By Grant Gerke, Contributing Editor
In my coverage of the manufacturing and process industries for the past 15 years, I’ve seen plenty of marketing buzzwords and campaigns come and go. Mechatronics, Sustainability, NextGen Manufacturing, Security 2.0 and, of course, Internet of Things (IoT) are just a few of the recent ones. However, IoT is truly a transformative change for manufacturing and, with it, maintenance and reliability.
This year, Maintenance Technology magazine will start leading our readers through the forest of buzzwords and content to deliver real insights into how your maintenance team can benefit from IoT technology. This bi-monthly column is the gateway to a steady stream of IoT content at maintenancetechnology.com/iot. Our online destination will include podcast interviews with subject-matter experts, application insights, video reviews, and content from leading experts.
IoT is nothing new for maintenance teams, with third-party services already playing a huge role in operations and, in turn, more connected machines and systems. Machine analytics made possible by ubiquitous sensors, robust networks, and standard interfaces create new opportunities and solutions for enterprises. This isn’t a marketing campaign for the next couple of years, it’s a structural change.
One example is remote vibration analysis for large enterprises as they try to consolidate resources across multiple plants. In a 2015 post on the Emerson Process Experts blog, Jim Cahill cited a power-producer application in which personnel “remotely monitored their rotating machinery to improve reliability and prevent disruption for their customers.”
A North American power company used Emerson’s machinery health monitors for critical machines in three different facilities and tied them back to its predictive-maintenance server. For non-critical machinery, the maintenance team uses portable analyzers to gather information (things) and then uploads the data to predictive-maintenance software. Using the tools, maintenance activities are performed jointly by specialists at the company and Emerson Process Management, St. Louis.
The solution allows plant and enterprise management, with accredited security credentials, to observe key indicators from a PC, smartphone, or tablet. Smart-alarm features are also included for critical equipment. “If vibration exceeds a predetermined alarm, then signature and waveform data are immediately saved for analysis,” according to the blog post. A yellow or red indication appears on a device’s screen and provides “specific points and parameters in the alarm.”
This is but one example of Internet of Things in action. Suppliers are just beginning to realize better ways to handle more data points in the factory or field.
Working on an article about a manufacturing standard for multinational companies a couple years ago, I stumbled across the “Internet of Things Strategic Research Roadmap,” produced by the IoT European Research Cluster.
This groundbreaking 50-page research paper provided a comprehensive and structural view of IoT in 2011, for manufacturing and consumer applications. It’s interesting that the paper includes a passage about the year 2015: “By 2015, wirelessly networked sensors in everything will form a new Web. But it will only be of value if the ‘terabyte torrent’ of data it generates can be collected, analyzed, and interpreted.”
As we can see, that torrent of data has arrived, and collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data is a major challenge. Big changes are never easy in any walk of life, but keep visiting maintenancetechnology.com/iot for vital IoT applications and insight. MT
Grant Gerke is a business writer and content marketer in the manufacturing, power, and renewable-energy space. He has 15 years of experience covering the industrial and field-automation areas and has witnessed major manufacturing developments in the oil and gas, food, beverage, and power industries.