical drawings, for instance.

Diversity of digital services

Based on this data inventory, numerous digital services can be envisaged. Some application scenarios are described below:

A QR code can be generated for each machine via the machine data management. If this code is attached to the respective machine, the service engineer can scan it with their smartphone, which will then give them access to all the relevant data and documents.

Virtual reality technologies interlink the situation on the shop floor and the digital world. A service engineer can, for instance, have important information displayed on his VR goggles when servicing a machine – depending on what he is looking at. This will allow him to identify individual parts simply and instantly by looking at them. Customers can also benefit from VR hardware. VR-supported product presentations will allow them to gain a highly realistic idea of the functioning of new machines or equipment.

E-learning contents can be made available on the service portal for each machine: videos, manuals, or video chat. This enables the customer to acquire special knowledge about their equipment in a flexible manner as and when it is convenient for them.

A calendar can be maintained for each machine to manage the different maintenance tasks, such as inspections or oil changes. Work schedules for the maintenance tasks can also be maintained, for instance for planning the maintenance personnel schedule.

In addition to static data, dynamic data on the current machine condition can be displayed and documented via the machine data management: temperature, spindle speed, contact pressure, etc.  That allows critical machine situations to be detected and notified promptly. In addition, the production process can be tracked and assessed, which can be extremely important for compliance reasons.

Simulating the wear on a machine on the basis of the collected data is a logical next step because this will allow a prognosis of when certain spare parts will be required. These can then be ordered in good time directly from the manufacturer via the digital machine data management system.

Machines can detect malfunctions automatically and notify them via the service portal. As soon as a member of the service staff has determined the defective part responsible for the malfunction, they can initiate an automated order process for the part on the basis of the notification.

The service portal processes all the static and dynamic machine data and displays them in a comprehensive dashboard. That makes the data readily accessible, providing transparency about the condition of the entire production equipment.

The digital machine data management also allows tailor-made upgrade proposals to be prepared, for instance for retrofits. If the customer is interested, they can place their order directly through the service portal.