Two automation vendors – ABB and Schneider Electric – have conducted independent studies to determine whether plants are moving to the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve their operations. In both cases, the survey data was intended to see what companies were already engaged in rolling out IoT systems and what companies were planning to roll out in the coming months. Both companies have recently released reports showing that IoT investment is not a trend on the horizon but rather a technology that has already arrived.
In a global survey of more than 200 executives at electricity, gas, and water utilities, ABB found that 58% of respondents either have a strategy or are actively planning a strategy to leverage the IoT for asset management. The survey showed interest in the IoT is growing: 55% reported the importance of using connectivity to improve asset management has increased over the past 12 months.
ABB’s survey also revealed that executives want plant data distributed through the organizations. They expressed the need to bring together once disparate technologies and systems to better understand their increasingly complex asset base and share those insights with the people across the organization, in order to improve planning, productivity, and safety.
Respondents articulated numerous benefits of integrating the IoT into asset management operations. On a scale of one to five, they ranked better long-term planning (4.86) as the highest priority. Other benefits that ranked high included increased staff productivity (4.43), improved safety (3.98), and better use of capital (3.68).
The Schneider Electric study also examined the IoT technology from an asset management point of view. Schneider conducted more than 2,500 interviews with decision makers at companies with 100 or more employees. The interviews spanned 12 development countries in North America, Europe, and Asia.
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Schneider’s study found that IoT delivers value in both asset availability and performance. Respondents agreed that through predictive analytics, mission-critical machinery can operate continuously, avoiding costly shutdowns. Respondents also believe that equipment can run more efficiently, use less power, and perform within specifications to extend product life through the use of connectivity.
Like ABB, Schneider also looked at some energy plants to validate the deployment of IoT. Schneider’s report noted that a major power utility in the US is experiencing great success using IoT-enabled software to enhance asset performance through condition monitoring and predictive analytics. With sensors on critical equipment throughout its operations, the utility has been able to translate data (such as temperature change patterns) into actionable information, preventing downtime and saving millions.
Schneider included recommendations for deploying IoT projects:
- Start small with pilot projects and stay focused.
- Evaluate ROI before broadening project scope.
- Make early strides with energy efficiency projects.
- Integrate asset monitoring and management projects.
- Move to comprehensive asset coverage within a dynamic network.
[image via ABB]
Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 15 years, 12 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.