Automation IIoT Predictive Maintenance Reliability

Technologies Enable Asset Performance

Gary Mintchell | December 19, 2017

Significant recent product-introduction and company-acquisition activity is being driven by the quest for better asset- performance management.

Everyone who develops Internet of Things platforms and applications points to one premier use case—predictive maintenance.

The company could be a traditional industrial technology suppler or one of the IT suppliers aiming a portion of their portfolios at the industrial space.

Magazines covering automation, maintenance, and reliability have discussed predictive maintenance (PdM) for years. Some people are actually implementing. It’s not easy, but technology improvements have made it doable. For most software companies, PdM integrates into asset performance management. These, of course, help you achieve the efficient plant.

Even so, when Michael Dell, CEO of Dell Technologies (delltechnologies.com, Round Rock, TX), announced a $1-billion bet on the company’s Internet of Things business, even I was a little surprised. The IoT business now reports to a senior executive and is elevated to division status. Far beyond gateways, the solutions include enabling software such as Pulse Center to manage and administer IoT networks.

On another trip, executives at GE Digital (ge.com/digital, San Ramon, CA) explained that the famous Predix is actually a platform upon which applications can be built. The key application being asset-performance management. Operations-performance management was another application announced at the 2017 Minds + Machines Conference held in October in San Francisco. No, this is not an operations center in the mold of the process-automation companies. It works along with asset-performance management to optimize plant performance.

Industry consolidation

The larger control and automation suppliers have been consolidating the industry for several years. Emerson Automation Solutions (emerson.com, St. Louis) grew through acquisition. Siemens Corp. (usa.siemens.com, Washington) has made several blockbuster acquisitions, including UGS, in order to build out its “digital factory” vision. ABB (abb.com, Cary, NC) recently acquired the industrial products division of GE, along with automation supplier B&R Industrial Automation Corp. (br-automation.com, Roswell, GA).

Then news broke at the end of October that Emerson had been in negotiation to acquire Rockwell Automation (rockwellautomation.com, Milwaukee). The price on the table was $27.5 billion. The Rockwell board rejected that offer. At subsequent meetings, many people asked for my thoughts—especially why that became public. I am not privy to inside information, but we can assume that Rockwell would entertain more offers. It just wants more than that amount.

The combination of Emerson and Rockwell Automation would begin to rival Siemens, Schneider Electric, and ABB. The question to ponder is whether that would actually increase competition, driving up innovation and driving down prices, or would it increase prices? In the latter case, would we be ripe for an upstart to disrupt the industry? EP

Gary Mintchell is an industrial-technology subject-matter expert. He can be reached at gmintchell@efficientplantmag.com.

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