IIoT and condition monitoring turn data into decisions

Manufacturers can leverage IIoT data in nearly all stages of the manufacturing process, including monitoring product quality and performance.

12/05/2017


Sensors’ use in manufacturing affects not just plant operations, but the service of manufactured products once they leave the plant. Image: Courtesy Richard Velbeck, Magnum Energy Solutions.For manufacturers, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) represents tremendous revenue potential in a variety of ways. In product development, connected sensors on product componentry can gather and deliver real-time information about the performance of the product or the individual components and materials. 

From aircrafts to automotive engines and sensitive medical equipment, for instance, placing sensors on parts as they go through their design and development evolution delivers critical data related to performance, safety, durability, and more.

Monitoring product quality and performance

This monitoring and collection of data doesn’t stop once the product leaves the manufacturer’s facility. Although embedded sensors and control mechanisms can help spot potential issues in design, components, and materials, they also allow manufacturers to better understand how customers are using their products.

Manufacturers of refrigeration cases, for instance, might not have any idea how their equipment performs in the field until they receive a support call or a request under a warranty. How often have you visited your local grocery, found too much ice covering a product you were purchasing, and felt dissatisfied? Unless there are monitoring sensors within the case, neither the manufacturer nor the store manager may realize something is out of whack within the equipment. Well, not until someone complains.

Manufacturers have the same issue if they have little to no visibility into how their products perform once they are installed in someone’s house or commercial property. Think of the possibilities with real-time diagnostics on products in commercial use. Information about the temperature of a device, the fan run times, and the energy consumption could all be reported via the Internet back to the manufacturer.

Sensors and remote condition monitoring 

Based on the information they receive and analyze, manufacturers could help customers and clients avoid breakdowns and performance problems. These companies also could use the data collected for their design-in engineering processes by revising the design of products and components to achieve more durable and higher performing technology. Data could draw immediate attention, followed by corrective action, such as repair, maintenance, or replacement.

Manufacturers can leverage IIoT data in nearly all stages of the manufacturing process. Data on how resources are used within the facility can help to optimize manufacturing production schedules and allow companies to better capitalize on opportunities for savings or plant improvements. Using sensors to collect data also can help companies to benchmark their equipment once it leaves their facility. They can log and compare data from equipment in different locations or operating environments. This process could unearth operational inefficiencies that would otherwise go undetected until a fatal failure occurs.

Manufacturers also could use and analyze the data they receive to offer more appropriate preventative maintenance and warranty programs. Instead of only getting calls when things go wrong, sensor data could help manufacturers to get alerts for service when something is needed, based on the performance of the equipment going beyond the prescribed parameters for optimal performance.

Remote condition monitoring (RCM) is a basic service that can have a fundamentally positive impact on customer service quality. The ability to access product status information in real time is invaluable for support services, especially because it makes for much more efficient root cause analysis and solution development.

The obvious next step becomes predictive maintenance where the use of sensors for things like thermal imaging, vibration analysis, sonic and ultrasonic analysis, and emissions allows for the detection of problems before they occur. For companies making end consumer products, the advent of IIoT provides a great way to improve customer service and drive stronger sales revenue as well.

Although the promise of IIoT is strong, there are challenges. One of the primary concerns is related to security and privacy. When left unsecure, connected devices that are more continuously transmitting can open doors to attacks, endangering not only the consumer but also the companies using IIoT on their assembly lines.

Another topic of discussion, prevalent across many sensor technologies, is standardization. OEMs looking to deploy innovative IIoT solutions need to navigate an ever-growing list of connected technology to determine which solutions are compliant and which are best for integration into their ecosystem. This is no easy feat. Another more nebulous concern is how to use the data provided effectively. Collecting copious amounts of data is not challenging, but the magic lies in what that data means to the user, and even more importantly, to the manufacturer.

It’s vital for these interconnected devices and equipment to share performance data. While there are concerns to address, by taking a smart approach, manufacturers can successfully track performance–leading to better product performance.

Cory Vanderpool is business development director for Magnum Energy.

 



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