How field service engineers will interact in the interconnected world

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The implementation of the “Internet of Things, Services and People” has already started at ABB Service

How will industrial services like repair and maintenance change in near future? What opportunities will the “Internet of Things” present?

It doesn’t matter if you consider the first, second or third industrial revolution: service engineers who perform repairs or maintenance on technical assets have always existed, whether it’s on the first steam engines or on today’s automatized production lines. Digitalization will not change this.

Service providers have had to constantly evolve their offering throughout the different eras of industrialization. Phone support and remote services were added to traditional on-site repair. Today, service technicians enter devices or systems remotely with the ability to diagnose or even fix failures from afar.

The “Industrial Internet” or “Internet of Things” catchphrase is on everybody’s lips, depicting a vision of an industry which interconnects all value chains. Including humans in this scenario ABB talks about the so called “Internet of Things, Services and People”. After all, human beings are and will stay an essential part of the value chain.

Installation and commissioning, repair and maintenance, retrofitting and modernization of industrial systems and components are quite complex. Environmental conditions and the state of equipment differ in each case. Honestly speaking, in the near future these services can’t be performed fully automated on-site without human involvement.
What’s new with “Internet of Things, Services and People”?

Nevertheless, the “Internet of Things, Services and People” is changing service in energy and automation. More and more devices and components are going to communicate with central data storage systems, often described as the “cloud”. In such a “smart factory” device information will be available anywhere and at any time, enabling maintenance-related services – an evolution that just has commenced.

At the moment, only a few devices and systems within all value chains are able to communicate and interconnect. It will probably take decades until this is gets going on a large scale. Up to that point, information gathered on site by operators or service people concerning the function and condition of equipment is indispensable and provides the basis for optimal maintenance services.

Relatively new in “Internet of Things” is the fact that standardized software services are deployed based on standard semantics. The precondition for this is a standardized syntax for storing consistent asset data, which is saved ideally in only one place (“single source of data”). It doesn’t matter if this is done in the cloud or on conventional databases. What is importance is the integrated connection of all information to form a dynamic information network.

The groundwork has been laid

ServIS, ABB’s system for storage and management of installed base information of our products, is the foundation upon which the “Internet of Things, Services and People” at ABB is built. Comprising mobile devices like tablets, smartphones or laptops service engineers are nowadays able to access the required data of ABB products or systems: lifecycle status, technical data and documentation, service reports of previous maintenance steps and recommended services. ABB’s new DriveTune-App for electric drives is a good example of such dynamic services.

Information either resides in the ServIS database or is immediately taken by a query of a linked system. Information of monitoring systems sending data of current condition can be complemented. After a performed service action this data is updated by a service engineer and uploaded to the system. Field service interacts as part of the new informational world.

Augmented reality in field service
Augmented reality in field service

The next steps

In the future, Augmented or Virtual Reality solutions can help to support field service in handling a growing variety of devices and systems. This will help to compensate for the lack of appropriate technical staff due to demographic changes.

The development of better and better recommendations for condition based and predictive maintenance also has to be considered. Only comprehensive information utilizing product specific algorithms on an installed base allows for an optimal planned maintenance. In future, this is going to be the main challenge – to develop and integrate them into services portfolio so that additional value is gained for users of ABB products and systems.

Industrial service has to brace itself for change because of the increasing influence of the “Internet of Things, Services and People” – at ABB we are on the go.

A bunch of the above described systems and mobile applications for ABB Service as well as many other service solutions can be seen at this year’s Hannover Messe – have a look and join our discussions about future challenges in service for energy and automation technology!

ABB at the Hannover Messe 2015: 13th to 17th April in hall 11, booth A35.


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About the author

Hans-Martin Bothmann

As Head of Sales and Account Management of Power and Automation Service Germany I am responsible for the cross-divisional issues in marketing and sales for service. As part of the implementation of our service strategy, we work on even better aligning the services offerings to our customers' needs and offering them more actively. My tasks include service-specific communication activities such as our Service Portal on the web or the central service presence at Hannover Messe. In my free time I like to ride bicycle, as well with my family. Furthermore, I regularly organize sailing trips on the Mediterranean Sea, often I have ABB colleagues in my crew. Als Leiter Vertrieb und Account Management Service Energie- und Automatisierungstechnik Deutschland bin ich verantwortlich für die bereichsübergreifenden Marketing- und Vertriebsthemen im Service. Im Rahmen der Umsetzung unserer Servicestrategie arbeiten wir z.B. daran, die von uns angebotenen Serviceleistungen noch besser auf die Bedürfnisse unserer Kunden auszurichten und diese stärker aktiv anzubieten. Zu meinen Aufgaben gehören auch servicespezifische Kommunikationsaktivitäten, wie beispielsweise unser Serviceportal im Web oder der zentrale Serviceauftritt auf der Hannover Messe. In meiner Freizeit fahre ich gerne Fahrrad, auch mit meiner Familie. Außerdem organisiere ich regelmäßig Segeltörns auf dem Mittelmeer, häufig habe ich auch ABB-Kollegen in meiner Crew.
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