How connected solutions impact off-highway design
The perfect storm has arrived in our industry. As we strive for greater performance and efficiencies in off-highway machinery, we add more electronics and control systems software. These sensors, which aid in improved control and performance, generate greater amounts of information — information that can drastically impact how we use and design future off-highway equipment.
Machine performance data is being generated, regardless of whether or not OEMs are utilizing it. The added value of connected components and the Internet of Things (IoT) depends on how manufacturers will utilize the sea of information at their fingertips.
In the immediate, physical sense, integrating connected components doesn’t greatly impact machine design. At most, another piece of equipment is added to the CAN bus where it can collect information and connect to Wi-Fi to transmit data to a server. In fact, retrofitting an existing machine design with Danfoss connected components can be as easy as plugging in a cable.
However, the implications of connected components will impact machine design in three main ways: improving machine design, optimizing complete machine systems and discovering how to best utilize large amounts of data.
Improved machine design
Properly synthesizing and analyzing data gathered from connected machines may affect how next-generation models of existing machines are designed. If enough data is gathered on the duty cycle of a particular machine, original equipment manufacturers could decipher that the worst-case duty cycle only occurs a tiny fraction of the time. This indicates that the current model is potentially over-designed.
Armed with the data, future versions of the same machine could be streamlined to be more cost-effective while still delivering the same output levels.
Optimize the overall system
Historically, machine design emphasizes optimizing an individual component, not the whole system. However, expanding this view to include streamlining an entire system, rather than one part of that system, will be a key factor in improving overall machine design.
The idea behind providing a system solution is that the value of a system is greater than the sum of its components. If you can optimize not only each individual component, but how they work together, you can realize benefits that are exponential in nature rather than incremental. New areas and opportunities for efficiency will be uncovered, allowing for streamlined system solutions.
Give your data a purpose
As we gain access to more and more information through a well-integrated system of connected components on a growing number of machines, the value of this data increases. There’s a snowball effect — as the data grows in value, more sophisticated sensors will be developed, which will generate more in-depth information, which will allow for more precise analytics, and so forth.
Manufacturers can utilize the data through component lifetime calculations, maintenance predictions, oil quality control and machine lifetime predictions, for example. Applications will continue to evolve and become much more precise, which, in turn, makes the data that much more valuable.
Ultimately, quality should trump quantity when it comes to analyzing this gathered information. It comes down to knowing what designers and engineers should focus on to further improve machine design. Companies that will be the most successful when it comes to harnessing the Internet of Things will be the ones who can decipher the valuable insights from the glut of information.