World Economic Forum suggests that one of the opportunities and benefits from the industrial Internet of Things (IoT) is vastly improved operational efficiency through predictive maintenance and remote management. Companies that are working on IIoT applications have a strong focus on the enhancement of engineering productivity, safety and working conditions within plants.
For example, to improve safety where potential hazards exist, scientists at Carnegie Mellon University worked with Shell engineers to develop Sensabot for use in Kazakhstan by the joint venture North Caspian Operating Company.
Another example is NREC designed, built and deployed Pipeline Explorer, the first untethered, remotely-controlled robot for inspecting live underground natural gas distribution pipelines.
CompareSoft studied three key aspects of IIOT that is changing asset maintenance by 180 degrees. Including:
1. IIoT Offers Data at the Right Time, at the Right Place on the Right Devices
When Industrial Equipments transmit data about themselves via the internet, a vast amount of data is generated. Using Real-time analytics, asset uptime can be enhanced by leveraging asset data at the right place, at the right time and on the right device.
One of the companies that have excelled in leveraging asset information is Caterpillar. Their products around the world are already outfitted with sensors monitoring fuel, idle times, location and a variety of inputs that provide valuable information to them, their dealers and their customers. For example, a locomotive has 300 sensors with the capability to spit out data in milliseconds.
Doug Oberhelman, CEO, Caterpillar said “Our business model runs on uptime for customers. If we run at a lower cost than our competition, we win. We better disrupt ourselves in our own way before somebody does an Uber to us.”
The IoT is making it easier for equipment manufacturers to send operational data to the cloud, where it can be thoroughly analyzed to better understand how the equipment is functioning. For example, Fisher air compressors continuously report the operating status of their internal parts (eg motor, belt, oil barrel etc) over a secure internet connection. If an operating parameter indicates abnormal behaviour, maintenance personal are alerted via SMS or email to service the air compressor.
Thames Water, a well-known utilities company in the UK has deployed sensors and real-time analytics to forecast asset failures. It also helps the company to act swiftly on critical situations like leaks or adverse weather events.
2. Equipment as-a-Service
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, has famously said “The lines between hardware, software, and services are blurred or are disappearing.”
With real-time asset analytics, companies have a well-structured understanding of how their products are used by their customers. As a result, companies are exploring new business models to foster long term deliverable driven customer relationships.
Rolls-Royce is a well-known example of innovating a product-as-a-service business model.
The possibility to deliver more products ‘as-a-service’ provides customers with a new level of transparency and fosters a deeper connection between those offering the service and their customers. IIoT along with real-time analytics provides a platform to offer asset uptime assurances.
In Los Angeles, a company called Streetline has installed 7,000 hockey-puck-sized sensors in city roadbeds that communicate real-time parking conditions to smartphone apps, telling drivers where parking is available. These connected parking spaces have increased the city’s parking revenue by 2% while decreasing the average cost of parking, and increasing space utilization, by 11%.
Traditionally companies saw increased risk in assuring deliverables, quite often the model was product warranties and maintenance for the first few years. With IIOT and Real-Time Asset Analytics companies can offer assurances on deliverables like asset uptime, energy saved, production yield and safety.
3. 3D Printing and Other On-Demand Manufacturing Techniques Reduce Turnaround Time
One of the best examples (both commercially and technically) is the use of 3D printed parts by BAE Systems.
In 2013, BAE systems flew the first parts created using 3D printed parts on a Tornado jet operated by the Royal Air Force in the UK. The jet took off from RAF Marham fitted with a plastic camera bracket and since then the aircraft has flown with a cockpit radio cover and components in the landing gear created using the 3D printed techniques.
Engineering Design which is disconnected from asset maintenance today will become vital to maintenance turnaround. Using 3D Design and a 3D printer, maintenance parts can be easily produced ‘On-Demand’. Eliminating the need to stock maintenance parts, shipping costs, maintenance parts forecast issues but most importantly maintaining the uptime of the assets.
Another supercritical example of the use of 3D printing with asset uptime and maintenance is demonstrated by the Marine Corps. Replacement parts sometimes take several weeks or months to be received by conventional methods, and 3-D printing just might hold the key to keeping fragile gear up and running.
“It’s the instantaneous nature of being able to print things on your premises,” said Lt. Col. Gregory Pace “If we can reduce a 100-day lead time down to one day because we have the capacity to print the replacement part, I think we are doing a significant increase to MEF readiness.”
Forbes recently reported that 52.8% of U.S. manufacturers believe that in the next 3-5 years, 3D Printing will be more useful in producing after-market parts or products. The impact of 3D Printing on complex manufacturing supply chains that generate high margins from Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) products serving aerospace and defence, discrete, industrial and vehicle manufacturing is just beginning.