The global pump market has been extremely volatile during the past two years with the decline of global oil and commodity prices. Pump manufacturers are looking for ways to minimize profit losses amid these trying economic uncertainties. Topics such as Industry 4.0 and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) are growing in prominence within the industrial automation community, and pump manufacturers are eyeing these as exciting opportunities that could drive profits. The pump market has seen a growing trend to implement new technologies like this to provide an opportunity for pump manufacturers to innovate and provide full pump solutions as opposed to merely adding a component to their overall equipment portfolios. This means that pump suppliers are improving their expertise along the whole supply chain in pump system applications.
Digital transformation in manufacturing lines
Pump manufacturers are undergoing a digital transformation by embracing IIoT, big data, and artificial intelligence. These enabling technologies and related transformational efforts are providing pump manufacturers with a competitive advantage.
Many companies such as KSB, Sulzer, and WILO have developed connected machines to enable real-time monitoring in the production line to improve productivity and reduce downtime. Intelligence is also being increasingly embedded into devices, supporting decentralized analytics, and even performing some decision making. For instance, WILO has implemented an augmented reality technology in its manufacturing line with glasses that act as training devices, as opposed to paper manuals. The glasses can replace paper instructions by providing virtual work instructions that also display complex work steps.
As pump manufacturers realized over the past few years, the market has generally declined and profits were hard to come by. The successful manufacturers have thus focused on training programs, services, and hiring greater expertise as ways to increase their value-add to customers in an effort to focus on market share growth.
Enhance user experience with a full integrated solution
Communication is key to digitalization in the world of IoT. Coupled with the downturn in the mining and oil and gas industries, pump suppliers are pushing more than ever to become integrated solution providers. A recent IHS Markit study shows the numbers of connected nodes in pump (centrifugal pumps and positive displacement pumps) and compressor applications will grow substantially with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 46.5% from 2016 to 2021. Centrifugal pumps have more variable flow applications than positive displacement pumps, and they will therefore utilize more connectivity for live monitoring purpose. Additionally, European motor and pump efficiency regulations require full awareness by the suppliers regarding full system efficiency; therefore, the smart and connected technology will increase in use quite rapidly going forward.
Connected pumps enable predictive maintenance with the ability to monitor and regulate pump efficiency and thereby improve both uptime and energy efficiency. In high-risk, high-cost, and error-prone industries, the use of connected pumps allows the transmission of important data enabling a range of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) applications. For example, the pump sensors could capture key parameters of a pump such as pressure, temperature, and liquid level to measure hardware performance and predict downtime and failure through an analytical model. The oil and gas, water and wastewater, and commercial building sectors are the biggest adopters. These are already competitive and price-sensitive markets, which should spark the most ingenuity in the near future.
On the other hand, technologies such as additive manufacturing technology are affecting spare part services. For example, KSB is using 3D printing technology to reproduce spare parts that are difficult to obtain or have been discontinued. This enables continued operation of existing systems and eliminates the need for extensive modifications by end users.
IHS Markit will continue to monitor the development of IIoT and smart manufacturing in motor-driven systems such as pumps, fans, and compressors. More information can be found in the recently published IHS Markit study on centrifugal pumps.