Processors Will Win Machinery Suppliers' IoT Race to Connect Equipment

The concept is buzzworthy enough to have spawned multiple names—Internet of Things, Industry 4.0, Industrial Internet—but beyond the hype real advances are ongoing that will ultimately help plastics processors.


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In September, Plastics Technology will take an in-depth look at how the Internet of Things (IoT) is impacting processors at the level of auxiliary equipment; a technology sector that can lag behind advances made by primary processing machines, but in the case of IoT, it is very much at the forefront, and with good cause, according to Ralph Rio, research director for enterprise software at consultancy ARC Advisory Group.


“In a networked environment, change occurs quickly; making the gap between "first" and "everyone else" grow rapidly.”


That insight from a report Rio posted in July entitled “Industrial IoT Enables New Revenue Sources for Equipment Manufacturers”. As the title suggests, the report highlighted how makers of equipment can capitalize on IoT through areas like:


  • Predictive maintenance: using data analytics to assess machine condition assign maintenance prior to failure.
  • Closed-loop product lifecycle management (PLM): Assessing new product performance in a working environment with customers to optimize design.
  • Consumables: Tracking inventory of consumables (think toner in a printer) and proactively selling replacements to customers.


All three of these advances, in addition to creating new revenue streams for equipment OEMs, will greatly benefit processors, making them more efficient with that increased productivity likely outstripping any nominal incremental costs.


For a huge conglomerate like GE, Rio has seen a two-pronged approach to IoT, which could become a model for other equipment manufacturers, including those in plastics. “GE is creating a platform that businesses can use to sell condition monitoring services to their customers,” Rio explained, “so there's a monthly, quarterly, or annual charge for doing condition monitoring.”


GE is also using IoT to develop better products in the first place, according to Rio. “OEMs can also do data collection and feed that into the development organization,” Rio said. “This is now real operating data, versus some initial prototypes of the new products that they had made. So it's an opportunity to get real operating data and include that into the design cycle, develop better product and use that as a competitive advantage to grow market share.”


Key phrase there for processors: “better product.” Hype? For sure, the “T” word is being thrown around, as is “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, but despite the buzz, real advances are coming for plastics processors (graphic courtesy GE).