Industrial services coming of age in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Industrial services are not new, of course, but have come of age recently. In fact, industrial automation services now have a much bigger value-add potential for our customers than the traditional services of field support, spares and repairs.

Any industrial enterprise will have experience of industrial services, but many are likely to have pigeon-holed them in certain aspects of the business. This might still be the correct approach – it could be that you need help with a particular element of your enterprise, or that you have certain more pressing elements (such as security or safety) that take precedence over others.

The FIVE areas of servitisation come of age

The first area where outsourcing requires expertise that should be considered concerns networks and security services. Adding connectivity without a robust approach to security is a huge risk. Industrial managers who don’t have, within the team, the means to fully assess, design, implement, manage and monitor their industrial network, can benefit from bringing in the expertise to do so. With a connected enterprise, the last part – the monitoring and management – can be an ongoing service that utilises that connectivity to offer remote monitoring and peace of mind.

Product and application lifecycle support is the second area, and again, it’s not new. But this element too is coming of age. Contracts and service offerings that assist in the employment of hardware, software and solutions, with trouble-shooting capability that works across the design, integration and run phases of a system now benefit from remote monitoring capabilities. They are starting to leverage digital twin technologies too. It’s an area of automation servitisation that will continue to develop in the coming years as 4IR technologies proliferate.

The third area of expertise turns towards the copious data that is being created by your increasingly connected enterprise and seeks to bridge the data-skills gap needed to benefit from it. It is the servitisation of remote monitoring and cloud analytics. Modern automation solutions are increasingly systems that monitor intelligent assets, machines and enterprises to deliver much more proactive and predictive analytics – but if you haven’t got the skills onsite to turn the data into usable information, then servitisation options may be able to help.

Even traditional asset management and reliability services, the fourth area, are starting to leverage the remote capability and real-time data in servitised agreements with vendors, leading to reductions in both planned and unplanned downtime.

The fifth area is one which is becoming increasingly important as technology migrates to 4IR (Fourth Industrial Revolution); Safety. Service offerings around electrical safety, arc-flash safety, lock-out tag-out safety, machine safety, and process safety can be resourced beyond the enterprise. They can be consultative assessments, engineering services and also, as with the other four areas, are coming of age with remote audit and tracking systems – the latter can help to constantly (remotely) track the enterprise against its required safety procedures, for example.

And this is just the beginning – the “what’s next” involves services moving into areas like augmented reality (with remote serviced applications like the digital twin) and artificial intelligence (that relies on remote services and big data for advanced analytics).

These areas of development are fascinating and set to dramatically change how we interact with applications

Marc Baret, Director, EMEA industrial services, Rockwell Automation