Lift 4.0 – opportunity and threat for SMEs
The Internet of Things (IoT) also applies to the lift. Initial solutions for predictive maintenance are becoming established on the market.
Numerous new market participants from the IoT sector see the potential for a profitable field of activity. Consequently, service companies in particular now have to position themselves properly.
Almost all industrial sectors are currently grappling with the Internet of Things. Predictive maintenance of complex machines, which of course also includes lifts, is the focus of particular attention.
Resistance is easy to understand
As is often the case when new technologies attempt to penetrate an established business sector, there is a good deal of hype and optimism on the part of the technology experts and scepticism or even resistance from maintenance organisations and experienced technicians.
This resistance is easy to understand, but it will not stop the developments on the lift market. In the medium to long term, only those lift service companies will survive on the market, which have adjusted to the new technologies and integrated them into their business model.
Strategic and long-term business orientation
It is undoubtedly no coincidence that company groups have been working on the integration of the Internet of Things in their products and service offers for years and to a large extent have already implemented it. A major reason for this was probably a sober comparison of the share of company profits in the business areas of new construction, modernisation and maintenance.
Normally, maintenance and overall lift service make a disproportional contribution to company profits. At the same time, this business sector is very stable, since it involves multi-year service agreements and as a result recurrent and plannable turnover.
This company sector is supported by the comprehensive expert knowledge that the companies and specialist firms have worked on continuously to develop. This unique knowledge is the principal basis for company profits and simultaneously the best protection against competitors.
Randomly interchangeable low wage worker
If small and medium-sized companies and groups do not always pursue the same interests in the lift industry, they are probably united by one thing: preserving and protecting this expert knowledge for lift service is vital to avoid endangering their own business profits.
Therefore, in the era of the Internet of Things predictive maintenance solutions are a new core competence, which lift service firms should acquire and integrate in their own business models.
The alternative is watching how IoT companies, which were previously outsiders to the sector, integrate expert lift knowledge in semi-intelligent IT solutions. With it, anyone can determine the right work packages and exchange components at the right time. As a result, the previously highly qualified lift fitter will be demoted to a randomly interchangeable low wage worker.
Domain knowledge is the decisive key
A healthy degree of scepticism remains appropriate. Even if some advertising claims imply this – it is not yet possible today simply to transfer gigabytes of measurement and control data for complex machines, which lifts are, to a cloud and rely on the magic of artificial intelligence in the hope of it being possible to deduce useful maintenance measures.
Only if the domain knowledge about lifts, measurement know-how peculiar to lifts and the knowledge of data analysts regarding algorithms and statistics can be merged will an efficient, economic and above all functional solution be created. Consequently, the domain knowledge of specialist lift companies will be the decisive key for a new technology and what counts is using this for one's own company.
Action instead of stagnation
SMEs are either hesitant about or completely avoiding facing up to the challenges of lift 4.0. This is doubtless due to the current market situation and full order books, but perhaps also to the hope that the subject will go away on its own if one ignores it long enough.
Unfortunately, just how dangerous underestimating such new technologies in supposedly well-established markets can be, has been shown all too often.
The author is the managing director of Henning GmbH & Co. KG
Recognising potential – seizing opportunities
Predictive maintenance promises to have many advantages over the previously applied preventive maintenance, based on time intervals and/or operating hours, door and trip meters:
• increase in lift availability
• prevention of foreseeable defects
• planned and shorter lift downtimes
• improved exploitation of wear volume of the components
These are all advantages reflected in lower maintenance costs and which should produce a financial advantage both for operators as well as maintenance companies.
Of course, this lowers the number of fitter hours needed per lift, but in lift construction no qualified lift fitter needs to be worried about the basis for his livelihood; on the contrary, there is a severe shortage of these well-trained experts. Thus, there is an opportunity for lift companies to be able to maintain more lifts with the same number of employees.
At the internet address of the Henning-GmbH a small mistake happened to us in the printed LIFTjournal: The correct URL is www.henning-gmbh.de. We ask for apology.