It seems like every year the world is getting more connected. In our business and personal lives, at work and at play, we’re collecting and sharing more data than ever before and using it to make our lives better. You can see it happening in modern supply chain and manufacturing operations. Increasingly, businesses are using the Internet of Things (IoT) to connect their assets to digital networks, gather and analyze data, and monitor and optimize everything from trucks and jet engines to coffee makers, refrigerators, injection molding machines, and so much more.
When you use IoT to connect an asset, you can maintain it better and extend its useful life. You can go from a reactive “break-fix” maintenance model to using real-time sensor data to anticipate when a machine is headed for trouble and step in before it fails. Even better, when you add AI and machine learning to the mix, you can create trend-based models that predict well into the future with surprising accuracy when a machine is going to break, giving you enough lead-time to avoid unplanned downtime. Called predictive maintenance, it’s one of the best ways to improve the availability and utilization of an asset, extend its useful lifetime, and control costs.
The real “holy grail” is when you can do prescriptive maintenance. That’s when not only can you accurately predict when a machine is about to break, but also proactively line up all the parts, people, work orders, and knowledge base that you need to rapidly get it back into service. The best supply chain and manufacturing solutions today will allow you to do just that.
Oracle’s Connected Assets solution is a great example of how companies can transform their maintenance operations. The solution is supported by a suite of IoT apps we call Oracle Fusion Cloud IoT Intelligent Applications that specialize in taking data from machine sensors and applying AI in real time to provide new insights and faster, better decision-making. The IoT apps come pre-integrated with Oracle Fusion Cloud Maintenance to allow predictive maintenance and increase asset reliability and uptime while reducing overall costs. Oracle’s IoT apps can also be easily integrated with other third-party applications.
Increasingly, companies are employing IoT and sophisticated analytics to modernize their product-based businesses. A popular beverage maker, for example, is doing this with its fleet of beverage dispensers installed in office locations around the world. By collecting sensor data from the beverage dispensers, the company can understand how its customers are using the devices, including what features they actually use and which flavors are the most popular. Then they can tie that data to their inventory systems to keep those flavors in stock, gather feedback to improve the product, and design revenue-boosting marketing programs that zero in on specific markets.
Leading industrial companies are connecting everything from trucks to jet engines to enable them to keep tabs on their products in the field and quickly mobilize field service crews and refresh software to avert downtime for their customers. Oracle is making this a reality with our prebuilt supply chain management and IoT applications with real-time AI capabilities.
Alcar Ruote, the Swiss maker of steel wheels for the automotive aftermarket, is a great example of Connected Assets in manufacturing. It integrates Oracle IoT Intelligent Applications with Oracle Fusion Cloud Supply Chain & Manufacturing applications to analyze sensor data and anticipate machine failures. This has led to a dramatic reduction in downtime during production.
Noble Plastics, a company focused on design, manufacturing, and robotic integration, uses Oracle IoT Intelligent Applications to pull production data from its robots and molding machines and then uses anomaly-detection algorithms to help keep tabs on machine health, maintenance, and parts quality. The company’s assets, which are monitored by IoT Intelligent Applications, send alerts to the appropriate engineer or line operator, reducing time spent fixing problems and allowing more time for developing new products and making process improvements.
A growing number of companies are using connected assets as the foundation for new product-as-a-service business models where companies rent machines to their customers by the hour or mile and use IoT-based connectivity to track usage and ensure uptime. In addition to its core manufacturing operation, for example, Noble Plastics developed a new business model that offers robot system integration and monitoring as a service.
The new service model can help companies build a direct relationship with their customer and it opens up opportunities for offering new value-added services. Car dealerships are now getting into that act and analyzing sensor data from cars to forecast upcoming service needs and enticing customers to come back in for a service checkup at a discount. The potential for targeted marketing is enormous.
Getting data out of an old machine can be problematic but there are often ways to retrofit it. For example, you can add a computer vision device that points a camera at a gauge and transmits readings to the cloud. Similarly, you can bolt on vibration or acoustic sensors to pull data out of a machine that was formerly “speechless.” Oracle IoT Applications support a wide variety of industrial protocols and gateways to simplify acquisition and normalize sensor data into the right format so it can be ingested, analyzed, and processed using intelligent applications – and then used to take action.
There are other challenges for connecting assets, including navigating the maze of industry standards that most manufacturing companies face. Connectivity also comes with a security risk. How do you make sure cybercriminals can’t hack into your assets and bring down your operations? Fortunately, that risk is diminishing as VPN-based cloud connections are replaced by a new generation of advanced IoT gateways. This new generation of gateways eliminates inbound ports and are hidden behind multiple layers of enterprise firewalls, effectively blocking any malicious attacks from outside the enterprise network. Oracle has made this an integral part of its Connected Assets solution.
All of this can seem complicated, but Oracle knows how to guide companies through the intricacies of connecting their assets and providing solutions that ensure maximum asset availability, useability, security, and useful life. You can also leverage a range of vendors and partners in the Oracle ecosystem to design and build a world class connectivity solution that drives business results.
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