People often see the Industrial Internet of Things in a narrow view, namely, the ability to increase efficiency, productivity and cost savings. While that is true, it is a limited list of benefits based upon one’s understanding of connectivity, data and information to influence behavior. There are several ways to lead organizational change, and it all depends on one’s role and how they view their role in the organization.
As an example, this month I attended a NORA (National Oil Recyclers Association) Environmental, Health & Safety workshop as a speaker. NORA represents the leading liquid recycling companies in used oil, antifreeze, oil filters & absorbents, parts cleaning, wastewater and chemicals. NORA’s primary mission has been aiding in the development of the EPA’s used oil management standards, including avoiding the damaging hazardous waste designation for used oil. This was not my typical audience for IoT discussions so I had to think about presenting information in a way that would be valuable for the audience. As such, I took away a lot from that preparation process and from my interactions with the attendees.
Again, the common theme is productivity in the process industry or discrete manufacturing, and the machines running smoothly and efficiently and overall productivity is the goal. However, there are many incidents where we are not moving from good productivity to better, we are looking at serious catastrophic events. Figures 1-4 illustrate that modern technology and measurement can avoid very serious issues related to pumps, fans and motors. Specifically, you can add continuous monitoring for bearing fault detection by measuring peak acceleration of the bearing as well as overall vibration, temperature, humidity on rotating machines. That continuous monitoring will provide the data and insight for 30-90 days to lead preemptive action ahead of unplanned maintenance. Realize we cannot all put in new machines, but rather need to implement these solutions as IIoT bolt-on additions to existing equipment. I would further argue that there is a need to monitor essential assets as a reliability program, not only the critical assets integrated into PLC or S
Figure 1: Pump Seal Leak resulting in a vapor cloud and fire.
Figure 2: Vibration study at a gas plant simulating the root cause in a weld break and release of compressed gas.
Figure 3 illustrates chronic lubrication failure causing repeat fires on a DDG dryer fan at an ethanol plant.
Figure 4 is a Biomass boiler where solids fuel silo blew its lid off. The cause was a failed bearing which ignited the explosive dust.
One area of commonality I found across every industrial company is that they want and need safety improvements, as fewer injuries leads to better productivity, lower costs and higher morale. The idea of embracing the measurement of productivity of manufacturing processes through the lens of safety and reliability is relatively new, but studies clearly show that as the OEE (operational equipment efficiency) goes up safety incidents go down as seen in the graph below. Machines often cause injuries when they malfunction, thus, proactive maintenance or further predictive maintenance is enabled by things like condition monitoring and bearing fault detection in rotating equipment like pumps, fans and motors.
Further studies also show that the largest single cause of plant incidents is mechanical failure. However, operators lack the feedback to know they are abusing the machinery. In the past, the technology needed to understand what was happening inside the machine continuously either wasn’t available or was cost prohibitive. A forward-thinking maintenance manager could utilize a vibration analyst or service technician with advanced diagnostics to determine root cause or keep the plant running on a point by point basis. Now today, with IIoT sensors and analytics, continuous condition monitoring is available in a cost-effective manner to have information flowing in real-time to further enhance productivity, efficiency, health and safety.
This last graphic illustrates how productivity, reliability and safety are related. The more predictive and automated an organization moves toward, the lower the maintenance costs, higher visibility and translates into worker safety.
This was illustrated with Paul O’Neill while CEO of Alcoa, where safety was his metric for success, well documented in Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit. Injuries were extremely high and his mantra was a zero-injury goal. Over his 13 years as CEO, Alcoa’s net income grew 5-fold. If an organization moves past cost savings and to a overall larger goal, the Industrial Internet of Things can only benefit us all.