Technology as a whole continues to evolve because industry professionals like the software developers at BairesDev are always looking for better ways to serve consumers and businesses. For example, the “as a service” model enables companies to acquire things that used to be considered static products on a subscription basis.
One of the earliest examples was software as a service (SaaS). Previously, software was purchased once and updated (with another purchase) every so often. With the service model, customers pay for ongoing access to software that is continuously updated.
The model has now been applied to many other services, such as hardware as a service (HaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS), and analytics as a service (AnaaS). One of the latest additions to this list is machines as a service (MaaS). Like the other models, it enables businesses to use the product — in this case, machines for factories and other environments — on a subscription basis.
According to IoT platform provider Losant, machines can include “compressed air, valves, robots, water pumps, smart lighting systems, and even passenger trains.” Companies that use the MaaS model can avoid the hassles that come with ownership temporarily or indefinitely. It offers numerous benefits, including proactive service and maintenance that are typically part of the package. Here we look at the benefits, as well as challenges, and the bottom line for companies considering MaaS.
Benefits of MaaS
In addition to being cost-effective and switching machine costs from CapEx to Opex, the MaaS model offers consistent maintenance via the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). According to connectivity technology provider Moxa, “By adding IIoT-connected sensors to machines, operational data can be sent to the cloud for big data analysis. This makes improved services such as predictive maintenance and remote maintenance possible.” With this component, companies experience less downtime and lower maintenance costs.
The sensors and capability for data distribution create another benefit as well: workers can operate and analyze data from the machines using smartphones and PCs regardless of where they are. This ability enables employees to more easily pursue quality control, product optimization, and other important goals.
According to Losant, “The information that becomes available about real-time operations is invaluable. It requires a shift in thinking of a machine not as an asset, but as an integral part of the business.”
Further, according to Machine Design, “Smart machines that can respond to changing conditions without human interaction, maximize efficiencies, and evolve their levels of intelligence to accommodate predictive planning and flexible business needs can help manufacturers further evolve their business models to meet today’s demands, as well as improve operations, safety, and efficiency.”
While the MaaS model offers numerous benefits, it also includes some challenges. As with any internet-connected device, machines equipped with sensors can pose a security threat. Additionally, new machines may need to be integrated with legacy components, a process that isn’t always straightforward or cost-effective.
Some workers may not be comfortable with the new technology, especially if they see it as a threat to their own livelihood. Finally, companies that adopt the MaaS model may need to alter business processes to incorporate it, another effort that costs both time and money.
According to ZDNet, other potential downsides to “anything as a service” (XaaS) models include service outages, governance and compliance issues, inadequate performance, hidden costs, service provider lock-in, and customer support issues. However, “Most of these potential problems can be minimized with good planning and a tightly-defined SLA.”
Does Your Company Need MaaS?
According to Automation World, “MaaS is an ideal option for companies who prefer to pay for automation incrementally, or who have an immediate need for end-of-line machinery but don’t have approved funding. By eliminating the upfront expense of machinery, manufacturers can devote their resources to other projects that improve operations or differentiate their businesses, such as new product development.”
On the other side of the equation, this model may not work well for companies unwilling to engage in full-scale adoption immediately, as many solution providers will try to enforce. So, a manufacturer unsure about the effectiveness of the model for its operations could be stuck with a large bill before deciding it’s a good move. The same is the case if the potential benefits of the model don’t seem worth the challenges mentioned in the previous section.
Like many other services offered on a subscription basis, MaaS can bring a host of benefits to companies that use it. They include cost savings, increased efficiency, and reduced time to market, all of which can contribute to greater customer satisfaction and increased revenues. However, it can also bring challenges, so businesses considering it must think carefully about how it would impact, and even disrupt, their operations, and whether those challenges are worth the potential advantages.