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What Is the Internet of Things (IoT) and How Can It Help Filtration?

By Wade Wessels, Global Director of IoT and Connected Solutions, Donaldson Company

A fourth industrial revolution is underway, and its driver is the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT refers to the massive numbers of devices being connected to the internet for data sharing. Most consumers are already familiar with IoT through their everyday use of smart phones, GPS, home appliances and other objects that are embedded with data sharing technology.

These “connected devices” are now migrating to industry, where the term is sometimes referred to as the industrial internet of things, or Factory 4.0. Just as steam, electricity and information technology before it, IoT is ushering in a revolution in how factories operate.

So how will Donaldson harness the potential of IoT to improve filtration products and processes? Wade Wessels, Donaldson Director of Connected Solutions, provides insight into our approach, and reports on important steps either completed or underway:

1. We’re investing in expertise.

For decades, Donaldson has invested in data analytics and modeling in our test labs. Our engineers were early users of supercomputers; and sensors, which measure performance indicators like heat, motion, and pressure, have guided the design of Donaldson dust collectors, engine filters, compressors and vents since the 1970s.

When we build internet connectivity on top of sensors—then add Donaldson’s strong analytical capabilities—we’ll unlock new solutions that deliver even greater value for our customers.

To support this effort, Donaldson has been investing in a cross-functional connected solutions team, and we continue to expand it with expertise in IT, software development, data science, analytics and engineering.

In addition, Donaldson acquired Filter Minder®, a supplier of service indicators and sensors for vehicle filters. These connected devices are already working on heavy equipment in the field, helping to maximize the efficiency of the machine. The Filter Minder product line sets the bar for what connected solutions can bring to our other markets.

Potential Benefits of Connected Filtration
  • Track system performance
  • Predict maintenance needs
  • More predictable downtime
  • Support compliance with environmental regulations
  • Allow for custom configurations
  • Connect devices worldwide, allowing an instant system overview
  • Provide analysis/drill-down data that allows users to identify performance issues
  • Automate workflows
  • Put all solution functions on a mobile device for ease of monitoring intelligence gathering and analytics
2. We’re asking customers about their unique filtration needs.

Next, we’re focusing on solutions that matter to our customers, so finding ways to effectively use IoT to help solve our end users’ filtration problems is a natural progression.

To narrow the possibilities, our connected solutions team initiated conversations with customers. We then went to each Donaldson business unit to identify the key challenges in filtration. Our customers’ valuable feedback yielded the following common themes:

  • Filters and dust collectors are critical, not core. Like car insurance, our products help protect important factory assets, but operators don’t have time to think about them every day. Even basic maintenance and filter changes could be easy to overlook in a busy workplace.

  • There is a challenging labor shortage. As baby boomers retire, manufacturing facilities are having difficulty filling vital positions. Connected technology could potentially help address labor or experience gaps, and free up workforces to focus on tasks that are the focus of the operation.

  • Companies want to produce more at a lower cost. This prompts more scrutiny of their equipment: “Am I using the right solution and is it running ok? How do I optimize it and avoid unplanned downtime?” These questions require data; but data requires experienced interpretation.

These trends add up to a conclusion: customers are open to outsourcing more of their filtration monitoring and maintenance, with the help of IoT technology. “I just want to have peace of mind that it’s working properly,” said a customer, summing up a frequent end user response.

3. We’re developing focused solutions and expanding our sensor-equipped product portfolio.

How is Donaldson acting on the valuable input and information received from customers? First, we’re adding sensors to more of the Donaldson product portfolio. We refer to it as “turning on the lights,” because right now, most industrial equipment—not just at Donaldson—lacks the sensors required to collect data.

We are also developing the first Donaldson connected solution. Our team has started with very specific use cases in two areas of Industrial Air Filtration: remote monitoring and preventive maintenance. Long-term, we will use this experience to build solutions for other markets Donaldson serves: Process Filtration, Gas Turbine Systems, Integrated Venting Solutions and Engine Filtration.

Why are we so deliberate? For IoT solutions to truly succeed, they need to add real value for customers and provide a return on investment. We are working to help customers improve the holistic health and performance of their equipment.

Have more questions about Donaldson iCue™ Service solutions?

Wade Wessels, Global Director of IoT and Connected Solutions, leads Donaldson’s IoT business innovation team. Wessels was an engineering and business development manager at Donaldson for eight years before moving to Honeywell, where he most recently managed sensing and IoT systems. He rejoined Donaldson in 2017 to head up a cross-functional team of company engineers, IT specialists, data scientists, and business analysts, developing filtration solutions that use connected technology to its greatest value for Donaldson customers.
4. We’re conducting thorough testing.

The final step is piloting our solutions. With industrial IoT, there is no one-size-fits-all answer or single broad software platform. Every solution we design needs to address the unique needs of our customers.

To help us accomplish this task, we are working with a large cross-section of customers:  from large multinational enterprises with hundreds of dust collectors to small specialty wood shops that operate a single collector. Pilots are currently underway in customer locations of all sizes. Our pilot testing will make sure we are fundamentally getting the solution right and will help us deliver the best solution according to each industry and customer’s needs. 

For example, a smaller facility might want a text notification to the plant manager when a machine needs a filter change. But a larger customer may want multiple views and deeper integration. Different facilities will receive data and use it in very different ways.

Start and end with the customer.

The future is upon us. Manufacturers may still be early in their adoption of IoT, but a recent Plant Engineering survey found that 70 percent are gearing up with investments in cloud technology.

At Donaldson, our connected solutions team intends to, “Start and end with the customer.” We are imagining the vast number of possibilities, while staying focused and deliberate to develop solutions that deliver a valuable return on investment for our customers.

As factories continue to strive for better efficiency from core and ancillary devices, Donaldson will be ready with relevant filtration solutions that add real value. Applying more than a century of experience of filtration on engines, military vehicles, processing plants, and factories, expect Donaldson to contribute great connected solutions.