Connectivity in regard to hydraulic systems involves the utilization of “smart” components, which work together and communicate with one another on a common system. These components can include the connectivity software to the joysticks, valves, pumps, motors and more that make up the physical system. Along with streamlined communication within the machine, fully integrated smart hydraulic systems also allow the equipment to be connected to other systems within the Cloud.
Within the past five years or so, working with connected systems has impacted how machines are built. No longer are smart components only an add-on to an existing system, they are integrated into the machine’s design from the beginning. The commonality of being connected—from using Wi-Fi, cellular or satellite connection wherever we go to syncing all our devices—is also an expectation in the off-highway equipment industry.
Yet, now that connected systems have been available and in use for a few years, the industry must focus on how to best utilize all the data these components generate.
The connectivity capabilities in machines today mean we can get accurate updates in real time from every machine in the field. In the past, this kind of data gathering would require people traveling with the machines to collect and test data on site. Now, a fleet of machines which will automatically track and record useful data points can be sent out at once.
Looking at a fleet of machines provides the opportunity to look for patterns across the board, which can lead to insights regarding machine design, product lifetimes and much more. For product suppliers and equipment manufacturers, this information can point to ways to streamline systems, and for end users, this information can help them optimize their machine workforce. For example, these insights could potentially lead to more cost-effective machines that exert the same amount of power.
Data analytics can also help customers manage machine maintenance, avoiding costly downtime. Knowing exactly how different parts of the machine are performing and if or when they may need to be serviced can save valuable time and money. This is especially useful for mining applications, where instead of routinely checking machines in potentially hazardous situations, equipment status can be monitored remotely.
On the service side, it is much simpler to troubleshoot issues with a machine through connected systems. For example, a customer could call a service desk that is compliant with their machine’s connected systems—like Danfoss—and they could remotely diagnose the issue and get started on the necessary repairs.
Lastly, there’s room to utilize connected systems to expand a business. With remote monitoring and data analysis, users can test their machines from anywhere, allowing them to get equipment up and running in areas where it may not have been possible before. This is especially useful for small to midsize OEMs that might not otherwise have the resources to develop, test and expand beyond their typical reach.
When connected systems first started to appear in the industry, there was a lot of hype without much of a plan. Now, especially within the past year or so, the potential to build business models around connectivity is becoming more viable—from service and site management to innovation and machine optimization.
What the industry is moving toward now is refining the capabilities of connectivity and turning it into perpetual value—value for OEMs, for product manufacturers and for the end user.
Henrik V. Joergensen, President of Controls Division at Danfoss Power Solutions, wrote this article for Truck & Off-Highway Engineering as part of our annual Executive Viewpoints series.