Creating efficiencies with connected support (Reader Forum)
A major threat to efficiency across industries lies in mechanical downtime. When a machine stops running, it means the work stops, cutting into the time window that dictates a job’s success or failure. The negative impact of these disruptions is embodied by loss of revenue, inconsistencies in the quality of output and an inability to maximize potential. Minimizing downtime is important for every industry to stay efficient, however for some, uptime is mission critical. Agriculture is one such industry, as the stakes are extremely high. Any moment of machine downtime can negatively impact a farmer’s bottom line and their end result: the food that feeds our growing world population. This critical need for uptime is why the agriculture industry has emerged as a leader in the development of advanced tech-driven, connected support. The developments happening on the farm today can serve as a blueprint for other industries to follow.
Advanced technology is opening new doors for levels of support, creating more ways to monitor and address mechanical and technological problems before they cause a disruption. The adoption of technology, from sensors to AI and wireless connectivity, is driving the ability to use connected support in agriculture and beyond. Hundreds of sensors on farm machinery collect data that are sent to the cloud and visualized in the office on the web or on-the-go on mobile devices. These IoT capabilities help connect decision-makers such as farmers or dealers to key machine data and empower them to make actionable calls before a disruption arises.
Farmers use advanced technology throughout in-field operations resulting in a rich dataset that enable them to make decisions in all aspects of their business. The collection and analysis of data is critical across the farm. From sensors and wireless connectivity, to IoT and cloud, farmers are leveraging a variety of technologies to create the output needed to feed the world. This ranges from the complex process of planting each seed to the automation used to precisely steer down rows and rows of a field. Data collected by the machines are sent to the cloud, not only providing valuable insight into the many tasks at hand for the farmer, but also informing future mechanical decisions or predicting failures before they happen. Just as farmers use data to optimize their farming practices, connected support enables farmers and dealers to optimize maintenance and prevent downtime.
Connected support helps farmers balance demands on their time by helping them manage their in-field operations, allowing operators with a wide range of skillsets to focus on other aspects of their operation. Real-time screen sharing allows dealers or other experts to virtually join an operator in the cab to help resolve issues. When a question or issue comes up, the expert can see what the worker in the cab of the machine is seeing and walk them through the steps to resolution. Similarly, tools like remote settings adjustment allow a farmer or dealer to view the real-time performance of a machine and then remotely tweak the settings of a machine to improve productivity.
Should a machine malfunction during an optimal planting window, and a farmer is left on a remote field without connected support, the downtime spent waiting for someone to physically show up to fix the issue could be significant. With connected support, dealers are not only able to have a replacement part or over-the-air software deployment out to the farm before the issue causes downtime, but the technology used is enabling farmers to address and prevent the issues before they even exist. This real-time data sharing enabled by the IoT creates better ways of monitoring the farm, allowing for predictive maintenance to aid in remote management and fixes – a tactic that has been especially important during COVID-19 in order to keep farmers and dealers safe and output consistent.
Of course, disruptions can’t be mitigated before they occur without proactive maintenance. Technology is key to detecting issues ahead of time, rather than reacting once a part has failed. For example, problems with tools, devices, and vehicles can be detected proactively using advanced algorithms, giving enough time to assess the issue and determine the best way to fix it, keeping people safe and outputs secure, even from a distance. In agriculture, having access to real-time data helps farmers manage their day to improve logistics and productivity, as well as increase confidence that jobs are being executed as planned.
The lessons learned to keep farmers up and running to feed the world are relevant beyond the agriculture industry. It’s easy to see how the technology used for connected support in agriculture could be adapted for passenger vehicle and other automotive manufacturers. Using data to inform manufacturers, dealers and drivers about wear and tear on a vehicle could prevent dangerous or costly breakdowns. The proactive collection of real-time data could allow vehicles to signal to drivers and manufacturers that an issue is due to arise, providing the driver with more time for repair, more savings and a safer experience.
The technology driving the modern farm forward is shaping innovation across industries. From the field, practices in advanced technology can be adopted to improve safety, savings and sustainability. Key technology such as sensors, connectivity, and advanced algorithms will continue to provide opportunities for proactive decision making and an improved customer and operator experience. By collaborating across industries and recognizing best practices and common use cases, manufacturers will continue to innovate and offer improved support for their customers.