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Optimizing the Performance of Your Assets

What role does the machine builder play in optimizing the ongoing operation of industrial machinery? Perhaps not enough.

John Kowal, Marketing Director, B&R Industrial Automation
John Kowal, Marketing Director, B&R Industrial Automation

No one knows a piece of equipment as well as the people who designed, built, tested, and commissioned it. No one understands what can go wrong and what can be done to prevent issues better than the OEM technicians who’ve done the troubleshooting on that kind of equipment.

Yet, all too often, once a machine is accepted, the OEM never sees it again unless spare parts or service are required.

A win-win would be an ongoing relationship in which the end user gets the highest possible productivity and lowest unplanned downtime from an asset without investing in additional staff skills, and the OEM generates a cost-justified, ongoing revenue stream for performing preventive/predictive maintenance services.

IIoT provides the means to monitor machines in the field and evaluate their performance. Factors such as overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), throughputs, uptime versus downtime, energy consumption, and any other key performance indicators (KPIs) can be constantly monitored and analyzed remotely by the OEM using secure cloud services.

Cloud: more comprehensive than remote access

A cloud solution can provide in-depth information about the condition and performance of the machine, identify patterns and recurring incidents, and target areas for improvement. This is distinct from conventional remote access, which only shows what can be seen on the machine’s human-machine interface (HMI).

B&R provides hardware and software that makes it easy to integrate these capabilities into a machine’s control system. Called the Asset Performance Monitor, it is a cloud application that collects machine data around the clock, prepares it and displays it in a clearly organized, easily configured dashboard. It allows OEMs to keep track of their installed machines at any time and from anywhere.

When machine builders are able to see KPIs across a fleet of assets, they can more effectively compare and evaluate an entire class of machinery, implement recommended best operating practices, make design changes where necessary, and offer retrofits and upgrades to enhance performance.


Supporting new business models

Asset performance monitoring enables new business models, such as service level agreements and customized maintenance programs. OEMs can tailor service intervals based on how heavily an asset is actually being used. They can offer energy and condition monitoring as a service, including processing of consumption data and alarm displays. With B&R’s mapp (modular application) technology, machine builders no longer need to develop and maintain these functionalities in-house. Instead, they simply implement and configure the mapp software components.

The Asset Performance Monitor cloud solution is based on the ABB Ability platform, a unified, cross-industry offering of digital solutions from B&R’s parent company, ABB. Microsoft Azure functions as the infrastructure for the ABB Ability platform, assuring reliable global access to all ABB Ability services. The system is fully scalable, whether the machine builder needs to connect to just a handful of machines in the field or thousands.

This is the power of IIoT as it begins to come into practical, commercialized, every day application.


Protecting data security and integrity

Local data regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe, are readily integrated into the Asset Performance Monitor because ABB Ability takes these legal requirements into account. The latest encryption algorithms, protocols, and technologies are used and constantly being upgraded for data security—a critical concern of users. To maintain this level of security in-house, machine builders would need to make considerable investments in a domain that is not their core business. This out-of-the-box solution protects the security and integrity of the data and allows them to focus on optimizing machine performance.

For the cloud application to collect data, the machine or production line must be connected to an edge device, which can be a simple industrial PC. The edge device receives data from the machine controller via the OPC UA communications standard and passes it on to the cloud using the MQTT protocol. The edge device automatically establishes a connection to the ABB Ability cloud and installs the necessary software.

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