The areas of implementation are expanding for “IoT Standard Pack” that contains abundant essence of Toshiba IoT architecture, “SPINEX”.
Above all, easiness of implementation that enables users to quickly start of the visualization and remote monitoring and the edge computing technology that contributes to the securing of network stability and optimization of network cost are receiving high evaluation. Especially in manufacturing industry, there is a movement to integrate products with IoT standard Pack and market as service.
This article introduces “Kobelink”, Compressor M2M Cloud Service of Kobe Steel, Ltd., a global corporation supporting the advancement of the worldwide industry and society, through the customers that are promoting these advanced initiatives.
The manufacturing industry is facing a new age. There is a rapid progress in digital transformation that globally links products, big data and users by combining hardware and software. Especially it is noteworthy that in addition to the design, manufacturing and sale of products, there is a trend to takes the added value created from various data obtained through using products and create service business from them. To demonstrate its global competitiveness the proactive initiatives toward digital transformation are said to be necessary requirements for the manufacturing industry.
In light of this trend, Kobe Steel, known globally with its integrated brand of the group “KOBELCO”, has also started to investigate business transformation early. It was the creation of high added value for the compressor products which proudly hold a large market share in Japan and Southeast Asia and lead the conservation of energy for the manufacturing industry of the world.
Compressor is a device to compress gaseous matter such as air and other gases. It is considered to be one of the most important equipment supporting industry and society as the heart of power plant and chemical plant or the motive power for the manufacturing lines in the automotive, electronic equipment, steel manufacturing factories, etc. Therefore, it is necessary to reduce the compressor downtime to the utmost limit and secure a stable and continuous operation. Maintenance operations and restoration measures in times of malfunction must always be done efficiently and quickly. However, up to now they are based on the walk-around checks by human beings. When a malfunction occurs, the person in charge of the equipment is dispatched, confirms the condition of the compressor and arranges for or replaces the necessary part. The restoration process took a relatively long time.
In order to address this type of issues, Kobe Steel utilized IoT (Internet of Things) technology into “Emeraude-ALE”, the new standard compressor that achieved the world’s top class energy savings and low noise. The company started marketing as the Compressor M2M Cloud Service “Kobelink” that installed Toshiba “IoT Standard Pack” as the IoT service platform and enables visualization and a global remote communication. Real-time status can be visualized with data collected and stored without manual operation from Emeraude-ALEs all over the world. By combining global remote communication service with the compressor product, the company is aiming to create a new value in addition to the continuous stable operation, timely support and the efficient management of equipment and maintenance information (Fig. 1).
The primary reason Kobe Steel employed IoT Standard Pack is the ability to start a system in a short period of integration. Generally, starting up a system to perform remote communication, it is necessary to assemble and connect the required hardware and software then perform many verifications and engineering activities. However, in order to gain advantage in the competitive global compressor market, there is not enough time and money in the integration of a system. The implementation easiness of IoT Standard Pack, by installing an edge gateway devices with plug-and-play function along with the compressor, addressed the needs of Kobe Steel with the minimum preparation and engineering time until the service start.
Moreover, the utilization of edge computing also received high evaluation. In order to understand in detail what is occurring in a compressor in real time, it is necessary to collect enormous amount of chronological data such as temperature and pressure and analyze them in various ways. On the other hand, it was expected that the communication data volume would increase at an explosive rate as Kobelink led by deployments of Emeraude-ALE proceeded all over the world. IoT Standard Pack makes it possible to grasp the condition of the equipment and control the communication volume using only the edge side without constant data exchange with the cloud side. Edge computing technology, which reduces the network load and optimizes the telecommunication cost while maintaining high network stability and, furthermore, provides quick response through the processing on the edge side, is an essential technology to guide Kobe Steel to succeed in its new challenge.
After being verified for its effectiveness in a test operation, Kobelink with IoT Standard Pack as its IoT service platform was deployed as a service in the world market from October 2016. The service was installed and deployed at a lightning speed of mere 4 months from the start of the project. Currently, the service is in test operation at domestic and overseas sites, and the data collected from all over the world is being used in Kobe Steel’s maintenance, quality and service division to improve the compressor product failure prediction and maintenance service. In the future, Kobelink is expected to contribute significantly to the real-time monitoring of the condition and the optimization of the operation and maintenance at the customer’s control division. Moreover, the intuitive and easy screen interfaces that adopted UX design* method, prearranged and provided in IoT Standard Pack, have received high evaluation. They are expected to support significantly in case a failure occurs and maintenance activities.
The global remote communication service is planned to be provided through various compressor products of Kobe Steel that fully utilizes the ease of implementation provided by IoT Standard Pack.
In the future, by storing and analyzing the operational records and condition data of the compressor product, the utilization of the IoT data can be advanced to the next level. Ideas to use the data from products for optimization of maintenance parts change, reduction of the life cycle cost and so forth, will expand endlessly. IoT Standard Pack will increasingly contribute to the industry and society by providing definite security and further energy savings to the corporations that installed the compressor products. We believe it would be most satisfying, as a result, if we can contribute to the further improvement of the global competitiveness of Kobe Steel.
* The corporate names, organization names, job titles and other names and titles appearing in this article are those as of May 2017.