How IoT Enables Preventative Maintenance
Learn how OEMs and service providers can provide more value to their customers and users by building preventative maintenance capabilities into connected products.
Preventative maintenance is the process of using data collected by sensors to determine when an asset is about to break down or degrade in performance, and repairing it before it causes unplanned downtime.
OEMs and solutions providers in industries ranging from industrial equipment monitoring and light electric vehicles to HVAC and energy are building preventative maintenance capabilities into their products using Internet of Things technologies.
How IoT Makes Preventative Maintenance Possible
IoT sensors built into assets, whether they’re vehicles, equipment, or infrastructure, can collect data tied to the performance and condition of the asset and transmit it to a central database. Human users can see the data at the asset and fleet-level and deploy their maintenance resources more efficiently based on which assets are nearing a failure point.
The types of data that can be gathered include, but aren’t limited to, things like…
Sensors that are configured to detect vibration, for example, will read vibration over a period of time and assemble time-series data to show a normal range of vibration.
When the asset moves out of that normal range, it’s a sign that performance is degrading. That allows you to send a technician to repair whatever is causing excessive vibration.
IoT also enables remote control. If an asset is operating unsafely, you can detect that and remotely shut it down. This improves worker safety and also prevents catastrophic failures.
How IoT-Enabled Preventative Maintenance Benefits Customers and Businesses
- Reducing truck rolls. Sending technicians into the field costs both time and money. IoT allows service teams to get insight into the product ’s condition, diagnose issues remotely, and only roll a truck when there’s a clear picture of what parts are needed.
- Making service trips more profitable. The ability to diagnose issues remotely means you can send the right tech for the job every time. You won’t send a senior tech for a basic job, or a junior tech for something extremely complex.
- Building recurring revenue streams. For high-value assets, building preventative maintenance capabilities directly into the product can open new revenue streams for monitoring and maintenance. Many refer to this as “selling uptime.”
- Aggregating real-world product data over time. Traditionally, the only data OEMs or solution providers could get on their products’ performance was during testing before product launches. Now, manufacturers can collect asset data from products in the field and aggregate it for predictive maintenance or even digital twins.
How Does IoT-Enabled Preventative Maintenance Compare?
While there’s a lot of terminology around different types of maintenance, it mainly falls into one of these five categories:
Reactive maintenance involves waiting until a customer calls you and tells you something is broken. You or your customers roll a truck to diagnose the issue, check to see if they have the part in your truck, check to see if they have the right parts in stock, order them if they don’t, and finally go back to the client a second time to attempt to fix it.
This method can lead to more prolonged service disruptions for customers and wasted time and effort for technicians.
Time-Based Preventative Maintenance
Sometimes referred to as “routine maintenance,” this stage involves regular system tune-ups and repairs on a predetermined schedule. These routine service visits allow you to check product performance and replace any parts or components that seem to be losing function.
This is the first step toward extending system life and preventing unplanned shutdowns.
But time-based maintenance also has its flaws. For example, outages can occur before scheduled maintenance can happen. Other times, the system is fine and the preventive care is unneeded or redundant.
Usage-Based Preventative Maintenance
Just like time-based preventative maintenance, usage-based maintenance is a form of routine maintenance. After a certain amount of usage, you perform a tune-up or replace parts.
An example here is a vehicle that gets a tune up after a certain number of miles driven. Again, this can lead to downtime if the asset breaks down before scheduled maintenance, or unnecessary work if the asset is performing at an optimal level.
Condition-Based Preventative Maintenance
This is where IoT-enabled products come into play. Internet-connected sensors attached to various components and subassemblies allow you to track different data types and relay them to a central database.
You can use the data to detect anomalies, order parts proactively, and fix the issue in one truck roll. Because you have access to better data, you don’t run the risk of sending the wrong technician.
Predictive maintenance uses much of the same infrastructure—sensors, connectivity, cloud storage, etc.—and generally adds a layer of AI or machine learning to analyze the data and make predictions about how long a specific component will last before it falls out of an acceptable zone of performance.
Connected systems can automate certain core functions, allowing your team to reach optimal maintenance levels at scale. It can take a long time to aggregate the data needed for this, and often requires an additional development effort to bring data analysis and reporting into the picture.
Examples of IoT-Enabled Preventative Maintenance
Watsco - Building the “Check Engine Light” for HVAC
Leading HVAC distributor Watsco wanted to create an “HVAC check engine light” that would let contractors and system owners diagnose and report on A/C system issues before an outage to reduce unnecessary truck rolls. Yet, building IoT capabilities in-house proved difficult, as connectivity was unreliable and the device certification process was too long.
Watsco began building prototypes of A/C sensors on Particle’s platform, and quickly realized that the Particle platform made it much easier to bring a connected product to market at scale. Particle abstracted all the complexity of building an HVAC IoT product, and allowed Watsco to focus on solving customer problems, not fixing connectivity issues.
Watsco is now able to help homeowners and HVAC contractors monitor their A/C systems 24/7 with their Sentree product. In just 16 months, Sentree connected over 2000 A/C systems across the US with 600M data samples collected and over 500 A/C issues identified and fixed before service disruptions occurred. As Watsco continues to innovate with Particle, more contractors are signing up to use their connected products.
WellCaddie - Oil Well Monitoring for Preventative Maintenance
WellCaddie sells monitoring solutions for oil wells. Its solutions allow oil producers to monitor their wells remotely and prevent spills and leaks while
WellCaddie needed a platform that would allow it to build a low-cost, low-hassle alternative to end-to-end SCADA systems for monitoring oil wells. While its team had familiarity with Arduino, the platform didn ’t offer everything required for WellCaddie to get to market quickly with a robust product.
By equipping WellCaddie with the hardware, connectivity, software, and over-the-air update capabilities needed for a remotely deployed connected product, Particle’s integrated IoT Platform-as-a-Service empowered WellCaddie to enter a market dominated by large incumbents and provide a differentiated solution.
WellCaddie used Particle to build a solution that simplified well data collection for a tech-skeptical market and is helping its customers see noticeable bottom-line results.
- 10% to 40% increase in well production
- 70% reduction in field service trips
- 80% reduction in engineering time
- 480x reduction in data acquisition cost
IoT Solutions for Preventative Maintenance
Particle makes it easier than ever for manufacturers and solutions providers to build preventative maintenance capabilities right into their products. Choose from cellular IoT modules or Wi-Fi IoT modules embedded with the full capacity of the Particle Platform-as-a-Service, and start building for free up to 100 devices.
Not sure which one would work best for your use case? Check out our comparison of cellular vs. Wi-Fi for IoT products.