News & Insights

Pass the Remote

30th April 2018

Dougie Hawkins, Partner, Clyde Blowers Capital

The technology revolution taking place in industrial markets constantly challenges us at Clyde Blowers Capital (“CBC”) to think creatively about the nature of tomorrow’s industrial products and services. Understanding the pace at which technology is driving change in industrial markets makes continual innovation essential to sustain competitive advantage in a challenging global market. New industrial technologies have given rise to numerous new innovative tools and methodologies, such as remote condition monitoring and management, consistent with the nature of an increasingly digitalised industrial world. 

At CBC we consider remote condition monitoring & management to be a rapid growth area in “aftermarket” services. In many industrial end markets, operators will spend a multiple of the up-front capital cost of a piece of equipment during its operating life, so targeting this area of spend for savings and efficiencies can have a major positive benefit in lowering operating costs. Consequently, our portfolio companies have been enhancing their offering in this area which can generate savings of many multiples of the cost of the service.

Adopting the Digital Approach

Progress in automation, connectivity, sensor technology, data analytics and artificial intelligence are giving rise to rapid evolution in the field of remote condition monitoring and management, where equipment and processes are subject to real time performance measurement during live operation in the field, from off-site locations even up to thousands of miles away.    

Remote condition monitoring and management has benefits for operators on many levels:

  • Pre-Emptive Action- costly equipment failures, that can cause whole production lines or processes to shut down completely, can be prevented through predictive analysis permitting pre-emptive intervention at an appropriate time;
  • Smart Maintenance- through detailed analysis of operating data, operators can move away from calendar based maintenance schedules, which can be costly and logistically challenging, to a system where intervention is undertaken when it’s necessary; 
  • Productivity Enhancement- real time performance measurement allows operating decisions to be made to enhance the efficiency of the production process with the potential to make large gains;
  • Predictability– not only can real time live operating performance data be used to predict maintenance needs, but collective data can be used to accurately forecast output performance, resulting in major benefits right across the value chain;
  • Cost Control– reduces the need to send out costly engineering resources to physically inspect equipment to when it is essential; 
  • Health & Safety- there can be major benefits to health and safety too, by reducing the need to send personnel into dangerous locations and/ or situations, when it might not otherwise be necessary. 

For service providers, remote condition monitoring can provide differentiation from other service providers allowing them to become deeply embedded in the customer’s operations. Support arrangements are often organised under longer term agreements and the enhanced visibility of future revenue provides a firmer basis for continued investment in development of the service offering. Plus detailed understanding of how equipment operates in the field provides invaluable insight and feedback into next generation product design and development.     

CBC Companies Embracing the Opportunity

At Allrig, our oilfield service business, they have been developing a remote condition monitoring offering as the oil & gas industry continues to strive to lower production and maintenance costs.  Augmenting such services with other automation technologies, such as the use of drones to aid remote inspection, can really begin to make significant cost savings for operators.

The remote condition monitoring system developed by Moventas, our wind gearbox technology specialist, is relatively mature with a high number of users already benefitting from the service. Rapid digitisation within the wind power industry is allowing Moventas to develop the next generation offering their customers desire. Improvements in connectivity and data analytics can  help wind turbine operators maximise the efficiency of their turbines, making further advances in lowering the cost of producing power. Moventas continues to play a key role in this process with their industry-leading technology. 

There’s Still Work To Do

Universal acceptance of remote condition monitoring and predictive maintenance services across wider industries, however, is not without its challenges. 

Broad based acceptance requires a change in the relationship between customer and supplier and how maintenance services are purchased. Long term strategic decisions need to be made before tying up longer term maintenance and support contracts with a narrow supply base. 

Data ownership and data security should also be areas for consideration. With large quantities of highly sensitive operating information being transmitted across the ether, there is the risk of data getting lost, stolen or falling into the hands of a competitor. Additionally, a fully connected operating process will generate vast quantities of data every day that require high levels of bandwidth not always available in more remote regions and analysing that data will require new skills in the areas of data analytics, data science and software programming, which will need to blend with traditional operating skills for best effect. 

How Far Can It Go?

Perhaps more fundamentally will there be a change in operators’ behaviour, to the point they will ultimately purchase operating hours from a supplier rather than a piece of capital equipment?  Confidence in suppliers to be able to manage the operating risks of such a business model will reflect their ability to measure and understand real time operating conditions and to manage the risks.  Reliable and advanced remote condition monitoring systems, perhaps combined with artificial intelligence capability, can help fill the void here, which might just have a deep and lasting impact on the way products and services are provided in the future.   

At CBC, we believe remote condition monitoring and management will continue to play a crucial role in the industrial technology revolution and will become more prevalent as digitalisation increases. The industrial companies who can continue to adapt and embrace innovation could capitalise on the extensive growth opportunities that lie ahead.

 

Notes to editors

To connect with Dougie Hawkins - please click here. 

For media enquiries please contact Tom Sutton, Head of Communications at Clyde Blowers Capital, tsutton@clydeblowers.co.uk / 07471228494