Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the latest issue of Field Service, a quarterly magazine published by Field Service Digital and ServiceMax from GE Digital. 

It’s been less than a year since GE Digital acquired ServiceMax, but service firms are already experiencing the benefits. Amit Jain, senior director of product management at ServiceMax, sheds light on one way the two companies are working together to improve service: An integration with GE Digital’s asset performance management (APM) capabilities helps service firms understand the data that their connected machines generate, and, crucially, prioritize maintenance efforts.

It’s hard to keep up with service technology terms. Can you briefly explain what GE Digital and ServiceMax mean by “asset performance management” (APM) and “field service management” (FSM)?

Jain: APM is a system for assets. It gives companies a way to monitor asset performance and use and apply that information to determine both the risk of downtime and the costs associated with mitigating that risk. FSM, on the other hand, is a system for people. It allows companies to identify the correct people, with the correct skills and parts, who can show up at the correct times to fix equipment in the field.

Why is it important for these two systems to play nicely together?

APM and FSM is a perfect marriage because we now have an opportunity to close the automation gap in service. Maintenance recommendations can automatically generate work orders in ServiceMax so that problems get fixed quickly, or even proactively. But that’s not all. Asset service history within ServiceMax is fed back into the APM system, creating a feedback loop. The APM system can factor in service history information—previous failure information, which parts were swapped out, frequency of break-fix issues—to the performance and usage data it’s already monitoring.

What’s in it for service organizations?

The biggest benefit is that it puts maintenance activities in context. Companies can prevent unplanned downtime if they send a crew to inspect the same asset every day, but that’s prohibitively expensive. APM allows companies to do those inspections virtually. Equipment might appear to be running correctly, but analytics could detect an anomaly that increases the chance of failure. That analysis—that data—justifies sending a team to inspect or maintain the equipment.

Isn’t IoT-connected equipment already capable of generating and analyzing loads of data?

Traditional IoT platform solutions on the market focus heavily on connecting assets and ingesting data, but they fall short in assessing the risk of failure and the maintenance cost. Those elements are critical for equipment operators to prioritize what, if any, action should be taken. That’s why it makes so much sense to add this APM asset strategy framework to FSM.

Is that capability out of reach for most service organizations?

You don’t necessarily have to be a large organization with deep pockets (though deep pockets never hurt!). But integrating APM with field service is perfect in scenarios where the cost to maintain equipment is high. APM helps organizations to prioritize their maintenance activities and stop overspending on existing maintenance. The integration with ServiceMax ensures that they follow through on the execution of their asset management strategy.

What’s possible today? What’s coming in, say, five years?

Today, APM and its sophisticated analytics can send alerts to inspect equipment before it fails, or even to skip planned maintenance because there’s little rise of failure. But in five years, this technology could end time-based maintenance once and for all. Not only will equipment be connected and the performance monitored, but companies will also be able to consolidate information on all of their machines to build an analytics database. That will enable true predictive maintenance. Inspections and maintenance activities will be scheduled dynamically based on the asset performance analysis, so companies won’t need to manually adjust their preventative maintenance plans.