One of the most understated parts of Plug Power’s complete GenKey hydrogen and fuel cell solution is GenCare, our 24/7 customer service organization. Plug Power launched GenCare as a service platform offered to hydrogen and fuel cell customers in 2014 as part of GenKey. GenCare has proven very successful and popular with customers. What’s often missed, however, is how well integrated the service is with product quality and innovative maintenance features to ensure customers enjoy continued product uptime and all of the productivity that brings with it.
There are four primary product and innovation drivers that enable high quality and contribute to making GenCare so popular:
1. The first is the reliability of the GenDrive units themselves.
Our current GenDrive product designs are the most reliable that we’ve ever produced. In fact, in 2014 the reliability of the installed base improved by 60 percent, significantly improving uptime and reducing service visits. Reliability improvement means less need for replacement parts and fewer repair visits. To the customer, this equates into more units in the field for longer.
2. The second driver is Plug Power’s market leadership and the extensive number of units Plug Power has installed in the field. This large fleet volume makes a big impact on the overall cost to service individual units.
There are certain fixed costs required to run a service organization of the caliber of the Plug Power GenCare Fleet Operating Center. Spreading that cost among a large customer base makes it much more cost effective, and 85 percent of the GenDrive units in the field are under GenCare. Additionally, we’re starting to achieve significant volume of sites and units in specific geographic locations. Today, we have dedicated on-site techs co-located with our customers. And tomorrow with this density we can move to more of an on-call site dispatch model– really accelerating the utilization of labor, providing better service from techs that are geographically close to the customer.
3. The third is what the replacement parts cost.
At Plug Power, we understand the importance of new designs. Each successive platform that we design has lower cost parts, and in general the majority of those parts are backward compatible with our existing fleet.
4. And the fourth–and certainly one of the most important aspects as we go forward–is intelligent diagnostics.
This type of preventative maintenance allows us to better utilize our staff. Today, Plug Power GenCare technicians are clustered in territories like Chicago and Cincinnati, essentially in areas with high-customer density, in order to serve many clients. Monitoring and analyzing the data captured by the GenCare Fleet Operations Center, the team is able to identify issues that can lead to failures and prescribe preventative maintenance when the repair does not impact the
customer. Using this information effectively, Plug Power enables real-time monitoring of every system in our deployed GenDrive and GenFuel fleets, allowing for proactive problem resolution. All of this is available to the technicians that staff the GenCare Fleet Operations Center. Plug Power GenCare technicians monitor fleet availability, unit uptime, fuel cell, hydrogen skid and dispenser pressures, and infrastructure in use – in real-time. And what they see are customer sites running at, or above, our guaranteed 97% uptime. Additionally, the team is beginning to add more predictive algorithms into our units, giving us a better understanding of when a unit may need to be upgraded.
This means building intelligence into the GenDrive units, into the GenFuel infrastructure, and into the service network so that Plug Power can use that operational data to enable first-time fixes and reduce costs. Today our units–both the GenDrive and GenFuel — are intelligent and very data rich.
GenDrive has proven to be an incredibly reliable fuel cell unit. Today, our total deployed fleet sees operating hours topping 100 million. Our units run more hours in a year than a passenger vehicle will see it its lifetime. Paired with the GenFuel solution, material handling customers are deploying new fleets in as little as 12 weeks. When further coupled with robust GenCare service, this rounds out the GenKey package – making it tremendously easy for customers to choose our product line. And by making it easy, we have repeat customers like Wal-Mart, Kroger, BMW and P&G.