Smart Industry: Is completely eliminating downtime a reality for most manufacturers?
Rick: It depends on the value of the utilized capital investments required by the manufacturer’s industry. It was argued, once upon a time, that airplanes could not be made to eliminate failures in the air, but we have come a long way toward that goal. In the real world, there will always be entropy and decay of mechanical parts, especially those that rub or roll against each other. There will always be downtime for repair and replacement due to mechanical wear. But, if managed, this downtime will not be unplanned, unexpected or unnecessary.
Smart Industry: Is this reduction of downtime the greatest selling point for the IIoT?
Rick: Industrial users of automation have spent the last 120 years getting an average of 4-5% productivity through the application of machines to either eliminate people, waste or material costs. The last 50-60 years has been through the application of electronics and computers to control machines and increase either repeatability or duration of operation. This has maximized the utilization of the capital assets such as the buildings and machines themselves, but suffered from fragile and constantly changing electronics. The last 20-30 years has seen great improvement in the durability of the electronics and computer-based systems with the advent of standard PLC and DCS solutions. These durable electronics have shifted the pareto of reasons for downtime back to the failure of mechanical elements in the machines. As the primary reasons for productivity-increase have shifted from scrap-reduction, material used, workforce and improvement in reliability of electronics, it leaves unwanted downtime as a prime opportunity for creating the 4-5% improvement.
Smart Industry: What is one of the hardest lessons learned in the process of creating your digital-productivity platform?
Rick: The most difficult thing to grasp is the fact that it is a platform of products and services that are required to mitigate the risk of unwanted downtime. Just installing a widget does not create an ecosystem of communications and operations infrastructure that is required to unlock productivity. The next (difficult) element is addressing the changes in process and culture to use the information to do things differently and gain productivity. What value is it to have your smart car alert you to low tire pressure if you drive it until the tires go flat?