CIO is pushing the right buttons

Mary K. Pratt

Workers aren't only getting real-time alerts when problems arise, though. They now know about potential future issues and can respond before there's even an outage, thanks to new predictive analytics systems that analyze data from the equipment to forecast possible mechanical issues.

Nilles says this "closed-loop service platform"--in which the dispatcher, the equipment and everyone in the field has the same real-time information--is the first of its kind in the industry.

Schindler's growing use of big data, predictive analytics and smart algorithms allows it to better prepare for broader problems, too, because the company can more accurately anticipate the most common problems for equipment installed in a given area--and store spare parts with or close to the technicians who will need them. And technicians can use a Schindler spare parts finder app for parts they don't have on hand. (In North America, the company stocks about 50,000 different replacement parts.)

Those apps are part of what Nilles calls a digital tool case, a collection of resources that each of the company's 30,000-plus field workers--about 20,000 service technicians plus 10,000 supervisors or people in other related roles--now has.

These digital tool cases feature iPhones (for workers who need something small) or iPads (for supervisors or others with additional information requirements). The devices come with Schindler apps suited for each worker's needs. Technicians can access detailed information they need to do their jobs (information that they once lugged around in paper documents). "It was one of the key objectives, to make the whole experience as easy as possible for them," Nilles says.

Most elevator companies are going high-tech to be competitive, says Soumya Mutsuddi, an industry analyst at Technavio. She says that Otis and Kone also have mobile-based applications that predict equipment service needs and stay connected with customers. Where Schindler is ahead of the pack, Mutsuddi says, is the mobile toolkit for service technicians, a collection of apps on Apple devices that enable workers to provide faster and more-efficient service to clients.

An evolutionary trip

Schindler was hardly starting from zero when it embarked on its digital transformation six years ago. Elevators, for instance, already came with phones that passengers could use to contact call centers. And Schindler was already collecting some basic data about the health of its elevators and escalators. And elevators already had electronic controllers and sensors, although the data that they collected generally resided locally on the machines.

But these technologies, along with the back-end IT infrastructure that ran day-to-day operations at Schindler, were just pieces that needed to be brought together and taken to the next level.

Nilles says digital transformation isn't about a specific technology or even the entire IT stack. Rather, he says, it's about a "game-changing adaptation to your business model to stay at the forefront of your industry."

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