Service Operations

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The Digital Equipment Operator will usually have a different perspective on the operations of the AIoT-enabled solution. This will most likely include field services related to assets in the field, IT Service Management related to the AIoT solution, and supplier management for the AIoT solution.

Field Service Management

Field service management (FSM) focuses on enterprise assets, e.g., operational equipment, machines and vehicles. FSM is described by Gartner [1] as a practice that “includes the detection of a field service need (through remote monitoring or other means, inspection or a customer detecting a fault), field technician scheduling and optimization, dispatching, parts information delivery to the field, and process support of field technician interactions.”

AIoT & Field Service Management

The figure preceding outlines how AIoT and FSM can play together. FSM can benefit from AIoT in a number of areas, including:

  • Improved triage: Utilize AIoT to determine the severity and priority of asset-related incidents.
  • Faster identification of required parts: Utilize AIoT for precise identification of assets and key parts deployed in the field.
  • Inventory tracking: Utilize AIoT to create a precise and real-time inventory update.
  • Initiation of automated intelligent dispatch events: Utilize AIoT to better prioritize incidents and to provide more information for problem resolution.
  • Remote monitoring and diagnostics: Use real-time machine data for asset health and performance assessments.

All of this will only be possible if the AIoT project prepares the service operations organization accordingly. This will be one of the big challenges of the AIoT project management team. How to do this will greatly depend on a number of different factors, including:

  • Is there already an existing organization responsible for FSM?
  • If so, how is the organizational relationship between the IoT solution project and the existing FSM organization?
  • If not, how far is the IoT solution project empowered to actually set up a new FSM organization to start operating after the start of production?
  • Will the focus be mainly on operational FSM topics, or will it also include strategic topics such as Asset Performance Management (APM)

IT Service Management

Another important dimension of AIoT Service Operations will be what is traditionally referred to as IT Service Management (ITSM). AIoT-ITSM will be responsible for ensuring the design, planning, delivery, operations, and management of all IT services related to the AIoT-enabled system. This means that AIoT-ITSM is not concerned with operating assets but rather enables the AIoT-features themselves. A well-established standard in the ITSM space is ITIL, the Information Technology Infrastructure Library. Without AIoT-ITSM, an AIoT system cannot be operated, which will be covered below.

ITIL defines five processes and four functions. The four functions are service desk, technical management, application management, and IT operations management. The five service operations processes are[2]:

  • Access Management: grants authorized users the right to use a service; blocks any access request of non-authorized users to the service
  • Event Management: captures, filters, and categorizes events to decide the appropriate actions to be taken. Events might or might not require an action.
  • Incident Management: Incidents are events that have a negative impact on a service or its quality. Incident management helps restore IT service to a working state as quickly as possible.
  • Problem Management: deals with identifying and addressing problems at their root. Multiple incidents can relate to the same problem.
  • Request Fulfilment: responsible for acknowledging and processing service requests received from users. Usually, these are technical requests, not requests related to the functionality of business applications.

To manage all IT assets and other related data, ITIL foresees the use of a so-called configuration management database (CMDB) as the central repository for this kind of information. However, the complexity of introducing a CMDB should not be underestimated. Rouse [3] warns that CMDB projects often fail due to stale and unusable data. This is certainly an aspect that needs to be addressed, ideally by automating configuration data management as much as possible. The figure below provides an overview of how some key ITIL concepts can be applied to the AIoT perspective.

AIoT & IT Service Management

The architecture and organization for the supporting systems of the service operation will always be highly project-specific. However, the following discussion can provide some guidance regarding the architectural setup.

A key question is as follows: will there be separate AIoT-ITSM and FSM organizations, or will they be merged into one organization? While process-wise there might be similarities, the required skills will usually be very different. For example, the skills required to deal with the IP configuration of an IoT gateway or to keep a time series database running are very different than, for example, the skills required to analyze and repair the malfunction of an escalator. Consequently, the project must make a deliberate decision on how to organize AIoT-ITSM and FSM.

Option 1: Separate Systems

If it is decided that AIoT-ITSM and FSM will be two separate organizations, it can also make sense to run two separate support systems. As an example, a simplified monitoring solution for excavators is shown, using some form of IoT gateway on the excavator. Both the FSM application and the AIoT-ITSM application have their own databases, receiving data from the gateway/TCU. The AIoT-ITSM solution uses some form of CMDB to store information related to the configuration items that make up the IoT solution (e.g., an inventory of gateways in the field, with related incidents). The FSM solution stores asset-related data, e.g., performance data from the hydraulics component of the excavator. Both solutions then have their dedicated and specialized staff, which supports their respective services.

Architecture: Separate Systems

Option 2: Integrated System

For strategic reasons, it can make sense to integrate AIoT-ITSM and FSM into the same organization, supported by an integrated system. In this case, only one repository is used, which stores both asset-related and IoT enablement-related data. The back office supports all functions, and so is the field service. Of course, these are only two examples of a potential organizational setup; in reality, many other, potentially hybrid combinations could be possible. However, these examples serve the purpose of highlighting the issue and the choices an AIoT project manager must make.

Architecture: Integrated Systems

Supplier Management

Finally, the operations side also needs to take care of managing the supplier of the AIoT-enabled solution. Chances are that the operator will not have development resources himself and therefore requires an internal or external supplier to provide the solution. In some cases, the operator will have a team within his own organization, in which case the DevOps discussion from the previous chapter can also be applied here. However, in the likely case that the solution comes from another -- internal or external -- division, then the operator must build an effective supplier management function. Duties will include requirements management, sourcing, and dealing with additional or changing requirements.

Take, for example, the railway operator example from the Introduction section. In this case, the railway operator acquired an AIoT-enabled solution for escalator monitoring. It is highly likely that this solution will be externally sourced, so supplier management becomes an integral part of the railway operator's organization. Ensuring the integration of the external escalator monitoring solution with the internal systems of the railway operator will be one key responsibility of this team.

Another interesting question will then be who will take on the responsibility for the IT service management of the escalator monitoring solution: will this be done in-house, or will the railway operator have a long-term support contract with the provider of the escalator monitoring solution? If this requires in-depth knowledge about other operational systems, then there is a good chance that at least parts of system operation (including the IT service management) will be in-house.


Authors and Contributors

Dirk Slama.jpeg

Dirk Slama is VP and Chief Alliance Officer at Bosch Software Innovations (SI). Bosch SI is spearheading the Internet of Things (IoT) activities of Bosch, the global manufacturing and services group. Dirk has over 20 years experience in very large-scale distributed application projects and system integration, including SOA, BPM, M2M and most recently IoT. He is representing Bosch at the Industrial Internet Consortium and is active in the Industry 4.0 community. He holds an MBA from IMD Lausanne as well as a Diploma Degree in Computer Science from TU Berlin.