Predictive Maintenance in Industry 4.0—Is Retrofitting the Way Forward?

In the words of Gary Coleman, Global Industry and Senior Client Advisor, Deloitte Consulting,”The Fourth Industrial Revolution is still in its nascent state. But with the swift pace of change and disruption to business and society, the time to join in is now.” The time has come to realize Industry 4.0 is much more than a mere buzzword. As industrial markets are asset-intensive, the key priority of Industry 4.0 is managing and tracking assets coupled with an increasing focus on predictive maintenance. Interestingly, according to recent research, the predictive maintenance market is all set to grow to USD 4,940 million by 2021 from USD 1,403 million in 2016.

Research also concludes that Industry 4.0 will open new growth opportunities for advanced asset tracking and production technologies. The new asset management solutions will help manufacturers to ensure high standards in product lifecycle management (PLM) across supply chains. Key objectives which will lead to the adoption of these solutions include prevention of asset failure, robust asset performance, and lower downtime of assets. A predictive maintenance approach can identify the true asset maintenance needs. It is useful in industries where the bottom-line is driven by uptime of critical assets.

When two forces work together?

What is the outcome if predictive maintenance is combined with IoT? The maintenance cost of factory equipment will come down by 10-40 % and equipment downtime will be lowered by up to 50%. The business case for using IoT in asset-intensive industries is clear and simple. Small percentage increases in availability, throughput and reduced costs give rise to large cost savings since the output in these industries is measured in millions. Let’s look at the three key steps for successful IoT-based asset tracking:

Embracing the cloud: The cloud offers high degree of agility in remotely collecting data from any mobile asset. It is one of the most cost-effective ways to execute asset tracking.
Gathering real-time data: For successful asset tracking, it is imperative for enterprises to collect high-volume on-the-fly data for processing and analyzing in real-time. Enterprises will realize the benefit of IoT when they collect, sort, and try to make sense of the data which is being collected from different sources. 
Embracing integration: Businesses need to ensure that the IoT devices are seamlessly integrated into the wider enterprise, with the asset tracking devices in particular.

When retrofitting is the answer

Deploying a new IoT-enabled device can be a cost-intensive proposition for enterprises who have already invested significantly in equipment which they expect to last at least 7-10 years. However, the equipment may be years away from the end of its lifespan. The answer to this lies in retrofitting which allows implementation of IoT using legacy equipment. This enables businesses to keep pace with changing consumer needs without investing in new equipment. Retrofitting intelligent and connected sensors to the existing equipment is a practical thought. It enables functionalities such as analytics-driven performance enhancement and remote asset management. Further, predictive maintenance approach which minimizes unscheduled downtime and ensures optimal asset performance is also central to a retrofitting initiative. 
Talking about the potential market of retrofitting, there is huge scope. The question is who are the players that can, will or should harness it—companies that are tier II or t III engineering solutions providers (typically the outsourcing services firms) and OEMs (as an upgrade to their product releases). Often, OEMs provide software upgrades to their product releases (which is aftersales support). It is important to understand that there is a hairline difference between retrofitting and aftersales.

Food for thought

Despite the huge scope, retrofitting is a short-term solution which can bring services to life. This temporary shift will last for almost a decade and we will witness older equipment being enabled with IoT. This will, however, pose a threat to the dominance of OEMs as the market develops. How do you think OEMs will secure their position so that they can continue to dominate?