Monday, 31 July 2017

How to select a PEPPOL Service Provider?

How to select a PEPPOL Service Provider?

If your company supplies goods or services to NHS England hospitals you will soon receive guidance that to comply with the NHS eProcurement Strategy, you will must connect to a PEPPOL Access point. PEPPOL (Pan European Public Procurement Online) is the electronic standard chosen by the NHS for transmitting Purchase Orders and Invoices between hospitals and suppliers. On a parallel path, GS1 barcoding will be used to achieve unique product identification.

While a business will need both PEPPOL and GS1 for the NHS strategy rollout, in most cases, they will be procured separately.

This post looks at which factors a business should consider when evaluating a prospective PEPPOL Provider.

Proposed PEPPOL Provider Evaluation Criteria

1) PEPPOL Credentials

This is an increase of approx. 30 in the past year, with many of those recent additions focused on UK NHS business. The largest part of the PEPPOL provider community is  in Scandinavia, with a smaller number of international providers such as IBM.

When you’re picking a PEPPOL provider, you must understand their level of skill in handling PEPPOL documents. New PEPPOL providers may well be long-standing EDI or eBusiness providers, yey have never seen a single live PEPPOL transaction.

First, get clarity on the level of experience you can call upon if needed.  Ask a potential PEPPOL provider to sum up the years of hands-on PEPPOL experience amongst eg. their top 5 technicians.

There will be no single correct answer to this question, but if someone answers a very low number, I’d be concerned.

2) ERP Integration, Web Interface, or “within a Tool”

The biggest cost factor in getting PEPPOL set up is determined by your starting point. Typically, you’ll have either a standalone web interface to PEPPOL, or you PEPPOL integrated into your ERP, or access PEPPOL via some other eBusiness tool.

Full integration to your ERP will be the most expensive option to set up. For businesses with high monthly volumes of orders + invoices, it is nevertheless the only viable option. Such a solution provides for touchless receipt and validation of Purchase Orders into your ERP, automated initiation of order fulfillment, generation of Advanced Shipping Notification, and Invoices once competed.
This is the solution that will free up your order processing and billing teams to do higher value work.
Web Portal
A PEPPOL web interface solution is useful for low volumes of PEPPOL transactions, and some exist free-of-charge.
The balance that must be struck with such an option is the lack of integration with your company systems.  There is duplication of effort to retype or copy / paste PO and invoice data from one system to another, with increased margin for manual error.
Arguably this simply replaces a paper, fax or email Purchase Order or Invoice (which also needs manual transfer into your systems) with a newer, electronic version of the same thing.
As PEPPOL expands into the NHS and pubic sector, you need to consider how many times per month are you willing to copy and paste data from one system to another. There is a point, beyond which, manual intervention brings unbearable cost. A self-service web portal with minimal or no upfront cost sounds attractive until I factor in equally minimal support in case things don’t work. With additional risk of error introduced, then instead of a benefit, I could be introducing an unacceptable threat to my business.
“Within an eBusiness Tool”
Many businesses will already use at least one and perhaps many existing eBusiness tools to transact with various legacy trade partners. Some of these existing tools will now bolt-on a PEPPOL connection, allowing users to send + receive PEPPOL documents also.
Often such tools came from a larger trading partner’s desire for simplification in THEIR trade. In the context of what I just described above, an average business has little added value from such a tool other than access to trade with this partner. It’s similar to an additional communications conduit like phone, fax, email, but still needs manual transfer to and from your business systems.

Not all tools are the same, however..

If you can locate an eBusiness tool that adds incremental value to your business by integrating features valuable to YOUR trade combined with access to a certified PEPPOL provider’s backbone, then this may be a very practical way forward.

3) “Virtual” PEPPOL Access Point Providers

Similarly to the mobile phone industry, there are a number of virtual PEPPOL providers using the infrastructure of other PEPPOL providers to deliver service. If you choose a virtual provider as in my partnership example above, you should know if your PEPPOL provider is natively providing the service. In the case that an issue ever crops up, you’ll need to know who is their PEPPOL provider.

Ultimately the security and reliability of your future NHS trade will be in the hands of the PEPPOL provider who carries your traffic, so it’s important to know who that is, and as above, what are their credentials.

4) Infrastructure

PEPPOL “could” run on a laptop, however, if you don’t have a team of PEPPOL experts sitting ready, I wouldn’t recommend it. Over the past year, I’ve spoken to a number of businesses, who tried to implement various DIY PEPPOL solutions with varied levels of success. All coming to me for assistance because the effort of keeping it running was distracting important staff from their core tasks.

You should ensure that your PEPPOL provider is running a highly available infrastructure, with validated security, backup and redundancy protocols.

PEPPOL is a remote compute resource, with value add services. Use similar selection characteristics as for a cloud services provider.

5) Support

I mentioned above finding out about the total level of PEPPOL technical skill within your chosen service provider. This should NOT include salespeople, but the actual technicians who set up your solution, and in case of issues, resolve them in a timely manner.

Does your service provider have multiple levels of support, a technical helpdesk staffed how many hours per day, how many days per year, and in which timezone?

This may seem of lower immediate priority to businesses accessing PEPPOL via Web or other tools, but mean life and death to a business needing to get orders in and invoices out in the shortest possible time.

6) OpenPEPPOL and / or eSens Participation

Beyond your provider’s day-to-day PEPPOL transaction handling, you should also ask about their level of active participation in OpenPEPPOL (the group that administers the PEPPOL protocols) and eSens (the EU project to consolidate, improve, and extend technical solutions to foster electronic interaction with public administrations across the EU)

These projects require a significant investment in time and materials, and indicate a deeper level of commitment to PEPPOL than them “just having a client who wants PEPPOL”

As a business you may make a very significant financial investment in PEPPOL and it is good to find a partner also fully invested.

7) What ELSE can your potential PEPPOL partner do for you?

While the goal of any business joining up to PEPPOL should be the reduction of overall complexity in their electronic business in favour of PEPPOL, this will not happen overnight. In the interim businesses will need to continue to navigate multiple standards and coordinate with their service provider and trading partners in order to leverage the maximum  benefits from PEPPOL.

Your PEPPOL provider should be treating your electronic business as a long term joint project, knowing that savings can only come from moving as many partners from legacy methods onto the standardised PEPPOL as possible. If your partner is not strongly encouraging you to move away from historical complexity and towards standardisation, then you should be asking yourself “Why not?”

The “extra” bit of value found here will be important to the Return on Investment from your PEPPOL trade.

8) PEPPOL is not only about England / UK and the NHS

Norway and Denmark have already deployed PEPPOL widely, and much of the EU is progressing along the same path. Experience from Norway showed a large Business-to-Business uptake of PEPPOL use, as every company connecting to PEPPOL, in doing so connected to every other company connected to PEPPOL. A business should also be looking to their export / import clientele, and ensuring that whichever provider they choose is able to technically and commercially support future growth in PEPPOL use outside of the UK.

9) PEPPOL is about the Buyer + Seller, NOT the Service Provider

Traditional electronic trade gave an unequal share of power to the Service Provider since setup and upkeep was very costly and complex. When it came time to change traditional Service Provider, the pain was intense. Whichever PEPPOL solution, on whichever technology, with whichever support, at whichever price should fit with the future needs of your business. If someone is pushing a proprietary solution towards you, this need not be by definition a bad thing, but you should approach it with eyes open, and know that PEPPOL is all about choice, and making the correct choice at the start is key.

I hope this guide helps inform you to make the right decision, and I’m happy to advise further.

Please see below the summary questionnaire you can use to challenge any prospective PEPPOL provider. The standard I’ve set in these questions is very high, and most if not all PEPPOL providers, (IBM included) will struggle to score highly in every area. YOU need to pick out the areas where your business will find the most added value and savings in the long term and select as your provider the one whose capabilities and strengths best match your needs.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Filtering search results by product (or product version)

The product selector is not just for navigation…

In the new IBM Knowledge Center, we automatically select your search scope by product as you navigate content. So if you come to a topic from a bookmark or from Google, your search scope will be set to the product version you are browsing.

But you can also select your search scope directly with the Product selector. Once you’ve done that, IBM KC gives you choices to change your scope quickly.

Don’t forget that once you’ve set your scope, you can just bookmark the search to return to the same scope.

To search a product with all its versions (for example, search CREATE TABLE in all versions of DB2 for Linux, Unix and Windows)
  1. Click on Products from any page in IBM Knowledge Center
  2. Type DB2 for Linux Unix and Windows and then select that product
  3. Click Search to go to the search page (note we have a bug right now that truncates the name of the product, in this case, to Windows. We’re working on that :)) Your search scope is now set to all versions of IBM DB2.
  4. Type your keywords (CREATE TABLE) and you will see results from DB2 for Linux, Unix and Windows. (By the way, if you find the right topic, but the wrong version, click on it, then select the right version from the Version dropdown menu on the topic.)
  5. Click the scope selector to switch between DB2 for Linux, Unix and Windows and All of Knowledge Center
  6. Bookmark the search if you want to use this scope again, and all you’ll need to do is change your search keywords
To search a specific product version (for example, search CREATE TABLE in version 10.5 of DB2 for Linux, Unix and Windows)
  1. Click on Products from any page in IBM Knowledge Center
  2. Type DB2 for Linux Unix and Windows and then select that product
  3. Select version 10.5 from the version dropdown menu on the DB2 for Linux Unix and Windows welcome page
  4. Click Search to go to the search page. Your search scope is now set to v10.5  IBM DB2 Linux, Unix and Windows.
  5. Type your keywords (CREATE TABLE) and you will see results from DB2 10.5 for Linux, Unix and Windows.
  6. Click the scope selector to switch among DB2 for Linux, Unix and Windows v10.5, all versions of DB2 for Linux, Unix and Windows, and All of Knowledge Center.  (If you don’t find a topic in a specific version but you know it should be there, try searching all versions, taking the right topic, then switching to the right version from Version dropdown menu on the topic page).
  7. Bookmark the search if you want to use this search scope again, and all you’ll need to do is change your search keywords.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Moodpeek measures mobile reputation with IBM Cloud

According to Mobile Business Insights, mobile devices are the primary means of accessing digital information for consumer and business use. How are mobile users accessing information? Ninety percent of the time, it’s through mobile apps. Smart Insights states that consumer preference for mobile apps rather than mobile sites should be considered when defining a mobile strategy.

What if a company’s reputation depended on its mobile applications?

Open created “Moodpeek,” a cloud-based data and analytics tool to answer this question.

Measuring mobile reputation

Open is a leading provider of digital and IT services, including application development, mobile services, infrastructure management and platform design. The company’s leaders believe that mobile applications are a brand’s digital showcase. According to Mobile Usage Barometer, In France today, 64 percent of mobile app users believe that app quality impacts brand image.

Thus, mobile reputation is a major concern, and the three most important factors that contribute to selling an app are word of mouth, comments and ratings.

Since there is no way to measure word of mouth, Moodpeek focuses on comments and ratings. It’s a unique and innovative way to evaluate, monitor and control the mobile reputation of a brand based on feedback from users.

Reviews in an app store are an inexhaustible source of feedback, which is far more important than any other opinion. The user is always right. App store comments are numerous, rich and varied. Mobile users say what they like, what they don’t like and the most important thing: what they would like to change.

Deeper insights with cloud services

Open’s original project in this area was called “Open Up.” It simply assessed app reviews to provide static reporting. The company had a bigger vision and wanted to deepen insight and enable access to information through an online dashboard.

To create an updated version of its app, Open developers knew they would need tools and cloud-based data services to support the company’s advanced analytics capabilities. Requirements included unlimited scalability, since the company plans to release the solution internationally.

Moodpeek was built with Cloud Foundry runtimes and containers on the IBM Cloud application development platform. Open favored IBM technologies because the company’s leaders are familiar with open source software for application development and are impressed with how extensive the IBM Cloud catalog is.

Additionally, Open wanted to work with a global leader in cloud and cognitive services, and in the Bluemix platform it saw the potential to build the Moodpeek application, and it has chosen IBM Cloud as its primary SaaS innovation platform to develop digital applications for its clients. Open has a great cloud partnership with IBM.

Moodpeek in action

Moodpeek helps many of Open clients in the French marketplace improve their mobile reputations. Moodpeek is already monitoring nearly 8,000 apps. It has analyzed approximately 8.2 million comments and close to 19 million ratings on app stores.

IBM Tutorials and Materials, IBM Guides, IBM Certifications, IBM Cloud

When a review of an app is written in the store, Moodpeek users see it half an hour later in the custom dashboard. Moodpeek customers can then determine user expectations and prioritize bug fixes, updates or adding new features. They can also watch competitors and figure out ways to differentiate.

Ultimately, listening to users gives a Moodpeek customer the opportunity to correct and perfect its apps, improve customer service and master its mobile reputation.

IBM Tutorials and Materials, IBM Guides, IBM Certifications, IBM Cloud

Friday, 21 July 2017

IBM Connections 6.0 officially announced!

Today we announced the next release of IBM Connections!

IBM Connections 6.0 brings a range of new capabilities to the end-user creating a richer, more focused and more effective experience. With IBM Connections 6.0 we added new functionality across the board from Communities, to Files, Search, Onboarding as well as the brand-new IBM Connections Homepage – Orient Me.

To highlight the main updates, here is a quick summary:


Advanced Community customization capabilities provide Community owners additional options for designing their custom Community. Community owners can:
  • Create Community experiences with enhanced rich text content editing (HTML), so that Community members can enjoy an engaging experience.
  • Choose from new modern layouts with a horizontal navigation bar to better use space on Community pages and match the Community’s purpose more effectively.
  • Create new Communities faster by choosing from existing layouts, which can help to save time and establish guidelines for Community design.
  • Reduce clutter on Community pages by hiding a widget while retaining its link in the navigation menu.


  • Files users can select a top-level folder in their Files and mark it for sync. This permits the users to take the content of entire folders offline to their desktop and keep them synchronized with the files on the server.
  • For IBM Connections environments with large amounts of documents stored in IBM Connections Files, administrators can now leverage IBM Cloud Object Storage, the hybrid cloud object storage that adapts to your workload needs.

Orient Me

Relevant updates are brought front and center 
- IBM Connections Orient Me can be used with Connections V6.0 to provide new home page capabilities that apply advanced analytics to surface information and people that are most relevant to an individual. Individuals can take advantage of new capabilities provided by Connections Orient Me:
  • At a glance, the updates and information most relevant to users, displayed in a new visual layout and prioritized based on their interaction with content and people.
  • Apply new content and people filters to better control what users see.
  • More easily view updates grouped by a person, a Community, or content.
  • Receive suggestions about the people most likely to be important and relevant to their work.
  • See a snapshot of their day in the Action Center, accessible throughout Connections

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Your view of content in IBM Knowledge Center: My Collections (part 1)

Customizing the way you see content in IBM Knowledge Center

One of the biggest differences between IBM’s Information Centers and IBM Knowledge Center is the ability to pick and choose the content you want to see. In our ICs, it’s true you could change your search scope with advanced search, but in IBM Knowledge Center you can just view the content you want to look at, without dealing with the millions of other pages of content we have!

We store these customized views in a special container called My Collections, which is a tab on the Table of Contents (right above the Search Results tab).

Creating your own collections

To create collections you add topics (and subtopics) from any content you want in IBM Knowledge Center. So from any individual topic, click the Add to Collection drop down. The menu will ask you if you want to add the topic to an existing customized collection or to a new one:

IBM Knowledge Center, IBM Technical Content, IBM

If you want to add a whole subset of topics from a product’s table of contents, you can right-click directly on a container topic and select one of the Add this topic and its subtopics… choices in the menu. Again, you will be able to add the sub-tree of topics to a brand new collection or to an existing collection.

IBM Knowledge Center, IBM Technical Content, IBM

Regardless of whether you choose to create a new collection, or add to an existing one, you will be asked to sign in with your IBM ID if you haven’t already. Why do we do this? Because it’s your personal view of our content, and whenever you sign into IBM Knowledge Center, you can get to that view directly by clicking the My Collections tab in the navigation.

Note you can add content from multiple products, or from within a single product. It’s up to you how detailed or simple your collection becomes. Also, because custom collections are made from IBM Knowledge Center topics, you can open them and use them exactly like you would any other topics in the system (share, comment, like and so on).

Because collections are essentially links, they also stay current. If topics change or become revised, your collections are always up-to-date with the most recent information.

Currently, you can’t limit your searches to just your customized collections, or share them with other people directly through IBM Knowledge Center.

Viewing and customizing your collections

Once you’ve added the content you want, you can see the topics you’ve added in My Collections–grouped under the appropriate collection name. From here, you can view the collection directly without navigating or searching through IBM Knowledge Center in general.

You can also rename the collection, add a description of what it is, delete topic entries, or even re-arrange the order of topics and groups of topics.

To revise your collection, click the collection name in the My Collections table of contents. You should see the Edit command on the right hand side (either link works!)

IBM Knowledge Center, IBM Technical Content, IBM

When you click Edit, you can change the title of your collection, add a better description than “My custom collection,” delete individual entries in the collection, or re-arrange the order of topics in your collection (that’s what the up and down arrows do). Here I’ve changes the title to “cloud platforms” and the order–I’ve moved the section “Cloud enablement with platforms” to come after the “CICS applications” section:

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Once I click the Save link, my customized collections will reflect the changes I made, and I can go directly to just this information when I sign into IBM Knowledge Center:

IBM Knowledge Center, IBM Technical Content, IBM

You can see the order of my topics, and my title, has changed as the result of editing the collection. The topics themselves will stay up-to-date, and I can reach this custom collection whenever I sign in to IBM Knowledge Center.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Which asset maintenance strategy should you be using?

Maintaining machines and equipment at optimal performance levels can be a constant battle. With a plethora of different strategies to address up keep of your critical assets, it can be daunting to determine which is most cost-effective and successful in the long run.  Should you follow a pre-determined  schedule? Should you wait until there is a clear deviation? Does preventive maintenance do more harm than good? By examining how these strategies have evolved over the years, you will understand why the future well-being of your assets lies in looking beyond preventive maintenance.

Are you in reactive mode?

If your strategy is simply running assets to failure and then fixing them, you are in reactive mode. While fixing things as soon as they break is important, it can often be more expensive and lead to longer downtime than if the issue had been addressed when early warning signs first emerged. Allowing assets to run to failure only exacerbates the issue, and poses potential danger. What was once a small fix can lead to much higher costs. Think of it like maintaining your vehicle – a regular oil change is relatively inexpensive and keeps things running smoothly. However, if you choose to skip it and your engine fails, that small maintenance charge is suddenly much larger and you have significantly shortened the life of your engine.

Lessening the likelihood of failing with preventive maintenance

It only takes one major incident or failure to be convinced that simply reacting is far from an effective strategy. By focusing on prevention, you are now moving to a model that is typically tied to a calendar or recommendations from the manufacturer based on averages and best practices. Using the car example again, it is often recommended that you get a standard oil change every three months or 3,000 miles – whichever comes first. Will your car blow up if you go 3,050 miles or wait four months because you do not drive much? It’s unlikely – and I’ve personally toed that line many times – but the safe bet to avoid a potential failure is to adhere to that calendar.

Some organizations study usage counts, such as flow meters, revolution counts or materials produced, as an indicator of an asset’s condition. However, since these are indirect measures, they are not actually monitoring the assets and may not always apply to, or correlate with, a failure. Similarly, manual checks or meter readings of an asset can be an indicator of asset health, but it is costly and primarily relies on experience and knowledge of the individual doing the assessment.

Time-based maintenance increases reliability but at a significant cost

As detailed in IBM’s recent whitepaper, Using the IoT for Preventive Maintenance,  89% of asset failures occur at random. This means that the failure is not based on age and thus it is difficult to prevent with planned maintenance. An obvious downside of this is that excessive maintenance of assets can be wasteful. Perhaps you are fixing something that still has weeks or months before care is actually required. Since you are working off a calendar that is based on averages and suggested practices, there is no targeted information from the asset being utilized to determine if care is even needed. In fact, it is estimated that 30% of preventive activities are carried out too frequently.
At the same time, doing maintenance before it is needed can introduce failure by disrupting potentially stable systems. In effect, you are enabling your assets to fail faster even though your intention is the exact opposite.

Are proactive and preventive maintenance the same?

In the same breath that someone may discuss preventive, you will hear about proactive maintenance. Whereas the former is aimed at eliminating failure of the asset itself, the latter is geared towards eliminating failure root causes. The primary goal is to extend the life of the asset as opposed to detecting impending failure or short-term needs. This can extend beyond the asset to environmental factors such as worker training, reliable suppliers providing the materials used to maintain the asset, contamination of materials, etc. It is less a maintenance strategy and more an approach to overall function of the assets and surrounding elements.

How do you know when it is the right time to do maintenance?

While preventive maintenance helps with improving your asset reliability, why limit your efforts to only that? Most companies are aware of the waste in their prevention efforts, but aren’t quite sure how to eliminate it. Condition-based maintenance (CBM) introduces one solution. Using the Internet of Things (IoT) to monitor asset conditions and trigger preventive actions, you can:
  • Monitor and analyze asset health data, both historical and real-time
  • Intervene at the right time, before assets go down
  • Prioritize and optimize resources
The results speak for themselves. This can lead to:
  • Reduction of maintenance costs by up to 25%
  • Elimination of up to 70% of breakdowns
  • Reduction in downtime by up to 50%
  • Cut unplanned outages by up to 50%
  • Reduction of scheduled repairs by up to 12%
  • Reduction in capital investment by 3-5%
Beyond monitoring: predicting failure based on usage and wear

Understanding current condition alone is not enough. Only when we combine real-time data from IoT sensors on the equipment with historical trends, age, inspection data, care history, and factors such as weather incidents, environmental conditions (temperature, humidity, etc), usage, and output, do we get a full view of asset health using IBM’s Maximo Asset Health Insights (see Figure 1). Combining condition data with contextual information lies the foundation for predictive maintenance.

Internet of Things, IBM IOT, IBM Maximo Asset Management, Asset Management,
Figure 1: IBM’s Maximo Asset Health Insights for predictive maintenance

For example, understanding the vibration and temperature of a pump, along with its history, will determine whether I should inspect, perform routine maintenance, or schedule the asset for replacement. The lowest-cost option or optimal timing can then be assessed.

Weather can be an important indicator of asset health

Adding the context of weather to decisions may seem trivial, but it is actually a valuable indicator of asset health. A few examples:
  • Transmission line sag is a key factor in determining power line health. Temperature and humidity can significantly affect sag. Understanding sag in the context of historical weather for that location can help engineers more effectively determine asset health.
  • The number of times an asset has operated in weather outside its recommended operating parameters (i.e. over 90 degrees F) can be a driver in determining overall asset health.
  • Correlation of high temperature readings from a pump with current weather can be used to determine a potential problem versus normal operation given ambient temperatures.
Benefits of predictive maintenance

Predictive capabilities can further improve asset availability, increase productivity, and decrease costs. However, the benefits of asset health systems go beyond optimizing and obvious cost savings. Aligning upkeep investments to the demands of equipment saves money and improves effectiveness, allowing equipment to perform at the optimal level. Work planning also becomes more efficient, creating savings beyond core maintenance and mitigating operational risks. Labor costs are typically reduced using asset health solutions, and worker health and safety is improved because operations teams are able to avoid dangerous, ad hoc projects and conduct procedures only when required.

Creating a comprehensive asset health system

A comprehensive asset health system provides analytic tools that are easy to use and designed for the specific needs of engineering or maintenance professionals. Bringing filtered and relevant real-time information together with asset and maintenance history into a personalized dashboard revolutionizes the way preventive care is optimized.

IBM offers the complete package to enable you to move towards a model fueled by Watson IoT and advanced insights into asset health.

IBM MAHI feeds into  IBM Prescriptive Maintenance on Cloud, which enables you to identify and manage asset reliability risks that could adversely impact plant or business operations. Prescriptive maintenance (the final P!) moves a step beyond predictive analytics and enables organizations to apply machine learning to help make industrial manufacturing, production processes, and products more efficient and reliable. It prescribes actions to take based on predictive scoring and identification of factors that influence asset health, and provides a detailed comparison of historical factors affecting asset performance. Think of it as the asset doctor. Based on all known variables, it prescribes the correct medicine.

Why consider leveraging Asset Health and Prescriptive Maintenance?

To summarize why it is important to think beyond preventive efforts, remember that prescriptive maintenance can:

1. Reduce the cost and frequency of asset failures – performs maintenance while the asset is working and improves overall equipment reliability.

2. Minimize unscheduled downtime due to catastrophic failure – optimizes time spent on maintenance, reduces overtime costs by scheduling activities, and decreases requirements for emergency spare parts.

3. Reduce workload and costs with preventive maintenance optimization – defers unneeded work and prioritizes preventive workload based on condition.

It is possible to reduce total spend on preventive maintenance by up to 50% and reduce total preventive maintenance hours by 50% to 70%. What do you have to lose?

Friday, 14 July 2017

The evolution of maintenance

The science of maintenance is on the cusp of a transformation.  The Internet of Things, combined with advancements in edge computing and analytics, is poised to usher in an era of what is referred to as “prescriptive maintenance”. But for many companies’ operations and maintenance teams, daily maintenance tasks feel like a grind.  It’s critical for firms to understand the maturity curve of maintenance, so they can determine:
  • Where their operations currently are
  • Where they want to be – that is, where will they get the most return for their investments in technology and processes
  • How to evolve their maintenance programs.
Let’s examine how maintenance has evolved over the years, and where it’s headed in 2017 and beyond.

The old method: time-based maintenance

For many companies, maintenance has been conducted in the same manner for decades – it’s based on manufacturers’ recommendations. Nearly every valuable piece of equipment comes with a set of recommendation on how to maintain the equipment based on insights from an engineering or R&D team that created the product. Often compliance with time-based maintenance requirements is required as part of leasing or warranty terms.

A good example of time-based maintenance is car leasing. You agree to rent a car and drive below a mileage threshold. You are covered by a warranty for the duration of the lease so long as you maintain the vehicle based on manufacturer’s recommendations, which typically require service at either time or mileage intervals – whichever comes first. Of course, if your leased car breaks between planned maintenance events, you simply address the issues as they come…but this is rare with new leased vehicles.

This is an outdated and inefficient way to conduct maintenance, when technology enables far more sophisticated and cost-effective methods and products themselves have become far more reliable due to superior engineering.

The most widely accepted current method: condition-based maintenance

With the advent of small-scale computing technology, such as embedded sensors in valuable equipment, companies can now engage in condition-based maintenance. Instead of maintaining equipment based on a pre-defined schedule, this type of maintenance looks at an asset’s actual condition to determine the need for maintenance.

Before sensors were cheap and ubiquitous, condition-based maintenance was often done by veteran maintenance teams.  This might involve physical inspections of critical equipment or rely on simpler technologies for determining condition (ex: a pressure meter reading).

With the automation of many industries and the explosion of computers and sensors, condition-based maintenance has become machine-led. Sensors built into equipment provide real-time readings to centralized systems, that help maintenance teams maintain equipment before problems occur. Technologies such as edge computing are making it easier to follow condition-based maintenance programs in environments where connectivity is a problem, such as on moving assets (ex: a ship) or remote assets (ex: oil rigs).

In our experience, most companies have either adopted or are working towards implementing rigorous condition-based maintenance programs to reduce cost while improving uptime.

The advanced method: predictive maintenance

Predictive maintenance takes condition-based maintenance a step further. Once data is coming from equipment in real-time (or near real-time depending on each company’s needs), advanced analytics are used to identify asset reliability risks that could impact business operations.

By applying machine learning and analytics to operational data generated by critical assets to gain a better understanding of asset performance, companies can act on these insights as part of a continuous improvement process. In addition, data beyond machines can be used for predictions, such as weather data, information from other systems beyond traditional enterprise asset management systems, and any other data sources that may be valuable.

Companies with advanced processes and high-value equipment are rapidly adopting predictive maintenance solutions. But right now, these solutions aren’t for everyone – they require firms to have condition-based processes in place and are data intensive.

The future: prescriptive maintenance

Prescriptive maintenance is the future. It uses advanced analytics to make predictions about maintenance, but the difference is that prescriptive systems not only make recommendations but also act on recommendations.

Prescriptive maintenance requires that various asset management and maintenance systems are well integrated. For example, a predictive maintenance solution might recommend that a piece of equipment get overhauled based on analysis of vibration and temperature readings, but a prescriptive system would kick off a work order to field technicians based on this information and oversee the entire maintenance workflows.

Systems like this must be ‘cognitive’, or have the ability to think. This technology is at the intersection of big data, analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.  Companies such as IBM, with cognitive systems such as Watson and comprehensive enterprise asset management systems such as Maximo, are pioneering in this space.

By evolving from time based, to condition based, to predictive and prescriptive maintenance, companies are evolving their maintenance systems from being simply efficient to becoming truly strategic. Beyond maintenance, cognitive systems can integrate maintenance and operations data with other data sources, such as quality, warranty and engineering data, to become critical to how entire companies operate.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Top market pressures driving manufacturers to the IoT

There are pressures in every industry to move towards new technologies that enable increased efficiency and cost savings. It is no different in manufacturing. Manufacturers are historically risk-averse, which makes it more challenging to convince them of the need to take the leap into the era of cognitive manufacturing fueled by the Internet of Things (IoT). However, as more and more best-in-class firms take the leap, as detailed in the new report released by Aberdeen, “Connected Operations in the Era of IoT: The Asset Management Edge“, they are consistently driven by five key market pressures:

IBM IoT, IBM Manufacturers, IBM Tutorials and Materials
Figure 1: Market Pressures in Connected Operations in Manufacturing

1. Cost reduction

Not unexpectedly, out of the 500+ firms involved in the study, the number one pressure driving manufacturers to move towards IoT-enabled operations is cost reduction. With 43% citing this as a key driver, it is important to understand just how the IoT and cognitive manufacturing can improve operational efficiency. With sensor-equipped machines automatically capturing and logging data on machine performance and health, organizations can utilize it to reduces maintenance, repair, and operations costs.

We know that 89% of asset failures occur at random and is therefore incredibly difficult to prevent simply with planned maintenance. An obvious downside of this is that excessive maintenance of assets can be wasteful and potentially disruptive to an otherwise stable system. Using the IoT for Preventive Maintenance  can further improve asset availability, increase productivity, and decrease costs, as well as optimizing equipment performance and improving worker health and safety.  Predictive maintenance allows asset intensive organizations to identify impending equipment degradation or failure well in advance of the actual event and thereby proactively remedy the problem, often without impact to production schedules.

2. Driving revenue growth

Second to cutting costs is, of course, making money. With 31% of firms noting this as a key market pressure, the need to grow revenue is always top of mind. By monitoring and analyzing assets and processes, organizations gain powerful insights into their business. By applying these data-driven insights, decision-makers can drive the business with more confidence and agility, improving overall operational efficiency and increasing growth.

3. Faster time-to-market

The third biggest pressure to use connected devices in manufacturing, according to 24% of participants, is faster time to market. Manufacturers are constantly searching for ways to break down informational silos. By enabling better information flow between the plant floor and key stakeholders and decision-makers in the business, new product introductions are expedited and streamlined.

4. Handling last minute changes to orders

We live in a world of instant gratification. We want what we want and we want it now. For manufacturers, this often leads to sudden rush jobs or last-minute changes to orders. Changes could be in the form of a new design requirement, order change, or last-minute customer request, but no matter the cause, it can potentially disrupt already tight schedules, causing delays and excess cost. This is why 16% of firms consider this a top pressure towards moving to connected manufacturing operations.

5. Mass production of individually configured products

Mass customization – the individual customization of mass products – allows for product variety in a rapidly evolving market, including niche markets and individually customized products purchased in-store or online. Think about the types of products you purchase that are available to the masses but that allow you to personalize certain aspects – clothes, shoes, furniture, food, vehicles, etc. It’s never been so easy to lay in bed and order a pizza and be able to choose everything from the type of crust to the sauce to the type of cheese to the dressing you want on the side. I’ve never done this, but a friend told me it was that simple.  It provides you with a feeling that this is somehow unique to you even if anyone can get it. The manufacturing process behind that requires an aggressive increase in variety and customization without an increase in cost.

Using the IoT, raw data from your systems and machines is translated into the needed context to map production schedules, quality, and cost to enable effective decision-making. Real-time visibility allows for a more fluid and efficient supply chain so that pizza comes out perfect every time.

How best-in-class firms are responding to these market pressures

In response to these growing pressures, organizations have begun implementing the needed capabilities to address them. To learn more about what those are and how you can transform your manufacturing operations to stay competitive,  read this Aberdeen report.

Friday, 7 July 2017

IBM builds radical new Quantum Computing platforms

IBM recently took more than a leap in the quantum computing world by unveiling its two powerful computing platforms. Of these two, the first platform is the 16-qubit Quantum Experience universal computer. The other offering, which is going to form the core of its IBM Q commercial system, is a 17-qubit commercial processor prototype.

IBM Gudie, IBM Tutorials and Materials

This vastly improves upon the existing 5-qubit Quantum Computers. A qubit or quantum bit is analogous to a bit used in traditional/classical computing. Unlike the states 0 or 1 for binary bits, qubits can have an infinite number of states all the same time. They have properties such as superposition, entanglement, and nonlocality that are exhibited only in the quantum world. This enables performing computations based on qubits hundreds of thousands times faster than possible with today’s technology.

Exciting days ahead for the community

This launch follows the 2016 development when IBM threw open their 5-qubit system for free public access and testing. The spate of excitement clearly demonstrated the interest among developer community with more than 300,000 experiments run on the system.With the twin offering, IBM is again expecting that developers and researchers community will test out the powerful platforms. The new platforms can perform much more complex computations than IBM’s previous 5-quibit offering. This lends it perfectly to the experiments that could not be conducted because of the complex computations involved.To request beta access, visit this IBM GitHub page. 

And in what surely is music to the ears of the computing enthusiasts, IBM is upping the ante with a planned 50-qubit quantum computing platform. And it won’t stop there; IBM plans to keep up scaling, thereby making the unimaginable quite feasible in the near future.

Smashing technology barriers to quantum computing

The research has gained much pace in recent years. Researchers are smashing down one barrier after the other. 2016 witnessed the development of a quantum logic gate with 99.9 percent precision. Further, researchers were able to successfully use microwave signals to encode the data used in quantum computing. This offers a revolutionary new alternative to the optical solutions to store data. Researchers also produced far more stable qubits using silicon atoms, thereby allowing much longer time frame to perform calculations.

What lies ahead

The recent developments have clearly demonstrated the need for public collaboration to ensure widespread adoption of quantum computing. Qbsolv making D-Wave, its quantum computing platform, open source and IBM offering the powerful new computing platforms free public access are steps in the right direction. A direction that paves a path replete with mind boggling possibilities and unbridled innovations.

Monday, 3 July 2017

New UI changes: IBM Knowledge Center updates

There have been lots of IBM Knowledge Center updates, even though it’s been awhile since I’ve blogged here. The IBM KC team has been working steadily to improve and update IBM Knowledge Center monthly.

What’s new in IBM Knowledge Center? 

Based on user feedback, in our latest update we made a number of changes to the IBM KC user interface to improve the overall experience:
  • Create PDF “on-demand” (English only for now). Yes, it’s back, as beta function, so you can create PDF of a page, or group of pages, on-demand. There are some restrictions (in addition to the language being English)–you can only create a PDF of about 1000 pages, but we’re working on making this better. Please try it out in the meantime and let us know what you think!
IBM Tutorials and Materials, IBM Certifications
  • More room to read. The product version selector for topics is now outside the content area, so there is more vertical space for topic content. We’ve also improved the overall navigation so you can tell what product and version the topic belongs to more clearly.
IBM Tutorials and Materials, IBM Certifications
  • Search from every page.  Search is once again available from every page from the top of the application
IBM Tutorials and Materials, IBM Certifications

To return to your original topic from search results, just use your browser back button.
  • Search results focus simplified and improved. When you arrive at a topic from the Web or a bookmark, and then search in IBM KC, your search results are automatically narrowed to the product you were browsing (instead of All products in IBM KC).
IBM Tutorials and Materials, IBM Certifications

When you switch products by browsing or from the Products page, your search focus will automatically change as well. You can still bookmark your searches, too. (You can always search all products in IBM KC by clicking on the All products tab from the search page). You can also search everything in IBM KC from the home page.
  • A reminder: search preview (the + by each result) also lets you peek at results without leaving the search results page
IBM Tutorials and Materials, IBM Certifications
  • the IBM KC home page now includes links to IBM events, as well as to IBM’s developerWorks and IBM Support.