Maintenance with MAX: predicting elevator break downs – before they happen

Digitalisation and industry 4.0 | innovation | trends of technology | The cloud-based predictive maintenance solution MAX is gradually finding its way into the daily work of our service technicians. Worldwide, 10 percent of the elevators we service are already connected to the MAX platform – soon it’ll be the turn of the first escalators.

The elevator broke down that morning and there’s a big “Out of Order” sign hanging on the door. When the hastily summoned elevator technician turns up in the hotel lobby, the customer understandably isn’t in the best of moods. The expert is facing the challenge to diagnose the error as quickly as possible. Call-outs like this are all in a day’s work for elevator service technicians across the whole industry. Naturally, as elevators worldwide transport one billion people each day. It’s a mission that requires a new maintenance solution. Its name: MAX.

MAX: predicting break downs before they happen

These scenarios are soon to be a thing of the past – thanks to a little box installed at the elevator. The system continuously collects machine data and wirelessly sends it to a highly-developed cloud, where it is combined with various other data and analyzed by advanced algorithms. Connected to this system, elevator malfunctions and their causes are visible at a glance.

Thanks to pioneering cloud technology MAX, thyssenkrupp service technicians are able to identify imminent elevator failures even before an emergency occurs.Thanks to pioneering cloud technology MAX, thyssenkrupp service technicians are able to identify imminent elevator failures even before an emergency occurs.

In some cases it is already possible to predict failures, so technicians can remedy issues – before they actually occur, before there is any damage, before there is a breakdown. This is transforming maintenance service fundamentally, enabling maintenance teams to act predictive and even prescriptive instead of only reactive. This is MAX, the platform launched by thyssenkrupp three years ago with the goal of reducing elevator downtimes by half.

10 percent of elevators are already fitted with the digital maintenance solution

A pipedream? Not at all. Today, the dream of MAX is already reality. Worldwide, over 120,000 units are already MAX-connected in Germany, Korea, Spain, the USA, and Brazil. That’s around a tenth of all the elevators thyssenkrupp services – and more are being added every day.

At CEBIT 2018, Andreas Schierenbeck (right) and Hannes Ametsreiter, CEO of Vodafone Germany, explained their collaboration on the IoT infrastructure behind MAX on the big stage.At CEBIT 2018, Andreas Schierenbeck (right) and Hannes Ametsreiter, CEO of Vodafone Germany, explained their collaboration on the IoT infrastructure behind MAX on the big stage.

The idea for MAX was born in 2013, when thyssenkrupp Elevator CEO Andreas Schierenbeck met Steve Ballmer in Berlin, who was then CEO of Microsoft. Plans were forged to digitalize thyssenkrupp’s elevator service business, which is of core importance to its elevator business. After initiating the partnership with Microsoft, the elevator experts from thyssenkrupp have worked together with the Microsoft specialists to develop the core solutions that drive the maintenance solution MAX today – followed by a partnership with Vodafone for the digital infrastructure.

US maintenance business leads the way

Our colleagues in the USA are making especially good progress, with more than half of all connected units – demonstrating the effectiveness and customer benefits of MAX. Even today, thyssenkrupp’s service technicians in the US can already monitor an installation’s entire service history on their smartphones. Actions to be taken and spare parts needed are recommended through the Virtual Coach functionality, allowing service technicians to visit the nearest spare parts inventory along the route towards the elevator unit showing signs of having a problem. Both customer and technician are provided with insights into the elevator’s “vital statistics”: number of stops per floor, door movements, trips, and calls.

What recently happened in Dallas, Texas, is becoming commonplace today: a service technician gets an alert from MAX and one look at the data tells him that he’s going to need a spare part which he doesn’t have with him. So he stops by the local thyssenkrupp branch before heading out to the customer. He sees straight away that MAX wasn’t bluffing. The technician carries out the repair, saving himself a second journey and the customer unnecessary downtime.

This is how easy maintenance can be: Even before the elevator stops, the service technician knows about it with a glance at his smartphone. By doing this, thyssenkrupp intends to reduce elevator failures by 50%, making customers happier.
This is how easy maintenance can be: Even before the elevator stops, the service technician knows about it with a glance at his smartphone. By doing this, thyssenkrupp intends to reduce elevator failures by 50%, making customers happier.
Using HoloLens, 24,000 elevator service technicians can now visualize and identify problems ahead of a job, and have remote, hands-free access to technical and expert information when onsite.
Using HoloLens, 24,000 elevator service technicians can now visualize and identify problems ahead of a job, and have remote, hands-free access to technical and expert information when onsite.

“The great thing about MAX is that it is now transforming from a vision to a reality with a tangible impact on customer satisfaction and increasing the efficiency of our operations,” says Andreas Schierenbeck. “The project has become a showcase of digitalization worldwide.”

Teething troubles overcome

The complexity and challenges of utilizing cutting-edge technology are often underestimated. We catch up with Hyun-Shin Cho, leading digitalization expert at thyssenkrupp’s elevator business. He has worked on MAX for the past three years, from the critical phase to mass rollout.

“After an initial pilot, we have seen a series of rapid successes that have raised expectations. Disillusionment followed when industrializing and operationalizing did not go as fast as anticipated.” Cho admits that, particularly in the early years of 2015 and 2016, things didn’t always go smoothly: “System stability and scalability as well as data quality have been a major concern along the way.” One of the main problems was making MAX compatible with the different controllers used in various countries and then to make it work end-to-end – from the elevator, via the cloud, to the technician.

However, the teething troubles have been overcome by the dedication, collaboration and long working days put in by the global MAX team. Having MAX work on scale and delivering on the promise has convinced the last doubters.

What next?

Since the end of 2017, MAX has begun to show its potential, initially by collecting the right data and creating transparency. Utilizing an ever-growing body of data collected from a global asset base, thyssenkrupp has already entered its second phase with its maintenance solution MAX, moving into predictive maintenance. The development is already a success: from being just a troubleshooter, the MAX-supported service technician is now becoming a consulting partner who advises customers on their elevator units and draws their attention to potential breakdowns.

As a digital expert, Hyun-Shin Cho has accompanied the MAX project from the very beginning. He and his team are currently planning the roll-out of the innovative maintenance solution in Brazil. Europe and Asia are to follow step by step.As a digital expert, Hyun-Shin Cho has accompanied the MAX project from the very beginning. He and his team are currently planning the roll-out of the innovative maintenance solution in Brazil. Europe and Asia are to follow step by step.

And thyssenkrupp is pressing ahead with connecting more elevators. In Brazil the rollout is currently starting, which will introduce a next generation of hardware. The new units can be connected to and transmit the data of several elevators at one time. Subsequent countries have not yet been decided on, but a few candidates have been identified in Europe and Asia. Furthermore, the MAX team is also working together with selected key accounts and special projects. In addition, escalators have already been initiated.

And the next target? Passing the one-million mark, maybe? Asking this question elicits gentle head-shaking in the project team. It’s not just about larger figures. The goal is to reduce the downtime of elevators by half, giving time back to customers. But of course, one fact still applies: “More elevators and escalators connected mean more data to improve our models and algorithms,” Cho explains to us. “Better models and algorithms mean less downtime for our customers.”

It’s estimated that over 12 million elevators are currently in service around the world. So there’s still a lot to do.

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