Manufacturers are developing a larger role in creating, driving and selling intelligent pump systems.
by Anand Gnanamoorthy & Laurel Donoho, Frost & Sullivan

Kids usually master new technology quickly. They use Facebook, iPhones, iPads, Xboxes—all things digital. Common to all these devices and technologies is the integrated chip (IC). Pump users, on the other hand, have not been as quick to adopt this new technology.

Egyptians were the first to use pumps to hoist water from the Nile River for drinking and irrigating their fields. In fact, pumps started the industrial revolution. Thomas Savery developed the first commercial steam-powered device—a water pump. These quintessential machines survived through the years. If these divergent technologies were married, a technology disruption may occur.

Michio Kaku, theoretical physicist and futurist, says in his book, Physics of the Future, that every time the IC has entered a product, it revolutionized that industry. IC entered large, unwieldy telephones, and the market for smart phones exploded. IC entered cameras and digital cameras, turning the industry upside down. Industry stalwarts were caught off guard and are fighting to retain and revamp their business models and market approaches.

Integrating pumps produces new technologies. An important one of these is smart pumps, which can sense, think and then act on their own. Another offspring—wireless and remote communication—gives pumps the ability to communicate with other systems and be remotely controlled. Together, wireless and remote communications form machine-to-machine (M2M) communication.

While smart pump technology is not yet widely in use, M2M is slowly transforming the way end users interact with their pumps. Frost & Sullivan’s recent “North American Machine-to-Machine Software and Services Market” analysis and upcoming research on intelligent pumps provide a detailed evaluation of these technology trends, the impact on the pump market and the growth potential for pump manufacturers. This article discusses excerpts from those analyses on M2M and pumps.

M2M Communications

M2M is defined as the transfer of data from an electronic device that is mounted on an asset—such as a pump or compressor—through a wired or wireless communication network, connected to a software platform or a centralized control system that translates that information into useful data for the end user. Solution providers are constantly developing platforms to extract raw data from devices to create business insights for end users who want additional functionality from their existing connected devices.

Several key advantages are associated with using M2M. One is the remote monitoring of assets. Users can track critical process equipment in remote locations. This creates multiple cost and safety benefits because personnel do not have to go to the site for information. Additionally, some technology allows the customer to remotely control the asset, saving companies money on service management. From monitoring assets in the oil and gas industry to remote health monitoring in the health care industry, the benefits of adoption are clear.

Another advantage is the increase in operational excellence and improvement in process efficiency. Operational efficiency and process optimization are key contributors to the success of any organization. Using M2M, end users can collect, store and analyze key information and performance metrics that can help enhance process efficiency and reduce costs, which in turn increases operational excellence. Streamlining operations is achievable not only within the organization, but also in their extended supply chain, which in the current market scenario is extremely complex.

Evolution of M2M

As seen in Figure 1, the evolution of M2M technologies resulted in several end user verticals that saw the benefits of adoption. Many industries that traditionally used M2M technologies to monitor their distributed assets (such as equipment, workforce and operations) want to use the raw data to analyze key performance metrics, further enhancing the productivity of their assets at the site. As digitization continues, M2M will play a key part in enhancing visibility across the enterprise by gathering relevant data from almost any asset, converting that data into actionable insights and mapping the data with other business systems.

Figure 1. The evolution of M2M

In general, the process industries harbor tremendous potential for M2M. A quick review is included in this section.

Oil & Gas Industry

Oil and gas in particular offers the highest promise as end users try to integrate process equipment for system control to ensure maximum profitability. For example, an international oil and gas major would have resources—such as subsea wells in the Gulf of Mexico, oil producing wells in the Middle East, gas wells in Qatar, oil wells in the North Sea and shale gas wells in the U.S. These are closely integrated with control systems—such as distributed control system (DCS) or supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA)—which in turn are closely integrated with enterprise or business management systems, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP).

If the company determines that demand exists in Eastern Europe and more margins are to be made, then it might increase production in the North Sea while reducing production in the Gulf of Mexico. Conversely, if more demand for liquid natural gas (LNG) from Japan exists, it can increase gas production in Qatar. This integration helps them be agile and generate more profit based on rapidly changing market demand.