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Asset Performance & The Industrial Internet of Things: Transforming refineries into mammoth smart devices

Asset Performance & The Industrial Internet of Things: Transforming refineries into mammoth smart devices


The immense strides in nanotechnology, producing infinitely smaller chips, sensors and machine parts, were originally driven by the quest for compact portable smart phones, tablets, laptops and space applications. This technological progress has triggered the transformation of massive industrial systems like oil refineries into immense smart devices.

As smart phones have leveraged individual wellbeing and productivity by, inter alia:

  • improving communication;
  • enhancing access to information;
  • boosting productivity;
  • improved time management with e.g. reminders for meetings, milestones, deadlines, times to take medicines, and
  • monitoring heartbeat

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is enhancing enterprise wellbeing through optimising operational and asset performance.

Large plants with gas burning flames leaping meters high from several chimneys are changing and factories and refineries are indeed through “Industrial Internet of Things” (IIoT) technology becoming enormously large smart industrial devices.   

From an idea in 1999 to a $124 billion market…

The phrase “Internet of Things” appeared first on the internet in 1999, coined by Kevin Ashton of Proctor and Gamble. Barely 23 years after Ashton’s speech, the market for the IIoT is estimated at $124 billion.

The IIoT remains for many a vague and non-definable concept. For some its merely an array of sensors and instruments that send readings to a central operations room rather than having these physically read by personnel. For others, only automated responses based on such readings would be real IIoT. Another perspective insists on a cyber-system that generates predictions on the productive asset chain by evaluating the digital data by algorithms.  

To date, IIoT adoptions have been devoted to managing critical processes for businesses. Companies have implemented solutions from multiple technologies to:

  • structure a cyber-physical system (e.g. Edge, Fog, and Cloud computing);
  • access reliable and accurate data (e.g. sensors, cloud, big data management);
  •  learn from past experiences (e.g. artificial intelligence, machine learning, deeper learning);
  • provide digital security (e.g. blockchain), and
  • interplay real and cyber worlds (e.g. augmented reality, digital twins).

Vetasi, a global asset management consultancy and supplier of Asset Performance Management (APM) and Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) solutions, reckons the investment in IIoT is only now approaching a rapid acceleration curve.

Based on the maintenance and reliability model from Crespo Marquez , Vetasi projects that the market for intelligent assets alone will increase from an US$7,000 mil in 2020 to US$325,000 mil in 2030.

The relevant IIoT software market, known as Asset Performance Management (APM) software, is also growing apace.

But what is the IIoT?

James Fair, Vetasi CFO, defines the IIoT as a system comprising IT and industrial hardware that automatically:

  • generates digital data flows from a network of interconnected sensors, devices and industrial instruments supporting evidence-based decision making,
  • integrates data pertaining to both assets and operations,
  • and analyses the generated data against algorithms based on historical operational intelligence from within the firm as well as from relevant external sources

to ensure optimum asset and enterprise performance and wellbeing. The system can trigger automated responses for events within prescribed parameters or provide instant scenario analytics based on data-insights for interactive decision-making in cases outside these parameters.

How to escape being a hostage of your physical assets

The importance of assets for company performance varies across enterprise and industrial sectors. Whilst assets are of importance to all firms, some sectors are far more at risk to asset failure than other, almost to the point that the company becomes a hostage of the assets. Failing to keep the assets in good shape will lead to demise. Failure of critical assets is the most significant risk to operations and therefore company performance (Bousdekis et al., 2020).

This is especially the case in the Oil & Gas (O&G) sector. When an oil refinery burns down or explodes the operations cannot be relocated to other premises to resume production. With the O&G sector being intensely capital dependent, the risk of asset failure is therefore much higher When infrastructure in such “asset-hostage sectors” like O&G would fail or misfire, the business model itself is at risk due to a seriously affected bottom-line.

Fair says asset management and maintenance has evolved from a support function ensuring the machinery works to one of the most critical functions for enterprise wellbeing. “It is no longer a case of asset maintenance.  It is now asset performance management (APM).  Neglect that and not only production suffers: the bottom line suffers even more.”

“Maintenance management was initially almost entirely reactive: it kicked into action when something broke, similar to security forces adapting to alert mode and mobilising only after being ambushed or driving over a landmine. Maintenance management matured into phases of regular patrols (time based preventive maintenance) and permanent sentinels and guard duty (condition-based preventative maintenance).

“IIoT, however, presents a paradigm shift in APM. Companies can now implement pre-emptive strikes and even ambush the problems by resorting to predictive and prescriptive maintenance modes through an integrated data generating sensor system with instantaneous analytics,” Fair says.

Our vision at Vetasi is to be a leading global partner for our customers in optimising value from physical assets. For more information, visit www.vetasi.com

Read the latest issue of the OGV Energy magazine HERE

Published: 10-05-2022

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