For the June handbook feature Smart Technology: It’s closer than you think, Fluid Power World asked several industry professionals for their opinions on how the Internet of Things (IoT) is affecting the industry and how their companies are incorporating this technology into their businesses. As a continuation of that article, here’s the full Q&A with Bimba Manufacturing’s Product Manager, Jeremy King.
FPW: Is your company actively researching IoT? Why or why not?
King: Bimba is already producing products for the IoT. The IoT is a great tool for helping customers improve the way they do business, from the manufacturing floor to the front office. By collecting data and providing insights into what the data means, suppliers can increase customers’ uptime, product quality and machine efficiency. Bimba has always worked to help customers meet these improvement goals. So the IoT is a great place for us to research new solutions.
FPW: Has your company developed any products, either for in-house use or distribution that implement IoT?
King: IntelliSense was released in the fall of 2014. This is Bimba’s first product designed for the IoT. IntelliSense is a platform that allows customers to remotely monitor Bimba products and receive insights on the current condition of the product that can be used to enhance uptime, product quality and machine efficiency.
FPW: What about “Big Data” and cloud-based software? What role do those play in your company, if any?
King: Big data is important to us. IntelliSense collects 2,002 data points per second from a single pneumatic actuator. Most machines have multiple cylinders. So generating big data is not that hard. What is important is what you do with the data. With Bimba’s years of experience designing and building actuators we know how they work better than anybody. This allows us to take that knowledge of our products and combine it with “Big Data” to provide real insights into how the actuator and system is performing. These insights are the real value of big data.
The cloud is becoming more important to business all the time. As software services continue to grow and customers become more comfortable putting their business data on the cloud they will start to see the value of moving manufacturing data there as well.
FPW: Are certain components better suited or more compatible with IoT?
King: I don’t think any one component is more compatible with the IoT. Someday all components will be connected to the IoT in some way. With IntelliSense we started with the philosophy that it’s not the component that is important but what that component does that matters. If the component is critical to the customer’s operations, it should be connected to the IoT so new insights can be derived that help improve the user’s experience with the components through increased efficiency, uptime and quality.
FPW: What areas of fluid power are you currently seeing the most significant changes from integrating IoT?
King: The Internet of Things is affecting everything. Most IoT products and services are currently focusing on uptime because it’s an easy place to start. If your automotive plant cost $22,000, every minute it is down it is easy to justify the investment in technology to help reduce that. Uptime is just the tip of the iceberg; once the technology is in place, people will begin to find new ways to use the insights from the equipment to improve all aspects of plant operations.
FPW: What do you think are the greatest advantages of integrating IoT? Are there any disadvantages?
King: There are so many advantages to integrating systems into IoT. It really depends on who is looking at the data. From our perspective as a component manufacturer, we now have our products telling us how they are being used and how they perform in a given situation. We no longer have to wait for a customer to report this data. In many cases we only hear about a product’s performance when something goes wrong. From the perspective of an OEM, IoT opens up many new business opportunities and allows them to differentiate on something besides prices. An MRO can increase up time through predictive analytics. These are just a few of the benefits.
The most common disadvantage we hear is the added cost. But if you are providing real insights that help people improve their business, the cost is easy to justify. If you just provide more data then there isn’t much benefit for the additional cost.
FPW: What aspect or prediction (for lack of a better word) about IoT do you think is overblown by the media?
King: I don’t feel the IoT is overblown by the media. There is potential for a lot of dramatic improvements to business operations. It might not happen as quickly or as easily as people think, but I think we will see all the promises met.
FPW: How do you foresee IoT affecting fluid power by the end of 2016? In 10 years?
When Bimba launched IntelliSense, one of our taglines was “Welcome to Pneumatics 2.0.” Fluid power has been used for centuries with only incremental changes over the years. IoT is going to alter the way people think about the equipment on the plant floor. 2016 will see slow adoption of IoT technology as different parts of the organization get comfortable with it.
In 10 years it will completely transform how people interact with machines. A great place to see the impact of IoT is agriculture. Whether is it smart tractors that help optimize planting and crop selection, grain bin sensors to reduce spoilage or pedometers for cows that help farmers influence the sex of calves, agriculture is a great place to see how IoT can transform industries. Similar things will happen in fluid power as more people turn Big Data into big insights.
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