Development Story 02
A system that predicts the outbreak of trouble beforehand by watching over the daily data of various parts of an excavator as it operates at the worksite. KOBELCO's unique preventive maintenance system makes full use of IoT technology to raise a unit’s durability by planning the best treatment in advance before a problem occurs.
KOBELCO’s excavators promptly introduced the MERiT system which provided users with operation data based on information regarding position, fuel consumption and other factors. This supported operation management for the user and also enhanced the efficiency of our service activities.
With the sales commencement of the Model 10 series in 2016, we introduced the new "K Scan" system as a monitoring function to support stable operation. The system aims at preventing major troubles in advance by ascertaining the condition of an excavator’s power plant and notifying a serviceman to check any detected problem. The system is equipped in medium and large size machines such as the SK250 and SK330 as well as in the SK200H hybrid excavator. From September 2017, the system will also be standardly equipped in machines such as the SK125SR and SK200 as well as the SK225SR.
Tomohiro Nakagawa, who participated in the K Scan development project talks about the background of the development.
The level of environmental performance for excavators such as emission control and fuel consumption grows higher every year. To meet such demands, the structure of machines becomes more complicated with the combination of various functions and makes it difficult to identify the problems.
Meanwhile, in order to provide even better services to all customers, it became necessary to further improve the efficiency of patrol activities and inspections.
To resolve these issues, we collected all the sensor information of an excavator and automatically evaluated its health. We then developed a system that would provide those results to the service location timely.
The system was called "K Scan" and by using together with the existing “MERiT” system, it would identify the machines that require inspection and allow the effective grasp of a machine's location, position and status.
Yasutaka Taruumi, who was in charge of software development added the following observation.
Up until this point, service quality was largely affected by a serviceman's individual ability such as intuition and experience. With K Scan, however, a diagnosis is conducted with scientific data and the results can be obtained by anybody timely. This means that high quality service can be provided without any reliance on individual ability.
Furthermore, there are following merits.
The information from K Scan is shared in the company, allowing a serviceman to discuss a machine with the individual in charge of quality assurance. This means that each KOBELCO customer can receive a quick and precise support.
K Scan is comprised of two functions. One is the "status observation". In a mechatronics controller, the numerical value of the sensors which are equipped with an engine and hydraulic pump is compressed and processed. By sending that data to an exclusive server everyday, we can diagnosis the status of each machine based on a daily basis. The other is "medical checkup". Regular inspections of machine operations by servicemen are automated and it diagnoses machines' conditions on a fixed qualification.
At the Fukuoka Factory of KOBELCO (West Japan), K Scan administrator Ryoma Matsumoto explains how the system is actually used.
With K Scan, we can observe the data from each machine operating over an extensive area on a special Web screen at our base. Every morning, before a serviceman visits a customer, that person decides a customer's maintenance plan based on the data analysis. In addition, the system provides the serviceman with check points prior to the departure.
Having an advance forecast leads to an increase in efficiency, allowing the serviceman to narrow down the equipment and parts that may be brought with. Akihiro To, who is in charge of customer service, feels that the system provides suggestion-related improvements in addition to work efficiency.
By using the conventional MERiT system, I can confirm the location of each machine on a web map by GPS. With this, I've been able to effectively find the units operating in the neighborhood and visit them. As of the introduction of the Model 10s, I can show customers the K Scan data on a tablet when I explain the state of the machine. It leads to deepen the customers' understanding about why an inspection is required.
K Scan was tested and evaluated at from Hokkaido to Okinawa during development. We asked several customers to monitor and evaluate 50 units totally. We improved the system's precision by gathering various cases of data including the burden and ways of the system in different environments of climate, temperature, humidity and dust levels.
We will continue to steadily accumulate K Scan data and utilization information at the service locations and analyze them to provide more highly value-added information. We will build a strong relationship of trust between users, service and development. This is one of K Scan's attractive cycles.
The trend of discussion between serviceman by grasping trends from the daily data is beginning to permeate. The sharing of outstanding examples is also leading to an increase in the motivation and skills of staff members.
As our accumulated data grows, we can examine the validity of our threshold settings (value for indicating the possibility of trouble). Also, we are planning on design improvements from a market aspect for machines that are suited to each worksite. By deepening relations between development and worksite, we intend to improve the system further.
Currently, we are preparing to equip K Scan to our overseas models. For the future, we hope to offer KOBELCO's unique monitoring system on a global scale.
* The contents described above is based on the information at the time of issuing (July, 2017).