Ponsse: Improving after-sales service with condition monitoring
Leveraging the hardware and software expertise of Bosch, the manufacturer of forest machines implemented a condition monitoring solution to gain deeper insights into the state of its machines.
Monitoring the state of machines
After-sales services are a key, albeit challenging, task for every manufacturer of off-highway vehicles. Ponsse, a leading manufacturer of forest machines, is all too familiar with that. Its customers often employ the machines in very remote locations and put considerable strain on them. “With the business of our customers depending on machines being operational, our service department has to rise to the challenge,” says Juha Inberg, Director of Technology and R&D at Ponsse.
This is especially true, considering that Ponsse also offers so-called full service contracts. In these cases, the manufacturer frees its customers from burdening maintenance tasks. Ponsse ensures that the machines are up and running, takes care of repairs and provides all the consumables that are required.
How do manufacturers of off-highway machines go about providing after-sales services as efficiently as possible? For Ponsse the answer lies in IoT data. Together with experts from Bosch, the company set up a condition monitoring solution to gain deeper insights into the state of the machines and thus provide customers with the support they require.
An IoT project born out of a longstanding relationship
Ponsse is not new to the field of connectivity and the IoT. The company already has its own infrastructure in place and collects machine data to give its customers valuable information. It provides them with the Ponsse Manager, a tool that helps them manage their operations, vehicle fleets and documentation processes.
“We already have a long-standing relationship with Bosch as a hydraulic parts supplier,” Inberg says. “Building upon the existing relationship, we decided to leverage the expertise of the company and jointly develop a condition monitoring solution for our machines.” To make this solution a reality, Bosch Rexroth and Bosch.IO provided hardware and software, which seamlessly integrated into the infrastructure that Ponsse had already set up.
The condition monitoring solution in detail
Ponsse is able to keep tabs on two key elements with this condition monitoring solution. It monitors:
- Structure-borne sound
- Usage data of the hydraulic components
A cornerstone of the solution is the Intelligent Vibration Analysis Sensor (IVAS) by Bosch Rexroth. “We are listening to the machines to check if they are healthy – much like a doctor with a stethoscope,” explains Christian Grabe, Business Owner of Digital Business and Connected Off-Highway Machines at Bosch Rexroth. To achieve this, the sound of a machine in its current state is compared to noise patterns of its ideal state. “If deviations occur, Ponsse can intervene quickly and investigate a potential problem.”
In addition, Bosch supports Ponsse in evaluating how a machine is used. Therefore, data travels from the different hydraulic components to Bosch IoT Insights, the cloud-based data management service of the Bosch IoT Suite. “Bosch IoT Insights is the data backbone of our condition monitoring solution,” Grabe states. “It is used for data storage and management. Using the dashboards, we can also visualize the data.” Algorithms by Bosch Rexroth then analyze the usage data. “Thus, we can tell which parts are put under heavy strain and might require maintenance soon.”
A pro-active approach to customer service
After starting with the development of a proof of concept (PoC) back in 2016, the solution has now been in field testing since 2019. Year by year, the number of connected machines is growing. “Our goal is to connect a three-digit number of machines by the end of 2021,” Grabe says.
Ponsse already sees positive effects from employing this solution. Its approach to after-sales services is becoming more pro-active: the company is now able to alert customers to potential problems and take action before a machine shuts down. “This approach is well received by our customers,” Inberg says. “Their interaction with our service department becomes a more positive experience.” Overall, Ponsse can now take care of its customers’ problems more quickly and efficiently.