New business models, new job profiles

IoT revolution in the heating sector

Cultural shift at Walter Meier (Klima Schweiz) AG: The new IoT solution for the heat pump service is changing the organisation – right down to new job profiles.

Text: Urs Binder, images: © Luca Zanier,

The first remote diagnostician at Walter Meier is Andreas Schadegg. He’s taking on the new role in addition to technical support of the service technicians. “In addition to the actual remote diagnosis of heat pumps, I him helping with further development of the IoT solution – the rollout has just begun. This combination is interesting for me, allowing me to make something new happen for the company.”

In several cases Schadegg has been able to find a fault before the customer had noticed anything. “We were all really excited, something like at the birth of child, because we were able to identify and correct a problem at an early point in time.”

The background here is that the heating and air-conditioning specialist Walter Meier is now offering the new service “smart-guard” to its heat pump customers. Optimal operation of the heat pump is ensured by systematic monitoring via the IoT platform. In addition, remote maintenance often makes it unnecessary for a service technician to visit the site.

Concentrated heat pump expertise: Andreas Schadegg in the training room of Walter Meier.

New job profiles

At Walter Meier there are two new job profiles since the IoT rollout: The remote diagnostician monitors and controls the heat pumps over the Internet, analyses data, draws conclusions and supports the service technicians. He needs extensive knowledge about heat pump technology and several years of experience in the market. “It is a kind of service technician back-office service”, remarks Thomas Grolp, Head of Intranet and Internet at Walter Meier.

The second new job profile is diagnostics computer scientist: He is familiar with networks and protocols and ensures that the connection works end-to-end, from the heat pump to the analysis platform all the way through to the service dashboard of the remote diagnostician. He also creates training documents, has numerous administrative tasks and works closely with the remote diagnosticians.

According to Thomas Grolp, three to four remote diagnostic centres are planned throughout Switzerland in the first phase. Interest in the new positions within the organisation is great.

Thomas Grolp, Head of Intranet and Internet, is one of the driving forces behind Walter Meier’s IoT project.

Organic cultural shift

Walter Meier has implemented the change primarily as a technology-driven project. However, the transformation into a digitalised company also entails organisational consequences and ultimately requires a fundamental cultural shift.

From the service technicians to logistics through to the Sales department, the new service is affecting all levels of the company. For example, the service technicians have additional tasks during installation of the heat pumps – connecting the mobile network gateway, testing the antenna installation and conducting a test run of the IoT connection take about 15 minutes. The Sales team and Marketing need training – a new product of course has to be marketed.

According to experts, an “Industry 4.0” project absolutely requires a dedicated, interdisciplinary project team that covers the technical and organisational aspects and skills in equal measure and that is supported by management in doing so. Only in this way can technology and the organisation be holistically grasped and conveyed into the new age.

Andreas Schadegg is proud of his new task as a remote diagnostician – pictured here at the company entrance in front of the corporate logo.

The managers should also remain involved throughout the entire project term. In this way they can learn to deal with the new, more complex reality together with all that is uncertain and incalculable. At Walter Meier the idea for the new business model came from top management, and the Management Board is fully behind the path of the digital transformation.

However, “It would be presumptuous to say that we have a new corporate culture already”, says Thomas Grolp, but the enthusiasm to work digitally has been awakened: “The seedcorn has germinated, and it takes a certain amount of time until it becomes a tree. A shift in culture is a long-term process.” There are many ideas for other digital services that they want to manage in an integrated system. According to Grolp, this also corresponds to the strategy of the Management Board.

Everyone pulling together

The project has been implemented by Walter Meier with the continuous support of Swisscom – from concept draft to pilot phase through to operation of the analysis platform. Since the end of 2016, “smart-guard” has been available to the customers in an initial test region; the starting signal for all of Switzerland was given in March 2017.

“Given that we are in an industry sector that moves rather slowly, we have achieved a lot in the two years since the beginning of the project”, says Thomas Grolp with pride.

The idea of making the heat pump service more efficient through an IoT solution came from Service Division Manager Stéphane Nançoz. The project team is interdisciplinary, involving the IT organisation and the Finance department, which examines costs and potential for savings, as well as the Service organisation and Process Management: “Our service operates according to established processes. From the very beginning, we wanted to integrate remote maintenance harmoniously and not have it bypass the existing processes.”

A central figure in the team is the heat pump specialist. He has a very good picture of how service technicians work and enormous knowledge of heat pump technology. “This was crucial in defining which data from heat pumps is important for remote diagnosis. He was also involved in negotiations with the manufacturers – for example, adjustments to the heat pump software were necessary.”

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