The term Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming more common in business meetings, sales calls, industry conferences and commercial advertising. But what does it mean for the pumping industry, and how can it be leveraged for business improvements? The answer, simply put, is that there is no easy answer. The promise of connected devices, or IoT, is that an entire ecosystem works seamlessly through automated processes with limited intervention or manual input from traditional human users. The irony of this promise is that one single business entity rarely manages the entire ecosystem, so creating a connected system requires more involved collaboration and initial integration among suppliers and equipment than ever before. So is it worth it? Yes. Here are five ways:
- Pump manufacturers can make a better product.
What if 100 percent of the pumps manufactured by a pump original equipment manufacturer (OEM) were connected to the cloud? Imagine if the pump OEM could help end users troubleshoot and diagnose problems in the field without having to send a service technician on-site. What if real-time data existed to model and optimize failure modes and rates of components? With intelligent devices like sensors and variable frequency drives (VFDs) connected to a network, the data could be analyzed and used to better understand how pumps are being used and when or why they operate outside expected conditions. Pump manufacturers could use this data to understand trends, make more reliable pumps and predict market needs before they happen.
- Pump distributors can increase aftermarket sales.
One of the biggest challenges a pump distributor has is capturing incremental revenue through aftermarket sales. What if selling connected pumps and controls could solve that problem? Imagine a distributor sells a connected VFD installed on a pumping system. Throughout the life and operation of the pumping system, the VFD collects health data of the system and, through analytics, predicts that the pump is about to experience seal failure. An automated notification is sent to the end user with a warning that seal failure is imminent and an order for replacement parts is automatically placed to the distributor. The result is a benefit for the end user through increased uptime and increased revenue through aftermarket sales for the distributor.
- Service providers can create new ways to make money.
Service providers are particularly well positioned to take advantage of new revenue streams enabled by IoT. For example, with connected products, it will become much easier to proactively fix end user problems, possibly even before the users know there is a problem. This will strengthen the value for service providers already offering maintenance contracts and open the door for those who do not yet offer them. There are also large time savings to be found with connected products through increased awareness of what may need to be fixed. Because of the huge variability in problems that can arise, it is difficult to come to a site prepared to fix every problem. Connected products give the opportunity for service providers to come prepared on the first visit, saving valuable time.
- System integrators can save on labor costs.
For pump system integrators and service providers, labor is the leading driver of cost. Reducing labor time allows the service provider to accomplish more jobs in a day and increases labor efficiency, ultimately producing more profit margin upon the job’s completion. Pump systems that are powered by connected devices speed up installation, commissioning and troubleshooting of the system. Whether through intelligent sensors auto-tuning themselves to match the specific demands of the pumping system or connected technical support that offers step-by-step guidance through startup, maximizing labor savings leads to better, faster service for the end user and increased revenue and margins for the service provider.
- End users can reduce the total cost of ownership.
The end user is certainly not left out of this value discussion either. Downtime is one of the biggest challenges faced by end users today. IoT can reduce unplanned downtime through predicting failure of connected devices and their downstream components. Many of the previously mentioned benefits for other members of the value chain are also realized at the end user level. They will benefit from increased customer service, better quality products and better situational awareness of their operations.
The world of IoT is continuously growing and this is a quick look into some of the benefits that can, and will, be derived from it. This is truly an exciting time in this industry as there are already hundreds of examples of the positive impact IoT is bringing, and there will doubtless be benefits no one has yet thought of.