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A low-cost IoT - solution for predictive maintenance of small electric motors towards the Factory of the Future

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SMART PlantOne (A low-cost IoT - solution for predictive maintenance of small electric motors towards the Factory of the Future)

Reporting period: 2017-12-01 to 2018-05-31

The objective of this project is the evaluation of the commercial viability and the assessment of the technological feasibility of SMART PlantOne. This product is a disruptive solution aimed at the industry 4.0 for the application of predictive maintenance solutions. The Factory of the Future is based on the continuous data collection and monitoring of several elements of the production chain. Electric motors are an essential linchpin in this chain and therefore possible failure might cause expensive downtime and stop the production process. A possible solution to limit the probability and the damages caused by this occurrence is the predictive maintenance. The diffusion of this approach in the industry is still limited, with many firms resorting to reactive maintenance or to preventive maintenance. A main reason of the limited adoption is that nowadays the existing solutions are cost-effective only for the monitoring of large machineries. NGS’s solution is aimed at filling this gap and extending the benefits of predictive maintenance to small-medium sized machineries that still have an important role in the production processes. A widespread adoption of this solution would result in more efficient factories, with less failures and reduced downtime.
An additional key feature is the automation of the data processing that will reduce the need for experts in data reading and interpretation; thus, smaller firms will be able to adopt predictive maintenance without the need to hire dedicated personnel, whose cost would put pressure on their profit margins.
The project activities were focused on the commercial analysis of the predictive maintenance market, the company communication and the definition of an IP strategy.
The commercial viability has been focused on the estimation of the market potential in Europe and went deeper interviewing clients with the aim to investigate their needs and expectations. A competitor analysis investigated which firms are proposing similar products to the market and how these products differ from SMART PlantOne specifications. After the analysis of customers’ needs and competitor strategies we reach the following two conclusions: (i) the technical road-map has been revised, toward the analysis of measurements of different nature; (ii) a possible business model has been chosen among three different business models analysed. The financial projections show that the NGS can reach an established position and profitability in 5 years from the product launch.
However, NGS management team recognises the importance of an appropriate commercial strategy and therefore part of the activity has been the analysis of communication strategies applied by competitors. This led to the identification of the best channels to use and to the definition of the best communication contents to produce.
An IP strategy analysis has been conducted, investigating the best means to protect the intellectual property embedded into SMART PlantOne and the distribution of patent applications in the IoT domain. The results of this steps recommended trade secret as the best way to protect IP.
The input received thanks SME Instruments funding has allowed us to understand the competitive environment and the real industrial needs for predictive maintenance. For this reason, we have developed an interoperable environment of IoT protocols capable to cover different differences, thus permitting the monitoring of larger path (i.e. integration of LoRaWAN). On the other hand, the integration of different types of sensors (e.g. gases, pressure, etc.) will enable the monitoring of both the failures symptoms (i.e. vibration and temperature), and their effects (e.g. the gases not absorbed by suction systems, because of its malfunctioning), thus enabling the integration of other functionalities, as the support to the security systems and the evaluation of the operator behaviours toward the implementation of best practices.
From the socio-economic perspective, a large-scale commercialization of this technology would have as a consequence an increased productivity and reduced downtime for many firms and, consequently, benefits from savings for the whole society.
The project is concluded and NGS is now heading towards a phase 2 application.
Toward Industry 4.0