By Harry Kohal
The IoT is a topic that has been sensationalized while many times the articles don’t resonate with the “street level”. Building automation and factory automation systems have been using chip (processor) based computer technology for many years with, at first proprietary protocols, and now open standards such as BACnet and OPC. Hardware manufacturers have found a niche in producing devices that take the older disparate protocols and tie them together in a common protocol output, allowing more seamless communication in the buildings and factories. So you ask, “Who cares, and who has time to implement all this “stuff”!” Is this just another expensive way to make life more complex, or does it make life easier?
We still have factories using manual scheduling techniques, and BAS systems with few sensors
In analyzing this topic, I had a difficult time trying to see where this whole issue was headed. After all, we still have factories using manual scheduling techniques, and BAS systems with few sensors and users who have no idea what to do when an alarm triggers. We have facility managers who still have the default password on their BAS system. So where is this new technology going. There are always pioneers and laggards as some of the industry trackers will tell you. In this case, however, I foresee a whole new area that this technology can be applied, and that is at the product manufacturing level.
Where is this new technology going?
Companies producing complex machinery, boilers, production equipment; products sold and installed through distribution channels are ideal products to incorporate these computers. These little communication devices allow the tracking of time utilization, condition monitoring, and when interfaced to CMMS software in real-time, tracking of what maintenance should be done, what breakdowns occur, which parts are failing, or which conditions favor longer machine life become data that the original equipment manufacturer will get feedback on, where in the past, once sold, they have no further access to the product.
drive service revenue for the distributor
This approach can drive service revenue for the distributor, based on the CMMS interface to the processor, work can be scheduled and tracked, prolonging the life of the equipment through proper maintenance. The data captured will also be fed to the engineering group, giving them a unique insight to how the product is used and how well it is maintained. Instead of a CMMS system focusing on a facility or the production floor as whole, it allows a look at a product, model by model, across many customers.
the IoT relationship to real-time operations
The ability to understand the real-time operating environment based on data not only from the embedded computer, but integration to the CMMS yielding a mountain of product information can lead to better product design obviously, but it also ties the customer, the distributor and the manufacturer together as partners, something that was lost before the IoT. This relationship leads to stronger, longer lasting opportunities to sell parts, sell services, and control end-user satisfaction with the product or machinery the OEM produces. All this leads to better up-time, happier customers, and increased sales and profitability.
Optimize with CMMS integration
Warranties are no longer a shot in the dark, the warranty becomes dependent on planned maintenance as driven by the CMMS integration with real-time feedback on the actual timing of service. No one would think of buying an expensive car and not change the oil, but this happens to company property all the time. The idea of running until failure is a strategy that without data to support the process is flawed. CMMS integration to the product will allow the manufacturer as well as the user to optimize up-time without sacrificing production or utilization.
The IoT is nothing new
What is new is the improved cost and opportunities the integration of a computer into a product which typically had none will yield to the “street level”. Businesses will find new opportunities to connect with their customers where they had no link after the product was sold to the end user through distribution. Diagnostics, planned maintenance and part sales and utilization are among the positive things that linked to a CMMS will improve life and relationships into the future.
As a follow-up to this article I originally published in February 2017, it is interesting that there is a continued buzz about the IoT in September despite all of the events in the world.
Hundreds of millions of data points
The one issue I didn’t discuss in my original writing is the volumes of data and the skills needed to analyze the data which will be collected by field devices. There will be hundreds of millions of data points collected over time it will go into the trillions, and companies will need to decide what is important and when, as this data is collected. Much like an insurance company uses “underwriters”, companies that will be successful in the IoT world will employ people with skillsets that will be able to analyze the data collected and be able to present that information in a timely and concise manner to the right audiences. The IoT will provide more data than a company has potentially ever had to deal with. If it is analyzed and used correctly, it becomes a huge competitive advantage. If it is the wrong data, or not understood, or just collected and sits, it is a detriment to the organization.