Digital offerings must be developed together with customers, says Petra Sundström Head of Digital Offering at Sandvik Rock Processing Solutions. She is leading a digital factory consisting of thirty colleagues with varying backgrounds. The challenge today is to integrate the sales organization in a unified attempt to move forward.
Sandvik Rock Processing Solutions (SRP) is a supplier of equipment for processing rocks and minerals for the mine and construction industries. This business area offers machinery for crushing and screening activities at mines and quarries and for demolition. In mines it is operating above ground at the front end of production lines delivering sized material for extraction and further processing. Production sites are found on all continents and vary in size from large to a great number of small quarries.
When Petra was joining Sandvik SRP in 2018 she was told SRP needs a digital leader, but that the SRPshould not build everything themselves. “We should not aim to build competence where others already are better”, she was told.
From 2021 Petra Sundström is reporting to the president of the business area. “I had to gradually convince him that ok, we will cooperate with the IT-houses, but we need to create our own architecture, otherwise we cannot guarantee functionality and security to our customers.”
The digital factory
Petra Sundström has built a digital factory that consists of thirty persons, drawn from banking, sensor, and connectivity industries to creative design.
Many companies have set up separate digital units on their digital journeys, sometimes called AI Labs. Petra Sundström says that such units may bring up ideas and prototypes, but they have difficulty to deliver business value. “Nor should digital development be led by the IT-department – while digital is exploring, and IT-departments are scaling and should work on optimizing” she says
Petra Sundström is a vocal voice for keeping the customer very close to digital development. “We early on strategically pinpointed the mining operator in medium to large mines as our focus customer. The operator is the person closest to our products, services, and software. That is where the window of opportunity resides building extensions of equipment. This approach, close to the operator, is very different from having ideas created in a separate AI-lab”.
The aim is to create Sandvik SRP’s own dynamic, scalable and attractive platform. “The key is to make something so great that operators voluntarily choose our software and potentially even ask their managers to connect their machines to us”, she says
However, digital transformation in a steadfast engineering corporation, 160 years old, is a bumpy road. Creativity and ideas are there, but how to choose which ones is worth developing and keep speed? “For every selected persona/stakeholder we spend one quarter exploring what to do, then we design and thereafter we have two quarters of a year to implement what we chose to do, before moving on”, she says.
Competing for data
Equipment once sold will operate for up to fifteen years, which is a period for selling spare parts and provide technical help and up-grades. The after-market is worth just as much as the new sales market.
The importance of data becomes clear when you want to follow the health of the equipment over time and recommend service and replacement of spare parts. Data come from sensors on crushers, screens and conveyers that register weight, vibration, pressure, temperature, oil level and time in business etc. New equipment is fully equipped with sensors and automated, but there is a vast number of machines in the field that have the potential to be upgraded. A close relation built on confidence is necessary to make a customer want to share their data.
Data also includes customer specific administrative data, like manuals, inspection records and catalogues. “So, to take that step we have homework to do taking care and clean up the data we already have”, she says. “Today one customer may be spelled in 16 different ways in our registries. We need to build everything step by step and become spiders in our clients’ infrastructure”.
There is no lack of competition to become the major software player in the crushing industry. Rivals selling equipment started their digital journey even before Sandvik. The IT-houses could, in theory, secure data and sell data to third parties like providers of spare parts and maintenance services. Microsoft, IBM, and their likes have ready-made administrative programs.
Petra Sundström thinks that knowledge and place in the market gives Sandvik an upper hand. “We know the practical side of things. We have knowledge of the process which IT-houses lack. We know what to do when a certain alarm is going off. They will not be as fast as us. So, we see that we have a position to take”.
“With access to data we should know exactly when, as an example, a mantle needs to be replaced. We would know what might be wrong and send the right guy to the right location”.
Sandvik SRP’s digital assistant – SAM
Sandvik SRP has launched at digital tool named SAM by Sandvik. Care was taken to choose a name not directly linked to Sandvik but to carry a Sandvik feel. “Our idea was to make SAM to be like a colleague, an assistant, both female and male”.
SAM can be chosen at different levels of sophistication from a standard administrative set-up with manuals, catalogues, notice boards and inspection reports to equipment behavior, performance trends and analysis, checklists up to health reports based on AI and, predictions of useful life.
The market is the frontier
When we talk with Petra Sundström again she has just returned from a visit to several customers. What comes out of the digital factory may be well adapted and customized to selected clients. But how prepared is the organization at large to receive and promote digital offerings?
Sandvik SRP is organized in four divisions that consist of stationary and mobile equipment and attachment tools. The equipment is found on large and small mines and quarries and recycling sites. A large sales force and distributors are taking care of customers on six continents.
Petra Sundström says that sales agents and customers come in three types: The ones who really understand and the ones who does not understand and think the job is only to sell the machines. A third group says, okay this is good, but you are running in the wrong direction. Sometimes, she says, Sandvik’s sales agents can be more hesitant than clients as to the benefit of the SAM platform.
From production to the market. The products developed by the digital factory are handed over to sales management. Educating and empowering the sales force may well be a crucial task for Sandvik SRP.