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Advanced Features and Increasing Customer Demands Have Pushed Intelligent Pumps to Evolve Into Smart Pumps
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This study dives into the benefits of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology incorporated into pumps. Intelligent pumps started off with integrating Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs) and controllers to pumps in order to conserve energy, monitor the performance, control the speed, and measure a few parameters by adding sensors to the equipment. However, its capability is quite limited. With increased customer demand to include advanced capabilities that could translate normal data into more meaningful action, intelligent pumps are in the process of evolving into smart pumps. With IIoT, advanced features as such predictive maintenance, remote monitoring, digital twin technology, artificial intelligence and Virtual Reality (VR)/Augmented Reality (AR) end users will be able to greatly benefit in the next decade. The impact of smart pumps in end-user industries such water and wastewater, Oil and Gas (O&G), chemicals, pharmaceuticals, building services, and food and beverage have been discussed. Perspectives from major participants have also been included in this study.To understand the present scenario in the pumps market, it becomes necessary to know about the transformation of end-user industries. Lack of investment for new projects, especially in O&G, mining, and other commodity sectors, where prices have reached the rock bottom in the last 5 years or so, has had a huge impact on the pumps’ business revenue. Capital investments have come down due to economic downturn. End-user companies do not want to purchase new equipment; instead they work towards maintaining their existing assets. They aim at improving the reliability of the existing infrastructure. Now-a-days, consumers are more conscious about OPEX savings and so there is an increased demand for higher efficiency, process optimisation, energy conservation, higher output, and reduced downtime. As mentioned earlier, for a plant operator to improve the profitability, it is important to reduce the fixed cost as much as possible. By maintaining existing equipment in its proper condition and by utilising the assets to their maximum potential, it is possible to improve the productivity and energy efficiency. Energy consumption attributes to a major proportion of fixed cost and reducing it can lead to abundant savings for plant operators. It is important for pump manufacturers to follow an innovative and unique approach to this challenge.OEMs can deploy IIoT technology in their design for reducing energy consumption. Historic data collected from the sensors, equipment, and other assets are stored in a network database called ‘cloud’. This data is extremely crucial for making business decisions, planning for higher productivity, and predictive maintenance and should be accessible at any point of time. Data obtained from sensors installed on the pumps, during several operating conditions are stored in cloud-based systems and will help the operator in learning the pumps functionality, by observing the trend. From the in-depth knowledge gained, the operating conditions can be tweaked to improve the efficiency of the pumps. With connected plants, supply chains that are located in various regions can be linked together on a common platform through protocol interoperability. This improves transparency and visibility within an organisation, making it easy for a manager to plan efficiently. With connected plants , remote operations are also possible with AR/VR and digital twin technologies, reducing the need for plant operators and experts to travel to hazardous and remote locations.It is no more a challenge to gather information from sensors. The real problem lies in storing this huge volume of data and deriving meaningful information from it. It is not possible to document all the data gathered over several years and the cloud can be extremely helpful for this purpose. By analysing the stored information over a period of time, the operator can also predict potential issues and suggest predictive maintenance to plant operators that will reduce unplanned downtime when the equipment is performing crucial operations. Software applications are built for the purpose of analysis and according to Frost & Sullivan’s research, more mergers and acquisitions resulting in collaborative operations between pump manufacturers with the IT sector are expected during the forecast period.
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