In the IIoT era, what do your motors really do?

The Industrial Internet of Things presents manufacturing managers with a conundrum. Most food manufacturing and processing plants have motors powering essential equipment such as mixers, conveyors and packaging machines. These motors are just motors and do not play in the same league as the other intelligent or IoT enabled devices in their factories.

With years of service often left in the motors, it’s difficult to justify replacing motors that work effectively for the sake of an upgrade with smart features. However, there are alternatives to a complete overhaul in order to connect motors to the IIoT.

Instead of investing in new, more intelligent / smart equipment, a solution is to install sensors that provide similar functions to connected devices. For example, ABB offers smart sensors that can be fitted to almost any standard low voltage induction motor. The pocket-sized sensor, dubbed ABB Ability Smart Sensor, is directly attached in a couple minutes to the motor’s frame, without wiring.

By using sensors that feed performance data to the cloud through a smartphone or gateway to a secure server, users can bring their motors up to date with the IIoT. These data give users a fuller picture — even on mobile devices — of how the motors are working. Such data enable condition based or predictive maintenance, rather than periodic maintenance.

Unplanned downtime can be reduced as much as 70% through sensor-based motor monitoring. This is particularly important in the food and beverage industry where even a short downtime can be costly. Infrastructure failures in this industry cost up to $75,000 per hour and have a serious impact on seasonally produced items such as sugar. This is a cost that can be avoided by using the right performance insight and awareness.

An increased awareness of the condition of any motor also leads to a better awareness of how an entire system is performing. For example, a motor overheating or burning out may indicate a problem elsewhere in the production line, such as a line moving too fast and producing waste. Eliminating this problem could improve energy efficiency by up to 10%.

Motors, the heart of the food and beverage plant, don’t have to be left behind in the age of the IIoT. Just like a home security camera connected to your mobile phone, a smart sensor could give a motor a new lease of life, making it perform as an integral part of the data-rich factory and providing all the additional benefits that this creates.


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