Edge analytics software is increasingly popular with manufacturers and makes equipment data more accessible to decision makers. But could it help manufacturers seize Industry 4.0’s promise of revolutionising industry?
Rubble Master, a mobile crushing and screening equipment manufacturer, put this question to the test when it sought to do more with its equipment data. It turned to edge analytics expert Crosser to help bring its crushing and screening into the digital realm.
Based in Austria, Rubble Master is a manufacturer of mobile equipment for the mineral processing industry. Its equipment is especially popular in recycling applications and the processing of natural stone, and Rubble Master’s iconic yellow machines can be found on sites across the globe.
In 2020, Rubble Master took its first step in a new direction. Instead of only selling machines, the company wants to sell a service. As part of this strategy, customers will be able to use Rubble Master’s machinery on demand without committing to equipment ownership. Costs will depend on factors including the amount of time they require use of the equipment, or the amount of material the equipment is processing.
As a shifting model in the industrial machinery sector, Equipment as a Service (EaaS) is becoming increasingly favoured as a way to lower costs and increase long-term partnerships within the supplier and customer relationship. EaaS was famously pioneered by Rolls-Royce, which lets airlines pay for their engines based on the number of flight hours.
This makes EaaS different to classic rental models, as a company is paying for outcomes, not just use of equipment. Rubble Master is an early adopter of the strategy, especially in heavy machinery, but it wants to do more than simply rent out its equipment.
Data driven insights
In addition to a changing business model, Rubble Master faces another challenge. The manufacturer runs a channel business, which means its equipment is typically distributed by a network of partners that sell the product or service to the worldwide market.
While this strategy streamlines customer service, it also means Rubble Master can feel distant from its end customers. To gain feedback and learn more about how customers use Rubble Master’s equipment, Rubble Master and its distribution partners must spend a lot of time and effort tracking down data on equipment health, application and productivity. It’s often a lengthy process.
Nevertheless, Rubble Master still wants to learn from its customers and hear how they’re using their equipment, in order to innovate and find areas for improvement. The company needed a new way of gaining data insights, without complicating the process even further.
Markus Gaggl, Rubble Master’s chief technology officer, reached out to Crosser in the middle of 2020. Crosser delivers streaming analytics for any cloud or edge platform and works with businesses across many areas of manufacturing.
“Before we approached Crosser, we had implemented our own data collection capabilities in-house,” said Gaggl. “However, we wanted to streamline this approach and gain analytics in a faster and more flexible manner.”
Edge analytics software takes data produced by sensor-rich assets – such as machines, equipment and other connected devices – and allows it to be pre-processed in real time, closer to where it’s created. Gaining access to relevant data in a central location, either a cloud or a data centre, is key to making changes and meeting business objectives.
The software can also be deployed on a server or virtual machine. This allows equipment owners to gather sensor data from multiple on-premise machines and data sources, in real time. Deploying edge analytics software on a server or virtual machine can eliminate the added costs and complexity of sending everything straight to the cloud.
Put simply, edge analytics can make big data ‘small’, or easier to handle, and also more relevant – which is why the approach is growing in popularity. In fact, Gartner predicts that 85% of infrastructure strategies will feature edge delivery, along with on-premises, colocation and cloud options, by 2025.
Time to innovate
Crosser’s mission is to help Rubble Master obtain data from its global network of equipment and streamline and organise it in a central environment. But there are several key challenges that must be addressed.
First, to deliver a stable connection, data persistency is key. This involves making sure data is stored, even when an internet connection is unavailable. Data persistency will become increasingly important as the technology is rolled-out across Rubble Master’s fleet, located in distant quarries or far-flung locations where connections are sparse.
Rubble Master has added around 4,000 machines to the global market since 1991. That’s a lot of data to collect, manage and make meaningful when these machines are deployed in the field, making reliable data channels key to safeguarding value.
In addition, no two machines are exactly the same from a data perspective. Older and newer equipment can run different versions of software that require different approaches to troubleshooting. Other machines could have a completely unknown status, right down to the exact location of the machine.
As an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), Rubble Master needs to understand its machines inside-and-out, whatever their age or software requirements. That’s before it even begins to consider passing these data insights down the supply chain.
To support this, Crosser must act as a single, safe channel to collect this machine data. Because data is managed at the source, edge analytics both collects and filters data, storing or sending it to the correct location based on abnormalities, business rules and algorithms.
Only the necessary data is sent to the cloud or data centre, which enables large savings in bandwidth costs. Security is also less of a concern with edge analytics, compared to centralised cloud providers, as the data is less likely to be intercepted.
With the support of Crosser’s edge analytics platform, Rubble Master can use the data for its own product innovations. Furthermore, it can recommend the best equipment to customers as part of its developing EaaS strategy. The data can be used by Rubble Master’s channel network to advise customers further down the chain.
The information can also be used by fleet managers and equipment owners, as well as those working with machinery onsite, to gain insights into the health and status of the equipment.
Close to the edge
Crosser’s edge analytics software is in the process of being deployed on Rubble Master machines in different locations. Each machine is monitored closely to test the efficiency of data collection, and how this data can be used in the long-term.
Thanks to these insights, Rubble Master plans to launch the next phase of its business remodelling that will incorporate greater connectivity into its equipment fleet.
Crosser will play a major role in this evolution, and grow as a core component of Rubble Master’s asset management infrastructure.
“Our work with Rubble Master is an ongoing process, but an exciting one,” said Kai Schwab, Regional Director for the DACH region at Crosser. “Rubble Master is on a journey of true innovation, especially for its industry, and managing data will sit at the heart of this journey.”
Gaggl added: “As a business, Rubble Master is on the verge of a new era. We want to transform our business model and learn more from the equipment we bring to the market. When you have thousands of machines, deployed all over the world, that are often handled by site managers with no direct connection to Rubble Master, learning from customers can be difficult.”
“We believe the efficiency, reliability and flexibility of edge analytics is key to uncovering this information, and that Crosser will help form the backbone of our new infrastructure.”
Schwab agreed: “As part of Crosser’s work, we want to develop a solution anyone can access, not just software developers,” he said. “As so many people could become involved in Rubble Master’s digitalisation journey, it’s vital that we introduce a low-code platform that not only provides the security and efficiency required for data handling, but also offers the flexibility to put Internet of Things (IoT) technologies into the hands of service technicians, after-sales engineers, or anybody else who’s a non-developer.”
Transforming your business model takes courage, skill and a full belief that the new system will deliver value to the business. It also requires the right partners to help deliver new ways of working and managing information.
While Rubble Master is at the beginning of its digital journey, support from Crosser, and the potential of data management through edge analytics, will play a key role in bringing mobile crushing and screening into the modern era.