Emergence of Smart Asset Management with IoT
Sacheen Patil traces the possibilities and benefits of smart asset management in the IoT era
Internet of Things
Let me describe a place to you. This is a huge area which is extremely clean – no dust to be seen anywhere. The PVC flooring is spotless. People are walking around in blue uniforms and there is absolute silence everywhere. There are multiple rows of machine cabinets and the monitors between them are displaying lots of data. There are a few indicator lamps which flash red or green. There is some humming sound of machines. What do you think it is? Possibly a hospital? Would you believe if I tell you that what I just described is the factory hall of Siemens Plant in Germany? That’s right – this factory manufactures PLCs (programmable logic controls) at the rate of 12 million products per year, at the rate of one unit per second. Siemens has been able to achieve this through automatic manufacturing. 75% of the value chain at this plant is handled through automation. Using over 1,000 automation controllers, the end-to-end production line has been automated. Through optimised and IT-controlled processes, the plant has achieved minimal failure rate. Over 50 million pieces of process information are generated and analysed in this plant to trace the entire life-cycle of each of every unit.
That’s the power of IoT and smart asset management. IoT is not just a buzzword today – Using IoT, industries such as manufacturing have been able to lower their costs, optimise the production, enable faster communication, enhance their plant automation, and do remote monitoring and analytics of their assets.
According to Business Insider, global manufacturers will invest $70 billion in IoT solutions in 2020. (Only highlight, not in article)
What is Asset Management?
As you might be knowing, the asset-intensive industries such as manufacturing, transportation, heavy machinery, oil and gas, industrial machinery, etc., invest billions of dollars in their assets. Monitoring and analysing these assets to maintain the asset health and keep a track of inventory is very challenging and expensive. I have seen that because of the lack of visibility of their assets, these industries are not able to track the RoA (Return on Assets). To be able to achieve optimal RoA, these companies need to monitor their assets, know what work each asset is doing, how much each asset is utilised, and the lifetime value of the asset. On the other hand, OEMs are interested in monitoring the customer data and understanding how the customers are using the assets so that they can improve the customer experience.
Traditional Approach to Asset Management
Some 15 years ago, during my interactions with business leaders and asset operators, I saw them using separate technology solutions for their specific needs of asset management. Even today, there are some solutions which track the assets using RFID solutions, bar-code, or GPS solutions. Traditionally, M2M systems have been used for asset or process control. All such systems are used for managing the assets, understanding the health of the assets, planning of maintenance, tracking locations of the assets, etc. However, such technologies focus on specific aspects and work in isolation and address some very specific business requirements. A common complaint which I have been hearing from business leaders is that these technologies do not offer a cohesive solution for end-to-end needs of all the stakeholders.
IoT-Enabled Asset Management and Remote Monitoring
IoT-enabled smart asset monitoring and analytics solutions leverage web, analytics, and wireless to combine all the traditional solutions, processes, assets, and workflows into a single solution to offer a centralised consolidated tracking and monitoring and analytics system. These systems provide anytime, anywhere access and any device connectivity with enormous scalability and effective IT-OT integration.
Apart from offering the intelligence on how the assets are doing, the smart asset management and remote monitoring and analytics solutions also offer useful insights from machine data, help in predictive maintenance, help in making the automated workflows more intelligent, and provide real-time visibility on all the important aspects to the stakeholders.
Benefits of Smart Asset Management
Through dynamic and automated asset monitoring and tracking, organisations can get real-time data using smart sensors and devices, and gain real-time visibility into the operational status. This enables them to quickly respond to various conditions. The key benefits include:
Centralised Monitoring and Performance Assessment
Irrespective of the physical locations of the assets, smart asset management enables monitoring of their performance through a centralised location with anytime, anywhere access using a single dashboard which tracks and analyses various performance parameters of each asset.
For one of my earlier clients, we had built and created value through an integrated sensor to cloud IoT solution. The solution was deployed through 'SaaS' (software as a Service) subscription model with a best combination of CAPEX and OPEX. The objective of the solution was to help them remotely monitor and analyse a large number of generators located at different geographical locations. The solution monitored important parameters such as engine oil pressure, engine temperature, fuel levels, DG run hours, etc., for thousands of generators and offered near real-time analysis, reports, and alerts. The OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) monitoring and analytics helped in Decision Support System. Using this solution, the engineers, technicians, supervisors, plant in-charge could monitor, manage, and control thousands of generators from a single location – it helped them increase the on-time performance, enable efficient maintenance of the generators, reduce operating costs, and effective disaster control.
The same solution which was used by the OEM was later on used by facilities management for remote monitoring and analytics for large number of generators along with other utility equipment and linkage to energy efficiency monitoring and analytics. It was also useful for connected supply chain for lease management, dealer management and warranty management.
Interestingly, in this particular solution, the scope further extended to IoT-enabled ‘Generator as a Service’ for multi-variant, multi-make and multi-configurations for different type of applications.
Spare Part Management
If you have ever been to Sweden, you will notice thousands of acres of farms and hardly any person to monitor those. That might make you wonder who is managing the farms, the cattle, the machinery, etc., on the farm. The answer is – technology. The farms there are wired up (over wireless) through sensors and tracking devices. The sensors keep track of the machines, their performance, maintenance, etc., and send data to a centralised system with an efficient role-based authentication. The ‘sensor to cloud’ IoT enabled ‘IT-OT integrated’ Intelligent tracking solutions help in monitoring and analysis of critical parameters in dairy farm equipment like vacuum pressure, pulsation pressure, pulsation frequency, temperature and other critical parameters. This analysis further helps in optimum ‘asset management’ and ‘inventory management’ and ‘IT-OT integration’ where the system analyses the data and automatically manages the integrated spare parts procurement and dispatch as per the need – so when the field engineers visit the farms for machine maintenance, they don’t need to waste their time waiting for the new spare part to arrive – the system has already got it delivered!
Smart asset management solutions not only help in asset monitoring and analytics but can also help in controlling of the system in response to specific conditions as well as condition based maintenance and early warning alerts. These solutions can facilitate shutting on or off certain equipment to avoid production issues or minimise wastages.
It is impossible to have manual monitoring of the assets at various sites 24/7. How to get alarms for critical situations such as when the machines have low fuel levels, machine temperature goes higher than the allowed limit, the engine speed is not optimal, other physical irregularities like fuel theft? How to get updated when a machine is not performing at its optimal performance or a particular spare part needs repair or replacement?
Smart asset management solutions make it easy by raising alarms in case any anomalies are detected. Quick restoration can then be achieved through automation or through manual intervention. Also, the early warning alerts help for corrective action or specific decision support. The early warning alerts or the real time alerts can also be linked with the integrated supply chain management for effective optimisation.
Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) Optimisation
OEE, as we all know, is one of the key manufacturing metrics for measuring the true productivity and efficiency of a manufacturing unit and in turn help for decision support to minimise the losses. Using IoT technology, manufacturers have started monitoring and analysing the three key aspects: quality, availability, and performance of the machines – automatically, in real-time.
Now you won’t see workers going to the machines to note down the readings on a piece of paper and later entering those numbers into an Excel spreadsheet for further analysis. The shop floor managers and the manufacturers – sitting in their offices far away from the plant – can now observe the OEE in real-time! They are able to view and analyse data for a particular shift, a particular day, any particular week, month or even for bench-marking of one machine to the other or one section to another.
As we see through many such examples, IoT enabled ‘Smart Asset Management’ helps forward-thinking enterprises benefit from the highly-connected world and reduces their cost of operations, increases customer satisfaction, and enhances the business performance.
Sacheen Patil is Vice President-Business Development @ IT Services & Solutions Company. He may be reached via email: email@example.com
Pix1: The power of IoT and smart asset management.
Pix2: The Siemens Amberg factory already combines the real and virtual worlds: Products communicate with machines, and all production processes are optimally integrated and controlled via IT. Photo: Siemens
Pix3: The ground-breaking Hands Free Hectare (HFHa), run by Harper Adams University and Precision Decisions, which aimed to be the first in the world to plant, tend and harvest a crop with only autonomous vehicles and drones, has come to an end after a successful harvest. Photo: Hands Free Hectare
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