KONE picks Salesforce and IBM Watson for intelligent network of escalators and lifts

Finnish escalator and elevator manufacturer KONE was born as a subsidiary from Helsinki-based electric motor manufacturer Strömberg in 1910. Now it operates over 1.1 million units worldwide, and has turned to IBM Watson IoT and Salesforce to manage its enormous operations, used by as many as 1 billion people every day.

Antti Koskelin, KONE's CIO, tells Computerworld UK that the business is moving towards something called "dynamic dispatching" – by combining intelligent analysis from IBM Watson IoT with Salesforce's Service Cloud Lightning and Field Service Lightning tools, the company will be able to respond to emergencies as they happen.

KONE has come a long way since it first started manufacturing and installing its own elevators in 1918 with a total of 50 employees. Today it's the fourth largest manufacturer of elevators and escalators in the world, and it pulls in billions of Euros in revenue a year while employing more than 50,000 people.

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"If we have an urgent call from a customer, for example, someone is trapped in an elevator, or the elevator is saying something will happen if it's not maintained in the next day or so, we can dynamically schedule our 20,000 service technicians around the world," Koskelin says.

He points to two hypothetical examples that might need maintenance at the same time – a hospital in central London and a residential student building.

"Both of these customers are calling us and saying there's someone trapped in the building, we need your help – which would you prioritise? Naturally the hospital, I would say.

"So if it's a hospital where the reaction time is counted in minutes, not in hours, what we'd do is look immediately to see who the closest service technician is, and who can go there immediately to serve it."

A more benign example would be a broken down lift in a residential block. Using the combination of the Salesforce field service platform and information sent by IBM's IoT sensors, KONE could look up the elevator online.

By checking that nobody's inside and that it's safely parked at the ground level, the maintenance call would be prioritised accordingly – or if there was a scheduled service technician appointment there booked for the following day, this worker would be automatically equipped with all the new information about the elevator.

Currently, KONE is using a mixture of custom and legacy technology across EMEA, Asia and the Americas, and Koskelin says this initiative is part of a wider digitisation program. The Salesforce Service Cloud Lightning and Field Service Lightning will aim to bring together all of KONE's customer service agents out in the field and on the phones, with real-time service data provided by IBM IoT.

The cloud service will be fully operated by Salesforce.

The project is only in its initial design phase but should be rolled out in two territories by the end of this year. Salesforce is working with KONE, along with a few other selected pilot customers, to develop the field service from the ground up.

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"This is a very new solution that doesn't exist in Salesforce yet," Koskelin explains. "Salesforce is building this partly based on our needs, and partly on a few other customers' needs – so in a way, this is kind of a joint project together with Salesforce to support the business for the next decade or so."

Koskelin says KONE opted for Salesforce because, essentially, it is a Salesforce shop already in CRM. "In 2016 we were celebrating our ten year anniversary with Salesforce, and we've been very heavily implementing their CRM solution for our sales management," Koskelin explains. "That has been a great success already. Now, this contract expands the coverage into field services."

"What we are planning to do is digitalise our service business with the latest generation technology, and for that we selected Salesforce based on our extremely good experience on the CRM product," he says.

"[Salesforce] are strong partners in development overall. We feel that as we get all of our customers in the service business into one platform,that will help us provide even better services for our customers, in terms of service staff availability, availability to react to customer requests, and so on."

Koskelin says that there were other candidates for the IoT platform itself, but ultimately KONE picked IBM because the company felt confident IoT was high on its agenda. "If we look at the combination of IBM Watson analytics and then the IoT as well, this is a very good combination," he explains.

And how will Koskelin and KONE measure success? He shares two metrics: "For me as the group CIO, my main target is that we are going to get the user adoption as high as possible, and are able then to roll it out as fast as possible to the different businesses," he says.

"And another we'll follow clearly is customer satisfaction," he explains. "Are we able to provide better services for our customers? To provide better proactive services for our customers, are we able to react to their needs in a better way, and send our technicians to the right customers at the right time?"

For now, KONE is recruiting into its technology and IT department, looking for talent with the appropriate skills.

"Digitalisation requires that no matter if we do all the coding by ourselves, we'll still need to have a better understanding of how to utilise this," he says. "And of course, this is a change project as well – we need to train our field technicians to be able to work with the new, more intuitive solution, and dispatch their cases in a dynamic way."

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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