According to IHS Markit, half of Internet of Things (IoT) devices shipped globally by 2026 will be destined for the Asia–Pacific region. But connecting to the IoT doesn’t necessarily mean replacing all your machinery with these new devices, as it’s possible to connect your existing equipment. Here, John Young, Sales Director at automation parts supplier EU Automation, explains how retrofitting can maximise return on investment.
Industrial facilities often have a large array of machinery of varying ages as equipment is designed to last. Retrofitting machinery to have IoT capabilities is a cost-effective way of modernising legacy equipment, especially as the alternative is completely replacing the machine. With connectivity becoming increasingly important, it is time for legacy equipment to be brought up to date by retrofitting smart sensors onto older devices.
Benefits of retrofitting machinery
One useful capability that can be added by retrofitting machines with IoT smart sensors is condition monitoring. This allows a business to gain deep insight into the condition of its machines, allowing for greater understanding of what is happening on its production lines.
As well as condition monitoring, analysis of smart sensor data directly allows for two powerful abilities: continuous improvement loops and predictive maintenance. Manufacturers can perform data analysis that creates an overview of a plant, by comparing old, new and hypothetical production cycles. Using this overview can improve plant efficiency by fine-tuning the system as it works, creating a constant improvement loop.
For example, an annealing process requires metal rods to be heated in a furnace to a specific temperature. This is done by putting the metal on a conveyor belt that travels through the furnace. Placing a smart sensor on the conveyor belt motor lets the system compare the speed of the conveyor belt to the heat of the rods. In this way, the motor can fine-tune itself as it works, making sure that the metal rods are able to reach the correct temperature.
Over time, gathering this data allows for the creation of accurate machinery life cycles. Comparing the current status of machinery to overall life cycle models can predict when a component is likely to break down. Known as predictive maintenance, this is a cutting-edge method that streamlines maintenance and reduces downtime.
Accurately predicting what part of a machine is about to fail means that manufacturers can order parts when they need them. For example, if the furnace’s conveyor belt motor was operating at an unexpected speed, the smart sensor could notify the manufacturer that it was about to fail so that it could be replaced before a breakage. As such, having an industrial parts supplier that bases itself on providing fast and reliable delivery prevents extended downtime and cuts costs.
When to retrofit
New pieces of machinery may come with a smart sensor included. However, machines that are moving towards the latter part of their life cycle can still benefit from having smart sensors retrofitted. The sensor will be able to provide the information required to inform predictive maintenance, which can drastically reduce failure rates and can even prolong the life of the machine.
Retrofitting smart sensors to legacy equipment can bring great benefits to manufacturers because of the insights they can gain on their equipment. With the prediction of over half of IoT devices being shipped to the Asia–Pacific region by 2026, it is a trend that will drastically alter the manufacturing landscape in the region.
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