Remote monitoring for healthy assets

Feb. 12, 2014

Will smart machinery make reactive maintenance obsolete?

If John Lennon were alive today, he, like Bob Dylan, might have given in to the allure of corporate spokesmanship, unable to resist the temptation of "selling out" for something that at least seems to be aligned with their collective souls.

While Dylan has aligned himself with Victoria's Secret and U.S. auto manufacturers, Lennon's posthumous street cred has thus far gone to Cisco. But, if he were here, GE surely would be wooing him to provide the soundtrack for the industrial Internet of Things (IoT). Imagine there are no assets No bathtub curve to fret. Here, let me set the mood

Imagine a manufacturing environment where facilities require OEMs to supply uptime and productivity. Forget about buying a packaging line or a forklift or a compressed air system or motors or HVAC/R system. Who would want to buy assets when you have to incur the expense of monitoring and maintaining them? Instead, wouldn't it be much more feasible to purchase the use of those operating assets by holding the provider accountable for the monitoring and maintenance of them? Is it asking too much for equipment providers to assure reliability, whether it's by providing users with analysis of data or it's by providing the maintenance services, as well? Welcome to the brave new world that is the industrial IoT, where equipment can tell us how it's feeling.

I've had recent conversations with a few companies providing remote monitoring services and even analysis, but these services are being used by the plants where the equipment is operated. Imagine the possibilities if the OEMs provided the monitoring and were able to send a service technician to the facility before the plant manager even knew there was a problem. It's already happening.

Atlas Copco, for example, was able to deploy help to a customer's facility in Phoenix to tend to an air compressor before the user even knew there was an issue. This was enabled by its SmartLink remote monitoring service. But let's not stop there. Plenty of specific monitoring tools and analysis capabilities, from mobile-asset monitoring to vibration analysis, are available to OEMs willing to incorporate the technology as part of their promises of productivity.

This week, the ARC Forum brings together some of the brightest individuals in industry to discuss the trends that are shaping business. Andy Chatha, ARC president and CEO, in his annual state-of-the-industries address, noted that the IoT is more than just our home appliances or automobiles telling us when they need service. The big opportunities are in industrial applications where unplanned downtime and safety incidents can be very costly.

"We can monitor our home devices, but what are the big benefits in the plant?" Chatha asked in his keynote address. "All of you are trying to eliminate equipment failures because with failures come risk."

The IoT value proposition for asset owners includes a variety of elements.

Improved performance means reduce downtime using PdM, the ability to share information internally and externally and to collaborate with suppliers to solve process problems, explained Chatha. So, the IoT allows suppliers or OEMs to offer that ability to ensure equipment reliability and uptime.

IoT also lowers asset lifecycle costs and can improve productivity by improving field service workforce productivity and improve the ability to fix customer problems remotely, said Chatha. "It improves service business profitability, and it's a platform for innovation from products to products as service, allowing collaboration with customers," he offered.

Creating the connected plant doesn't necessarily mean changing the control system, said Chatha. "Many of you have started to move your business systems to the cloud," he said. "One of the big benefits of information in the cloud is that it's much easier to share that information with the rest of the organization. Then you can go a step further and start sharing data with your service providers or your asset partners. You can go one step further by having dual interfaces for your bigger assets to connect to the plant network and the plant infrastructure. You're feeding that information to an asset monitoring system. You know how expensive it is to connect that information. By sharing information with the asset suppliers, they can monitor the long-term health of the asset. and eliminate downtime. This is a revolution in the making. We have an opportunity to lead this revolution."

I hope some day you'll join us, and the world will be as one.

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