Breath of Fresh Air from the Internet of Things

08.02.2021 by Ümit Günes
Two engineers photographed through a gear shaft.

Stale air due to defective ventilator fans? Never again. Ziehl-Abegg, a family firm, uses the Internet of Things to provide predictive maintenance of its ventilation and air conditioning technology and to reduce machine downtimes and unnecessary maintenance work.

It starts with a slight knocking noise that rises to a thunderous clatter – and then the production line grinds to a halt in the assembly hall. Three hours later the service engineer inspects the machine and diagnoses a defective drive shaft. A replacement must be ordered. The unscheduled outage not only wreaks havoc on production planning; it also costs the firm several hundred thousand euros – a nightmare for any enterprise.

In order to prevent downtimes and plan maintenance work more predictively Ziehl-Abegg connects its ventilators via the Internet of Things (IoT). The aim is to enable customers to monitor their ventilation and air conditioning systems by means of predictive maintenance and to respond faster in cases of plant malfunction. Germany’s National Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech) has calculated why predictive maintenance is worthwhile. Every euro that a company invests in machine maintenance saves it five times that amount in outage and downtime costs. Predictive maintenance makes it all significantly more efficient.

Internet of Things: Rectify Failures Before They Happen

Ziehl-Abegg is using predictive maintenance to drive its digital transformation forward and, at the same time, to develop a new digital business model. Predictive maintenance technologies enable the midrange business to add digital services to its product portfolio for laboratories, agricultural enterprises or server facilities. It can also optimize the cost and timing of tightly scheduled maintenance cycles. A positive side effect is that predictive maintenance projects improve the company’s competitive position – now and in the future. Automation plays an important part in the new solution.

The company already had several solutions for digitizing its machines and capturing machine data with the aid of sensors. What it lacked was a digital platform on which to store and visualize data from different sources. Jointly with Telekom, Ziehl-Abegg developed a cloud-based IoT platform for predictive maintenance. The company now connects its ventilators and third-party devices with the Internet of Things via the Microsoft Azure Cloud. Telekom implemented the cloud and interfaces with Ziehl-Abegg’s product database and mobile apps. The result is a customer and administration portal on which manufacturer and customers can monitor all of their machine information and operating data in real time.

Digitization Helps Reduce Running Costs

This is innovation for Industry 4.0. Because the service life of individual machine components can be forecast more precisely customers save service costs and can reduce device downtimes. At the same time operating data supplied by the system helps to optimize plant and processes. Sensors collect energy consumption, temperature or vibration data and relay it by Bluetooth to an IoT gateway. From there the data can be bundled, encrypted and sent to the IoT platform via local WLAN, LAN or UMTS connections. The advantage gained is that users recognize at an early stage material fatigue or whether wear and tear is starting to affect production. In the event of irregularities they can commission service or maintenance work without delay and the service engineers will bring the spare parts with them.

Industry 4.0: Will IoT Create the New Industrial Revolution?

Predictive maintenance is an important component of Industry 4.0, but digital technologies are still used by fewer than half of German industrial enterprises for servicing and maintenance. According to a study by the German engineering industry association VDMA and management consultants Roland Berger, less than 40 percent of companies polled us digital technologies and services. Yet evaluating machine data boosts efficiency and profitability and ensures the long-term value preservation of machinery.

“As an innovation leader in our industry we were looking for a solution that also stands up to future challenges,” says Ziehl-Abegg CEO Peter Fenkel. “In Telekom we have a competent partner on our side who fulfills our requirements optimally.”

Digitization Among Midrange Enterprises

So the Internet of Things is playing an increasingly decisive role in digital transformation by midrange German enterprises. With the aid of innovative IoT solutions predictive maintenance projects based on predictive analytics can be established swiftly and efficiently in this sector. It is an important step toward enabling midrange enterprises that account for the lion’s share of the German economy to continue to operate sustainably.


 

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Ümit Günes
Ümit Günes

Marketing Manager IoT

Ümit has been working at T-Systems since 2015 and knows a great deal about many facets of the Internet of Things. He is particularly interested in topics related to the digitalization of the business world. For the blog, he reports on new developments and trends in the IoT world that offer real added value for customers.