By Dave Perkon, Control Design technical editor
Over the past 100 years, industrial automation has consistently provided 4-5% yearly increases to operational
productivity. But industry has reached the point of diminishing returns from labor savings and machine-speed increases. The next logical step is to reduce—or completely eliminate—production downtime. Not surprisingly, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is playing a significant role through intuitive monitoring and predictive analysis specifically designed to improve overall processes.
At Rexnord, a $2 billion global industrial supplier of water management and control solutions, a new strategic initiative called DiRXN is digitally reshaping the company’s Process & Motion Control Platform offering. Rick Morse, vice president of digital solutions, shared lessons learned as Rexnord creates a new digital productivity platform based on the integration of innovative Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and e-commerce technologies with Rexnord's portfolio of tools, products and services during Smart Industry 2017.
"It's not just about the technology," said Morse. "There is fun tech that everyone is here to talk about, but you also have to change how people are doing things to unlock productivity."
"What one person can output today, in GDP terms, took more than 50 people at the turn of the last century," said Morse. "Productivity has come in many ways—people, processes and technology. But how do we take the next step when metal fatigues, catalysts erode and plastic degrades? There are mechanical and physical things in the world that must be dealt with. Things will fail."
A new approach
The approach to downtime is changing. "Smart cars tell you when the oil needs changed based on real data about the oil itself, not three months or 3,000 miles," said Morse. "However, the processes at the dealership have not changed in 20 years. An oil change still needs to be scheduled, so what is the advantage of the smart car, unless the other processes change? This is how our plants are."
Morse quoted Peter Drucker, who said, "If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.” This is continuing the evolution of productivity at Rexnord, Morse said. A digital productivity platform called DiRXN directs the company’s customers to the right digital tools, products and services that digitally connect to control systems, design, engineering & asset management software, and the IoT. “It changes how things are done,” Morse said.
Rexnord provides DiRXN in two streams. One is sets of tools it provides its customers to apply to their products to help to optimize and get better information. Another is products and services that connect with user manufacturing and business systems to optimize operations and asset management.
DiRXN includes four tiers, information, status, insight and enterprise. The information tier is the “who and where” that make a product easy to read, understand and replace. The status tier includes sensors connected to an edge device to provide monitoring and diagnostics. The insight tier can predict equipment failure. The enterprise tier helps to optimize asset utilization.
For example, the Rexnord V-Class IIoT Smart Gear Drive is an edge device that includes a smart tag with QR code and GPS functionality to provide product information and device location. Sensors measuring oil level, vibration and bearing temperature provide machine status. EthernNet/IP can connect to a PLC and user interface, and a separate Ethernet or cellular LTE connection can connect to the cloud to feed predictive maintenance and analytics applications.
"The oil degrades, and the gears will fail eventually," said Morse. "Instead of performing a vibration or oil analysis, which can be very costly, eliminate that with a smart device.” Rexnord and its customers are seeing real Industrial IoT value with reduced out-of-pocket maintenance expenses due to automatic oil sampling, analysis and reporting. “It is easier to determine and maintain the health of the gear drive because we are adding, at the factory, the smarts to understand what is going on at the root."
Rexnord’s customers are gaining a deeper understanding of unit utilization and capacity. "When you instrument the products, there are side effects to the information. The biggest is a great view of unit utilization," said Morse. "It's a piece of the puzzle the non-instrumented units didn't have. Real data, real time, is available. There is no more guessing."