Industry 4.0 - Without A Single New Machine

25 March 2020

How can firms running older machines keep up with Industry 4.0 and the smart factories movement? It might be much easier and cheaper than you think, writes Senseye’s Chief Technology Officer, Robert Russell

You’re feeling nervous and uncertain. You suspect your car has plenty of miles left in it. But it’s broken down once already. And you really don’t want it failing at a bad moment (is there ever a good one?). So, spend probably unnecessary money on a new vehicle? Schedule expensive routine services with the dealer? Or cross your fingers and keep driving?

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This nervous uncertainty is multiplied exponentially when it comes to big industrial machinery. Machinery from the 1990s, 1980s and even 1970s has often served companies very well; they’re reluctant to pay the huge capital costs of unnecessary replacement.

But a failure could be disastrous. Modern work processes are complex and interconnected. One breakdown can cost hundreds of thousands in emergency repairs, unplanned replacement, or production downtime. On the other hand, unnecessary replacement means wasted capital expenditure.

This is exactly the kind of problem that Industry 4.0 smart factories overcome, through real-time monitoring of asset performance, and predictive maintenance (PdM).

But what many don’t realise is that you don’t need an eight-figure budget and a greenfield site to realise the benefits of Industry 4.0. Smart sensors can be retrofitted to existing machines, allowing sophisticated data-gathering and analysis through services like Senseye’s.

Retrofitting older assets with sensors is easier and cheaper than ever, as is the ability to make sense of the data they provide. In recent years our internet-connected PdM technology has transformed the efficiency and extended the life of machinery made more than 50 years ago. Customers can expect to see a return on investments designed to smarten up legacy assets in just three short months.

Our PdM solution, Senseye PdM,  allows manufacturers and other large industrial organisations to make the most of technology that has served them well, without the sleepless nights about it failing. It helps firms with legacy assets compete on more equal terms with those using new machines.

Retrofitted sensors communicate with a data bank using cutting-edge OPCUA and IO protocols, among others. This allows firms to collect exactly the same kind of performance data from a machine 50 years old as from one newly out of the shrink wrap.

This optimises the performance of these older assets to the point that they can perform as well as newer and much more expensive ones, shows clearly the effects of upgrades and replacement components, and accurately predicts the machine's useful life, allowing replacements to be sourced in a timely and cost-effective way.

What’s more, the same technology can be used simultaneously on machines four months, four years and 40 years old. For maintenance, reliability but as well finance and business leaders, this provides a complete, integrated, real-time picture of all their assets’ operating efficiency, upcoming maintenance needs and likely lifespan - irrespective of age.

It is an approach that has kept the Royal Navy’s ageing Sea King helicopter in the air for years longer than expected. It saved the taxpayer millions, and played a big role in keeping us all safe while a replacement was readied.

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The past five years have brought an explosion in the volumes and types of performance sensors that can be retrofitted to legacy machines, allowing almost any asset to be connected to the Internet of Things. In fact, given that many machines have a 30-plus-year life, this is the only way that we can get to Industry 4.0 standards without waiting decades for legacy machines to reach their scheduled replacement times.

Want to find out more about how Senseye PdM can help optimize maintenance spending and boost productivity? Check out our white paper ‘Harness the Power of Prediction’ or book a demo of Senseye PdM today.