Over the past two years, global energy and utility markets have witnessed significant volatility, resulting in price fluctuations, greater economic uncertainty and more regulation. In the wake of competitive pressures and tighter profit margins, pump and rotating equipment (PRE) manufacturers are looking to smart operating models that focus on the customer by enhancing user-experiences (UX) and creating sustainable value.
There is a growing realization that technology, in itself, is not the object nor the end, but the means to unlocking increased reliability and profitability. Industry leaders, working with technology service providers (SPs), are in the best position to digitize the product lifecycle.
Industry 4.0 offers a rich toolkit of proven methodologies, platforms and standards that provide a springboard to digital solutions. Foremost among these is the industrial internet of things (IIoT) technologies, which include smart-sensor mesh networks, wireless connectivity, localized fog (or edge) computing, predictive maintenance (PdM) routines, prescriptive AI analytics, blockchain and purpose-built cloud applications.
A study by IHS Markit shows significant growth in the number of IIoT-enabled nodes in compressor applications, centrifugal pumps and positive displacement pumps, and estimates a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 46.5 percent from 2016 to 2021. International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates more than 80 percent of IoT investment through 2020 will be on B2B applications and use cases.
Many pump manufacturers are implementing Industry 4.0 technologies, and in doing so bridge the digital divide between enterprise information technology (IT) and decentralized operation technology (OT) domains. From a manufacturing and services standpoint, the OT domain represents the new frontier for emerging transactional IIoT technologies. The distributed technologies of the OT domain fall into three camps:
- Smart Sensors: A mesh of embedded sensors and external sensor arrays that monitor the real-time location and condition of assets
- Smart Connectivity: Wireless local area network (LAN) and wide area network (WAN) communications over RFID/Bluetooth/Wi-Fi, and cellular/satellite/LPWAN, respectively
- Smart Gateways: Data collection, aggregation and routing devices capable of store-and-forward and performing localized analytics
Enhancing Design, Learning & Usage
Although the PRE industry is actively embracing digital transformation and adopting smart enterprise operations, what impact do these initiatives have on the natural evolution of products and services? Specifically, what if any benefits are being realized when it comes to knowledge acquisition, collaborative design, additive manufacturing, materials usage and environmentally sustainable practices? Well, as it so happens, a lot.
Disruptive innovations are continually emerging from within—and outside of—the PRE industry. These developments push the limits of how products are designed, fabricated, licensed and supported.
Here are 5 of the top IoT trends affecting the industry:
No. 1: Service
This development is referred to as the digital transformation of products in the service economy. The current list of Fortune 500 global companies is made up of more service firms and fewer manufacturers than in previous decades, and the products that are being produced have, on average, a higher service component than ever before. This is setting a lofty bar for performance, perceived value and usage. Companies that deliver on those expectations are more likely to edge out the competition.
The new service economy requires manufacturers to be agile and responsive. Asset value chains must be flexible, transparent and offer track and trace technologies that allow scalable growth and better absorb external shocks. Rapidly reconfiguring, retooling and recalibrating manufacturing line processes is predicated on asset management solutions that provide real-time granular visibility over materials and workflows.
No. 2: Smart Infrastructure
The development of smart cities (and the infrastructure, buildings and transportation systems they comprise) is on the rise. Globally, the smart infrastructure market is estimated between $2.8 trillion and $6.7 trillion.
Private and public projects that aim to expand the current infrastructure footprint, and develop new ones, will require a reciprocal investment in smart assets and services. That means more pipes, valves, pumps and other critical equipment, along with the smart-enabled software and services required to design, manage and maintain them.
Smart infrastructure is a host of IoT sensors, along with an ecosystem of interconnected people, things and systems that function in unison to streamline workflows. Every smart-enabled pump, valve, pipeline or filter is connected to other smart equipment, working within a holistic IoT network of assets and wireless communications gateways.
The goal is to orchestrate the secure flow of time-sensitive data to and from purposeful cloud apps. This enables site managers to quickly determine what is in operation, where it is and how it is functioning.
The IoT transforms maintenance from a collection of reactive remediation to a fluid proactive process. Predictive and prescriptive analytics can track a broad number of operation metrics to ensure equipment is performing at maximum efficiency, within safety tolerances. Threshold notifications, remote management and over-the-air (OTA) firmware updates foster safer, more productive operations with fewer truck-rolls, increased uptime and higher profitability.