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Success is on the cards
Atlas Copco’s cloud-based service solution ALTURE has the power to transform assembly lines, yet the customer feedback process that framed its development is equally impressive.
This is the story of an innovation that started with a card game. But nobody lost their shirt, because this card game was definitely no gamble, and neither was the highly efficient, energy-saving idea that it led to.
The game in question is Atlas Copco’s ‘Voice of the Customer’ insight tool. It’s a card-based exercise which helps customers rank their needs according to order of importance. In this case the insight gained resulted in the development of ALTURE, a data-driven service solution that provides real-time feedback on industrial assembly processes.
The cloud-based solution allows customers to identify and troubleshoot issues and act before they occur, while striking a balance between production quality and production quantity, thus minimizing downtime and optimizing efficiency. As its name suggests, ALTURE can give customers an alternate (as well as smarter and more prosperous) future.
“There’s a lot of buzz around the potential of Industry 4.0, where production companies can use their performance data to see where they can make continuous improvements,” says Florian Fiebig, Global Marketing Manager, who has lived and breathed the project since it began four years ago. “Our tools were already creating this data, and customers approached us saying, ‘I want to do something with this. Can you help me harvest my data?’ That started us thinking about what kind of value we should be creating for our customers. I think we evaluated a total of 760 interviews and then looked at the highest-ranking customer needs and figured out which ones we could have a direct influence upon.”
There were two basic needs: production uptime and production quality. For many working in industrial assembly (such as automotive industry production lines), striking the balance between sufficient quantity and sufficient quality is a perennial challenge. In particular, tool tightening is a key aspect, as Florian explains.
“Consider a car going through a production line. You have about 60 to 90 seconds for each of the stations the car goes through, meaning those working on those stations have to perform their tasks quickly and accurately. If the tool breaks during operation, you need a back-up that’s been quality checked and that affects throughput, as everything is scheduled so precisely, which in turn often means lost production time.
“Our solution gives the customer a remote monitoring indication of when maintenance is due, in order to maintain excellent production quality and minimize the risk of the tool breaking down. With that, it also benefits them in terms of energy savings by reducing the need for overtime. An even greater benefit is that this helps them meet their sustainability goals.”
Florian’s marketing experience from his career in retail before Atlas Copco gave him a natural affinity with customers’ needs and a receptiveness to their feedback. This provided a welcome focus for a complex project says Rickard Hansen, VP Data Driven Services, Atlas Copco Industrial Technique, whose long experience in the software industry made him a key player in the R&D process.
“It took a bit of time to set a clear direction. At the beginning it was a question of: ‘what are we trying to solve?’,” says Rickard.
“But our product managers for software are very involved in the product development phase, and a guy like Florian really understands the parameters and which requirements are needed, as well as what ideas mean for costs.”
The lifespan of the project has seen a 20-strong R&D staff built up from scratch, working closely with product management, software development, UX design and product designers in Scandinavia, Germany and Asia. ALTURE is now between the prototype and full-launch phases, and at the moment has 48 active customers in automotive and general industry production.
Florian and Rickard point to the challenge for some companies releasing their data to the cloud so that Atlas Copco’s technology can analyze it for them, but both are confident that the clear benefits will sway more and more customers to take the next step.
“If you share information, you get something back,” says Rickard. “It’s a bit of a life principle too. You put your money in the bank – you don’t have it under your pillow…”
“We’re doing something meaningful,” adds Florian. “Seeing the rewards in terms of customers’ excited reactions keeps me going. For us ALTURE is the future, and for our customers it’s a groundbreaking solution that will sustain their businesses for years to come. We all feel like we’re doing the right thing.”
Meet our innovators
Rickard Hansen
VP Data Driven Services, Atlas Copco Industrial Technique
What drives you in your job? “It’s great working for an international company, and it’s fantastic to see how we provide value for customers all over the world, with customers connected in China, the U.S., Europe, Latin America. This international environment is a great thing and sharing experience with people around the world creates a lot of knowledge.”
What gives you most pride? “We’re getting great customer feedback in terms of the user-friendly nature of ALTURE. It helps them to do a good job. We can we take some of the thinking burden off of them and simplify things for the industrial sector.”
Florian Fiebig
Global Marketing Manager Data Driven Services, Atlas Copco Industrial Technique
Why did you join Atlas Copco? After various positions in retail and marketing and graduating with a master’s degree in Marketing in Australia, I applied for an assistant job at Atlas Copco. I wanted to work for a market leader in a global and innovative environment with many different cultures. I was rejected for that job but was offered a different one in product management. Thanks to my managers back then, I was given the chance to present the project I was working on during a global business meeting and this was the start of my global responsibilities.