Over the past two years, global energy and utility markets have experienced significant volatility, resulting in price volatility, greater economic uncertainty, and more regulation. As a result of competitive pressures and tighter margins, manufacturers of pumps and rotating equipment (PRE) are looking for intelligent operating models that put the customer first by improving the user experience (UX) and creating sustainable value.
There is a growing recognition that technology is neither the end nor the goal but the means to achieve excellent reliability and profitability. Industry leaders who partner with technology service providers are in the best position to digitize the product lifecycle.
Industry 4.0 offers a rich toolkit of proven methods, platforms, and standards, providing a springboard for digital solutions. Foremost among these is the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), which includes intelligent sensor networks, wireless connectivity, localized fog computing (or edge computing), predictive maintenance routines, prescriptive AI analytics, blockchain, and purpose-built cloud applications.
A study by IHS Markit shows a significant growth in the number of IIoT-enabled nodes in compressor applications, centrifugal pumps, and positive displacement pumps, growing at an annual rate of 46.5 percent from 2016 to 2021. In addition, the International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates that more than 80% of IoT investments will be in B2B applications and use cases by 2020.
Many pump manufacturers are deploying Industries 4.0 technologies, bridging the digital divide between enterprise information technology (IT) and distributed operations technology (OT). From a manufacturing and services perspective, the OT domain represents the new frontier for emerging transactional IIoT technologies. The distributed technologies in the OT domain can be divided into three groups:
- Intelligent sensors: A network of embedded sensors and external sensor arrays that monitor the location and condition of assets
- Intelligent connectivity: Wireless local area network (LAN) and vast area network (WAN) via RFID/Bluetooth/Wi-Fi or cellular/satellite/LPWAN
- Intelligent gateways: data collection, aggregation, and routing devices capable of storing and routing data and performing localized analytics
Robust Design, Learning & Usage
Although the PRE industry is actively driving digital transformation and the adoption of intelligent business processes, what impact do these initiatives have on the natural evolution of products and services? Specifically, what are the benefits of knowledge acquisition, collaborative design, additive manufacturing, materials use, and environmentally sustainable practices? There’s a lot.
Breakthrough innovations continue to emerge within – and outside – the PRE industry. These developments push how products are designed, manufactured, licensed, and supported.
Top Five IoT Trends that are Revolutionizing the Pump Sector
This development is called the digital transformation of products in the service economy. The current list of Fortune 500 companies worldwide comprises more service companies and fewer manufacturers than in previous decades, and manufactured products have a higher average service content than ever before. Services This sets the bar very high for performance, perceived value, and usage. Companies that meet these expectations are more likely to prevail over their competitors.
The new service economy demands agility and responsiveness from manufacturers. Value chains must be flexible and transparent and provide track and trace technologies that enable scalable growth and better absorb external shocks. In addition, rapid reconfiguration, retooling, and recalibration of manufacturing processes require asset management solutions that provide granular, real-time visibility into materials and workflows.
The development of smart cities (and their associated infrastructure, buildings, and transportation systems) is on the rise. As a result, the intelligent infrastructure market is estimated at $2.8 trillion to $6.7 trillion globally.
Private and public projects that aim to expand current infrastructure and develop new ones require reciprocal investments in smart assets and services. That means more pipes, valves, pumps, and other critical equipment and the intelligent software and services needed to design, manage and maintain them.
Smart infrastructures comprise many IoT sensors and an ecosystem of interconnected people, things, and systems that optimize workflows. For example, every innovative pump, valve, pipe, and filter is connected to other smart devices and operates in a holistic IoT network of assets and wireless communication gateways.
The goal is to orchestrate the secure flow of time-sensitive data to and from targeted cloud applications. It allows site managers to quickly determine what’s up, where, and how it’s performing.
The IoT transforms maintenance from a collection of reactive remedies to a fluid proactive process. Predictive and prescriptive analytics can track various operational metrics to ensure assets operate efficiently and within safety tolerances. In addition, threshold notifications, remote management, and over-the-air (OTA) firmware updates promote safer, more productive operations with fewer truck failures, longer uptime, and increased profitability.
Another added value of smart infrastructure is the real-time visibility it provides. For example, IoT sensors can be configured to show the position and movement of connected devices in 3D space. This helps prevent theft, tampering, and unauthorized use of high-value mobile assets.
Although commercial 3D printing technology is relatively new, procurement and material costs continue to drop. Moreover, the technology can outperform traditional die casting, turning, injection molding, and even multi-axis CNC manufacturing processes in certain use cases, especially for short runs requiring complex geometries.
According to a recent study by PwC (also known as PricewaterhouseCoopers), more than two-thirds of U.S. manufacturers have adopted 3D printing, with 51 percent using it for prototyping and manufacturing. The rest are testing the technology for future design and manufacturing. Analyst firm Canalys projects that the global market for 3D printing materials and services will grow to $20.2 billion.
The benefits of 3D printing technology go beyond economies of scale and lower unit costs. The real value of this technology is that it disrupts just-in-time manufacturing, inventory planning, and supply chain operations. But questions remain: how and where will inventory be stored? Where will products be manufactured? Do we get to witness 3D printing infrastructure and the use of drones? How will intellectual property rights be managed or protected? How will the relationship between B2B and B2C customers change?
Huge cost remains an obstacle for larger manufacturing applications, and except for 3D printers at the high end of the price scale, quality needs to improve. The common misconception that every printed part is identical to the next persists. There can be significant variations between samples. It adds to the cost and complexity, as 3D printing requires a corresponding investment for critical or high-value applications. As a result, most manufacturers of PRE are taking a wait-and-see approach.
Blockchain & Security
Blockchain technology features robust data, security, and transparency. A distributed database replicated across the blockchain eliminates single points of failure and ensures record integrity. Therefore, changing a record is not possible. In addition, the blockchain enables permissive or public access in real-time, allowing all authorized parties to view and sanction the ledger.
Blockchain is more than a technology. It is a movement that is changing the way transactions are processed. It rapidly gains traction outside the tech industry and drives innovation in discrete and procedural circles. It enables smart contracts between suppliers, manufacturers, retailers, and customers. It also virtually eliminates counterfeit inventory and products through the chain of custody mechanism.
Virtualized UX technologies
Virtualized UX technologies are becoming increasingly popular in the commercial sector. A digital twin, or virtual double, is a 3D digital representation of an intelligent physical asset and gives a window into how that asset operates.
Remotely controlled pumps, pipelines, and other infrastructure assets can be equipped with embedded sensors and telematics modules to transmit real-time data to AI cloud analytics. Remote assets can be easily managed from anywhere by those in charge of the pumps. The goal is for designers to conceptualize, model, manufacture and validate their designs using an integrated system that includes specialized inventory, BOM, and CAD /CAM software applications. The result will be a unified design experience representing a transformation of design and operations functions.
On-site operations managers, maintenance technicians, and leasing companies can visualize and manipulate remotely controlled high-value assets anywhere in 3D space.
A Path to Modernizing Pump Industry
Private and public sector companies are digitally transforming their operations and modernizing how they generate, transmit, and use information across their supply chains. As a result, all industries, from agriculture to utilities, can benefit from efficiency, productivity, capacity, and resilience gains. In addition, an integrated value chain that fosters stakeholder collaboration and streamlines workflows leads to better decision-making and balanced policies and provides a hedge against global uncertainties.
Advanced CAD /CAM modeling, robotics, and cloud AI technologies are more prominent in internal design, validation, and manufacturing functions. Most high-end PRE vessels have some built-in sensor and wireless communication technology. The Internet of Things allows operations managers to determine the operational status of a single pump or a series of pumps from virtually anywhere. By collecting measurement data over time, prescriptive analytics can provide insight into plant performance and accurately assess the likelihood of damage or failure.
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