Hey OEMs: How’s your marriage?

OEMOne of our engineers recently spent the day with friends celebrating the launch of their SaaS-based MySQL monitoring and analysis company, VividCortex. One of the secrets to the success of this company’s launch was developing a mantra describing what they're all about: "We save marriages"

Sounds a little corny at first, but it's totally working for them. Venture capital firms laugh, customers laugh, and new hires laugh…but they get it!   Here’s one of their benefit statements:

A Happy Team:  VividCortex automates capture, diagnosis, and analysis, reducing tedious tasks to minutes. Now everyone can spend more time on cool stuff like capacity planning, architecture and design, and cat pictures.

This is clever, and I get it too.  By allowing companies to focus on what they do best, and farming out what they don’t to others who do—they are enabling employees to spend more time with their loved ones. Plus, who doesn’t love a good cat picture every now and then?

I’ve also spent time out of office lately with sales reps visiting equipment OEMs who are remotely monitoring their distributed fleets or in the process of trying to do so. I’ve had some lengthy conversations with C-level managers at these entities about what’s compelling them to take action, or in some cases, not to.

In a nutshell, it seems like the process of collecting, analyzing and making decisions from equipment data has been a pretty painful process for most OEMs.  More painful than I think it probably needs to be, and likely causing these guys to spend a lot more time at work that they could otherwise be spending with family and loved ones.

I’d like to share my point of view on the matter, and ask any OEMs reading this right now…how’s your marriage? Are you having to cancel “date night” with your spouse again because it’s going to be another late evening at work trying to manage equipment data?

Here is what’s seemingly compelling OEMs to get into remote monitoring & diagnostics (RM&D):   

  • They’re looking for new ways to improve the performance of their installed assets
  • They want to improve their end customer’s experience
  • They’re seeking to create new revenue-generating service models
  • They’d like to reduce their overall cost-to-serve

My conversations suggest that OEMs are experiencing several pain points where RM&D is concerned.  Here are just a few:

  • Virtually centralizing unlike applications, devices and sensors via a web-based remote monitoring & diagnostic solution is hard, often harder than anticipated.
  • Developing an elegant user interface that is customizable for end-user accounts and optimized for both browser and mobile environments is really, really tough.
  • Some OEMs that initially shied-away from cloud-based hosted data now realize the efficiency and scalability it provides, and are now kicking themselves a little.  End-users don’t always understand where the scope of a software solution begins and ends.  One OEM said, “I want to get out of the PC business,”  explaining that one of his end user accounts asked him to fix his analytics software because it wasn’t generating reports anymore--only to find out the customer’s printer was out of ink.  He wants to move to the cloud so he doesn’t have to deal with calls like this anymore.
  • At the same time, nobody seems to have clarity on what a three-tiered data privacy model between an automation vendor, OEM and end user should look like (hmmm).
  • Collecting and historizing large amounts of data, making sense of that data, and reporting it in actionable ways requires expertise and time…lots of time.  Acquiring and keeping that expertise in-house is also costly.
  • Developing and maintaining a homegrown RM&D software solution that delivers on customers’ expectations also requires expertise and time…lots of time.  It is also expensive.  Furthermore, abandoning and writing off the sunk costs of home-grown systems affects people’s pride and, in some cases, people’s livelihood.  Not an easy decision to make. 

So what’s my point?

These recent conversations leave me wondering…why do OEMs bother with trying to deliver homegrown RM&D solutions themselves?  OEMs are by nature engineering organizations, not software and IT domain experts.  And yet, these companies frequently acquire and retain an HMI engineer, a software engineer (or two or three), and an IT team to figure out how to make software applications work on top of their machines, when instead they could go the “appliance” route and save themselves tons of time at work (and make their spouses happier.)

walterWhat’s an “appliance” (and no I don’t mean dishwashers) you ask?  It’s a pre-engineered and pre-built solution for a specific problem that dramatically reduces the engineering costs (NPI, requisition, commissioning) and risks for customers. To provide an idea of how an appliance works, here’s GE’s Pump Station Appliance for municipal end users in the water and wastewater industry. And stay tuned, because we’re currently developing an “appliance” solution for OEMs too.

I also think that OEMs trying to deliver RM&D solutions on their own are probably taking on too much risk, and as a result have a higher probability of racking-up expensive marriage counseling bills or divorce attorney fees than those who seek assistance from specialists.  I’m just the marketing gal, though. I’d love to know what VividCortex thinks, and what those of you in the trenches every day think!