Collaborative maintenance: customer proximity and innovation

As a result of Industry 4.0 and the evolution of customer behavior, companies are facing increasing complexity. The most successful organizations are no longer the ones with the greatest production capacity, but rather those with the most efficient processes. That’s why organizations are investing in the modernization of their production and maintenance infrastructures and betting on collaborative maintenance in order to meet market expectations.

While predictive maintenance has helped pave the way towards greater agility for the manufacturing industry, today it is no longer enough to meet companies' operational performance ambitions. In this respect, collaborative maintenance promotes a 360 vision of the production process by driving cooperation along the supply chain.

A Customer-Centric Approach to the Manufacturing Industry

Over the past few years, we have witnessed a gradual transformation of demand. Consumers are focusing their interests on product uniqueness, leaving manufacturers with no choice but to adapt their infrastructures accordingly.

The rise of B2B2C

Faced with volatile demand and an increasingly competitive environment, production and maintenance functions are being put to the test: increased production rates, reduced costs and downtime, optimal inventory management, etc. Companies need to be resourceful to maintain their performance level and maintain customer loyalty.

Some of them have chosen to restructure their organization and adopt a new approach to their production. To improve responsiveness, a growing number of structures are relying on customer proximity. Collecting and analyzing market feedback allows them to align with emerging trends.

With the rise of smart solutions, exchanges between manufacturers and end consumers are becoming easier and more common. Little by little, we are witnessing a paradigm shift within the industrial sector. B2B2C (Business to Business to Customer) is becoming an increasingly important part of manufacturing companies' strategy. This concept, inspired by B2C and applied to B2B, promotes a user-centered approach to development and production activities.

The foundations are: communication, interconnectivity and customer experience. Companies listen to their customers; they strive to capture a comprehensive picture of their activities and needs. From this perspective, they are seeking new ways to improve their ROI. Customer service and technical support complete their product range.

Industry 4.0 and connected factory

Industry 4.0 supports companies’ strategic development. On the one hand, it provides sales teams with the means to collect and analyse field data and customer feedback. Based on this data, they make projections on the evolution of demand and consumer needs in a continuous improvement process.

On the other hand, smart solutions are a vector of connectivity between the numerous components of the value chain. IoT, intelligent sensors or next-gen CMMS (computerized maintenance management system) connect the company's technical teams and assets.

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The real added value of Industry 4.0 over traditional tools is data sharing: delivering the right information at the right time to the right people. In the field, technicians then become more responsive and precise. Alerted in real time of any equipment malfunction, they intervene to prevent breakdowns. Ultimately, by exploiting the potential of industry 4.0, companies succeed in optimizing their production processes.

From predictive to collaborative maintenance

In terms of industrial maintenance, Industry 4.0 solutions have many applications. Real-time data exchange gives technical teams the responsiveness they need to meet their operational performance objectives. Collaboration and flexibility are the main assets of today's technicians.

What is collaborative maintenance?

Collaborative maintenance is not confined to the use of tools and technologies. In fact, it is a medium or long-term strategy, whose ambition is to rationalize maintenance processes by improving exchanges between its actors.

Until now, maintenance 4.0 aimed to boost operational performance by streamlining the company's low value-added tasks. On the other hand, collaborative maintenance tends to go beyond the boundaries of the plant and bring all the stakeholders together to address a customer issue.

By developing partnerships throughout the supply chain, companies improve end product quality, production and maintenance processes, inventory and order management, etc.

In this context, many collaborative solutions are gradually emerging. By developing Mobility Work Hub, our teams wanted to bring together industrial suppliers and maintenance professionals. This platform is open to manufacturers and service providers looking for innovative development tools to stay as close as possible to their customers.

However, engaging in such an approach usually requires rethinking the dynamics of your organization. First, it is necessary for management to support the adoption of these new practices and solutions through a culture of change. This effort is all the more important as companies' ability to adapt can't keep up with the rate of technological developments. Then, industries should involve their partners in their decision-making processes and strategic thinking.

Supplier relations and operational performance

Choosing collaborative maintenance therefore implies rethinking your relationships with supply chain actors. And first and foremost with industrial suppliers. The quality of a company's relationships with its suppliers will have a significant impact on its maintenance activities.

Some of the biggest players in the industry even go so far as to initiate a joint reflection with their key suppliers. This is the case, for example, of the Japanese automotive giant Toyota, which does not hesitate to share its strategic vision with its suppliers. Together, they identify high value-added segments - both internally and in the market - and identify possible areas for improvement. From this exchange are then born common objectives, which give a new impetus to supplier relations.

How do maintenance teams benefit from supplier proximity?

First of all, it is important to highlight the flexibility and time saving generated by end-to-end cooperation within the supply chain. Stock management, for example, is one of the major concerns of technical teams. Poor management can lead to unforeseen production stoppages and therefore to financial losses.

In the era of connectivity, field teams are becoming real players. By linking their ERP to their CMMS, they extend their interactions to other business functions. For example, they can communicate their needs to the Purchasing teams in real time.

Let us take our thinking a step further. Here we find an application for IoT solutions. By installing intelligent sensors in warehouses, operators receive an alert as soon as stocks reach a critical threshold. The information is immediately relayed to the Purchasing department, then to the suppliers. Thus, orders for industrial consumables are perfectly adjusted to the real needs of the teams.

If this reasoning is followed, suppliers will also have to share data on their workflow and activities. Once again, IoT tools prove their usefulness. Thanks to powerful GPS tracking tools, operators can track the route of goods in real time. This allows them to better understand potential delays and avoid slowdowns in the production chain.

Collaborative maintenance and innovation

Co-development, or collaborative innovation, is on the rise. Its principle is to make the most of each other's expertise with a common objective of growth. More and more manufacturers and equipment manufacturers are turning directly to their customers to improve their products.

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By joining Mobility Work Hub, suppliers access our community of CMMS users. On the platform, they collect feedback from the field about the use of their products. Maintenance professionals can ask them to share their problems with them. Based on this data, manufacturers and service providers develop solutions that are perfectly suited to market needs.

Finally, co-development, like collaborative maintenance, is a win-win situation. On the one hand, the technical teams have innovative products that are perfectly adapted to their needs. On the other hand, suppliers stand out from their competitors by offering a diversified offer and demonstrating unique know-how.

Would you like to know more about Mobility Work Hub? Our team answers all your questions.

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