How to leverage the industrial internet of things

Manufacturer provides smart-connected products that offer a way to monitor critical parameters of its customers' equipment.
Written by Bob Violino, Contributor

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The internet of things (IoT) can deliver benefits for companies in a variety of industries: Retail, healthcare, logistics/supply chain, etc. In the manufacturing sector, it's the industrial internet of things (IIoT) that's garnering lots of attention in terms of potential value.

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IIoT incorporates big data/analytics and machine learning technologies to glean insights from data gathered from production equipment, products, and sensors in industrial settings. Manufacturers can use the data to discover inefficiencies, cut costs, and improve customer service. IIoT can provide better quality control, more efficient supply chains, and sustainability.

One company that's banking on IIoT is Rexnord Corp., which has a Process and Motion Control (PMC) platform that designs, manufactures, and services highly engineered mechanical components used within complex systems, where customer reliability requirements and the cost of failure or downtime are extremely high.

The company's bearings, couplings, and gears are used at facilities such as power plants and mining operations, and its conveyer components help customers in manufacturing make everything from cars to food.

SEE: The rise of industrial IoT (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

Rexnord provides a range of smart-connected products that offer a way to monitor critical parameters of its customers' equipment, providing operational analytics that help them improve the performance of their systems and anticipate the failure of key components. That way they can prolong the useful life of equipment and avoid catastrophic failures that result in costly unplanned production downtime.

Earlier this year, the company began using the IoTium Edge-Cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service offering from IoTium Inc., to support rapid and scalable deployment of IIoT by connecting legacy machinery to the cloud. This provides rapid access to data analysis and insights, combined with the benefits of remote asset management for preventive maintenance and predictive analysis.

The diverse deployment and critical nature of its products made it imperative for Rexnord to find a maintenance platform that could be implemented in a scalable way, said Rick Morse, vice president of digital solutions for Rexnord's PMC business.

Read also: 17 ways the Internet of Things is changing the world (TechRepublic)

The IoTium service solves the fundamental industrial connectivity problem of brownfield environments, giving Rexnord secure, remote connectivity, and the ability to deploy edge computing. It provides the ability to securely manage a growing global installed base of networked devices, while ensuring that customers' information is secure.

Rexnord can now connect legacy machines -- running in facilities such as power plants, mining operations, wind farms, food manufacturing plants, and aerospace and automotive manufacturing plants -- to the cloud so it can easily manage all of these machines and remotely pull critical data for real-time data analysis and insights.

A major benefit is the remote access of information. For example, in a conventional mining scenario, there are many physical locations operations personnel have to manually go to get information and compile data. With remote access, mining operators can save significant time in collecting data that helps them operate more efficiently. They can obtain more accurate, timely information that could help improve business results, and they can reduce risk to personnel who no longer need to go into hazardous environments to manage assets.

In the past, Rexnord was never able to offer its customers an efficient way to access their mechanical power transmission assets to collect data to perform preventive maintenance.

The company is still in the early stages of applying IoTium's technology to its products, Morse said, but it's clear that IIoT will be central to Rexnord's future operations.

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"Our customers have confirmed to us they improve their productivity from the capabilities we provide to them via our IIoT-smart products," Morse said. "Specifically, our customers have realized business-impacting results from extended mean-time-between-failure, shortened mean-time-to-replace, and optimized asset management."

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