Ernst Meister: Connected Lubricant Tanks Provide Optimal Service

28.09.2022 by Annalena Rauen
Two men in hi-vis vests transfer oil from tanker to tanks


 

Efficient, economical and future-proof, Ernst Meister GmbH has connected its tank drums on the IoT to optimize its supply chain. Thanks to this connectivity the SME has also been able to extend its business model.

In cutting, machining, metalworking or the automobile industry, production machinery cannot operate reliably without professional cooling lubricant. To prevent tool and workpiece from overheating in the production process they must be cooled by using lubricants known as cutting fluids. These reduce wear and tear on the tool and at the same time improve the accuracy of machining. For over 30 years Ernst Meister GmbH of Plettenberg, North Rhine-Westphalia, has supplied local existing customers with lubricants of this kind, including disposal and recycling.

If the tank runs empty and lubricant is not topped up in time, production grinds to a halt. Customers can incur high costs in a very short time as a consequence. “Our customers sometimes use more and sometimes less lubricant than usual. That is why we need to know as soon as possible when fresh lubricant is required to be able to set the supply chain in motion in good time,” says Ernst Meister’s Daniel Schulte.

Superfluous Deliveries and High Costs Necessitate Solution

Until recently neither Ernst Meister nor the company’s customers could see how full the tanks were. Customers phoned Ernst Meister to arrange regular delivery dates. That involved a high level of administrative work on the part of both service provider and customers. The service provider also frequently found that tanks were still half full. That in turn meant unnecessary delivery runs and additional fuel consumption, especially as Ernst Meister always delivered enough lubricant to fill the customer’s tank and was therefore unable to pump the used lubricant into the tanker and take it back for disposal. After each delivery the lubricant that had not been required was pumped back and the tanker was cleaned.

Connected Lubricant Tanks Optimize the Supply Chain

So the small family firm in the Sauerland region was on the lookout for a solution to ensure that lubricant was only delivered when the fill level of the customer’s tank made a delivery necessary. Cellular connectivity is the solution. Ernst Meister developed a retrofit system that uses Telekom’s IoT level gauge. To install it the company drilled a hole in the tank’s service hatch. The level gauge now points inside the tank and measures the fill level ultrasonically. The IoT sensor reports when a defined fill level is reached.

Telekom partner Autosen’s io-key gateway taps the fill level sensor’s data. “We have to store the tanks in the external area of our production facility because they contain hazardous substances. To ensure that the retrofitted hardware withstands a range of weather conditions we have installed it in a splashproof control box on the tank,” says Daniel Schulte. Via the LTE cellular standard the gateway sends the sensor data reliably and highly secure to Telekom’s Cloud of Things IoT platform.

Fill Level Measurement Boosts Efficiency for Service Provider and Customer

In the Cloud Ernst Meister can now view the fill level of individual tanks on a central dashboard. When one reaches a predefined level the company is notified by e-mail. The IoT solution replaces personal on-site estimates and thanks to this connectivity the company only makes a tanker delivery when the fill level makes it clear that one is required. Lubricant deliveries that are too early or too late are now a thing of the past.

Service provider and customers both benefit. Just-in-time delivery enables Ernst Meister to optimize its route planning. The number of journeys per month and amount of CO2 emissions are already significantly lower. The savings potential for both is enormous because every delivery involves expense. The IoT solution also enhances production security for customers. Connectivity means that the supply chain is activated early and there will be no delivery-related production outages in the future.

New Solution Ushers in New Service Level

Connectivity enables the company to extend its business model. “By means of the continuous fill level measurement IoT app we are now able to offer our customers a markedly more efficient service. We have already noticed positive effects with existing and new customers,” says Daniel Schulte. The company also has comparative figures on its customers’ consumption, so it is better able to estimate lubricant demand for prospective customers in the same or a similar industry. A certified disposal service provider, Ernst Meister can now collect, process or dispose of used oil in an environmentally compatible way along with every delivery.


 

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Annalena Rauen
Annalena Rauen

Marketing Managerin IoT

Back in 2016, Anna worked on IoT topics at Deutsche Telekom for the first time. Since then, she has been supporting customer best practices in a wide range of industries – always focusing on the benefits that the Internet of Things can provide. Her IoT blogposts describe real use cases and the value these innovations add to market players, their business models, and even entire industries.