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Why iOT is the key to successful Asset Maintenance

Prabhu Ekambaram

Industries whose core business revolves around their fixed and movable assets are focused primarily on increasing asset utilization, minimizing downtime and optimizing replacement while maintaining safety at all times.  Asset maintenance is thus especially important in industries like transit, utility, and construction where there is great emphasis on reliability and safety.

What is the future of predictive maintenance?

Organizations have evolved from Reactive Maintenance – “When it happens, you fix it” (or the more common “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”) – to Periodic Preventive Maintenance.  Periodic preventive maintenance is the most prevalent model because it relies on a set of policies and procedures and drives periodic inspections and servicing – thus determining further maintenance action.  In many instances, such as the transit and utility industries, this maintenance model is governed by federal and state mandates.

Proactive/Predictive Maintenance is the next step in this evolution.  But this model relies extensively on data gathering, analysis, as-designed, and as-measured comparisons to drive action.  All of that requires an already limited supply of skilled resources that needs to work within substantial time constraints and continue to operate cost-effectively.

Enter: The Internet of Things (iOT)

iOT Predictive Maintenance

Enterprises are finding ways to automate the collection and tracking of data that is directly read from assets.  This is basic iOT in action – systems can talk to the asset and the asset responds in the form of location, temperature, pressure, vibrations levels, miles, etc.  Data gathered electronically – either in real-time or in batch mode – can be automatically evaluated for deviation from specs.  This is the first step towards automating basic condition assessment.

iOT-based Tracking

Organizations that have a lot of movable assets expend substantial time and effort to track and record the location of their assets.  Geo-tracking sensors can be installed in an asset and a monitoring service can ping these sensors from the cloud in configurable intervals to know the exact asset location.  It will also provide an audit trail of all previous known locations of the asset.

iOT-based Monitoring

Monitoring can work with both fixed and movable assets. Using iOT sensors, asset condition can be monitored by collecting relevant data from sensors deployed on the asset.  Relevant data can include temperature, pressure, vibration levels, etc.  This monitored data can then be stored in the cloud, and algorithms can be built on top of this for proactive measures.

What can iOT really do?

Mere data collection that does not lead to concrete action is a waste of time, resources, and money.  Some sample scenarios and use cases:

iOT driven Asset Monitoring

Transit agencies can track movable kiosks, utilities can track trucks, and construction companies can track expensive equipment.  Location data obtained from movable assets over a specific time period can provide interesting insights for the business. For example, combining the route patterns with seasonal data can help predict the annual consumption patterns of that asset, which can further help forecast demand.

iOT in Transportation

iOT is helping with asset maintenance by reporting on vehicle health. Temperature, pressure, and other data are collected onboard on a light rail vehicle. This data is collected through a cell phone network by an iOT cloud framework.  Preliminary analysis of data shows that some of the parameters are outside specified tolerance parameters which are relayed ahead of time to the workshop, which can then make the necessary preparation ahead of time. The system can also be configured to automatically create a corrective/maintenance work order which can be issued to the appropriate department with a corresponding update to the back-end maintenance system. Everything from an oil change to a flat tire and everything in-between can now be part of automated reporting that allows your corporate teams to see vehicle needs from a desk and report those needs to field teams in real-time.

Overall, the benefits of iOT in transportation have been numerous. There has been a positive impact on safety and a reduction in potential breakdowns and accidents, and when accidents do happen, those smart sensors are also able to rapidly report an incident, which speeds up response times.

Smart technology is even benefitting routing as it cuts down on transportation times by avoiding road closures and poor conditions. And in regard to the user experience, some transportation agencies and businesses are using iOT to provide a customized experience with personalized automated updates via text and email.

iOT Use Cases for Utilities

For utilities, iOT is already making an impact when it comes to more efficient metering processes. Smart meters allow utilities the benefit of being able to read measurements remotely. This is saving utilities time and manpower as they can become more targeted in how they schedule in-person visits and inspections.

We have also seen great benefits when it comes to compliance and sustainability. Smart devices are not just reporting data, they are providing a faster and more efficient means to remotely operate and control output. This means that utilities can become smarter with energy efficiency – shutting off or slowing service during predicted downtimes and saving money by reducing waste.

Benefits of iOT in Construction

The benefits of iOT in construction have few limits right now. The technology is still in its infancy for the industry so new use cases are being developed every week. But one of the strongest uses we’ve seen so far is in monitoring material and equipment usage levels across all of your jobsites. One of the biggest headaches for construction companies is inventory management. When you place an incorrect order quantity the delay can cost thousands or even hundreds of thousands, depending on the scope of the job, as you wait for new orders to be placed and delivered. Sometimes an incorrect order can bring an entire job to a complete halt. The value of iOT for inventory management is invaluable because you’ve decreased the likelihood of human-based errors. When you’re able to connect everything, it allows for more accurate and exact data to be provided to your field teams when assessing future needs.

Another area that we have seen iOT making an impact is in identifying currently faulty equipment or predicting the performance of equipment or assets that are approaching the end of its lifespan. In the post-big-data age, construction companies are able to put a lifespan on equipment – certain thresholds can be set where you’re seeing a breakdown in performance, and with iOT we’ve seen the ability to track and monitor those thresholds to better predict replacements before it becomes a failure.

Connixt and iOT

There is any number of iOT use cases that provide immediate ROI and compliance across industries.  Connixt is now expanding its cloud-mobile offering to include its iOT framework within the Connixt Mobile Extension Framework (MXF™). Connixt’s initial iOT use cases are in the areas of Asset Tracking, Monitoring, and Maintenance. Connixt is working with partners and customers to deliver non-invasive, rapid deployment iOT solutions using the Connixt cloud-mobile suite comprising of MXF and the iMarq™ Mobile app. The Connixt iOT use applications integrate seamlessly with the standardized work, time, asset, and compliance solutions offered through the Connixt cloud-mobile suite to deliver actionable results.

And, in keeping with our vision of a product offering that isSmarter, Simpler, Faster, it results in smart results, simple adoption, and fast implementation.

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