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The Industrial Internet of Things FEATURE NEWS

Revolutionizing The Massive Industrial Pump World: From Physical to Digitally Enhanced Solutions Saving Money, Saving the Planet

By Arti Loftus February 16, 2021

Billions of electric pumps keep the world moving every day, across every industry where water, oil, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, beverages, and other liquids are processed and carried as part of manufacturing, service delivery, and more.

Last year, Grand View Research published a comprehensive global study of the industrial pump market, forecasting that the overall size will reach just short of 100 billion dollars by 2027, expanding at a CAGR of 5.9% over the forecast period, citing technological advancements that have resulted in increased efficiency and is likely to propel the adoption of industrial pumps over the forecast period.

“Advancement in technology is expected to improve basic process tasks, provide a long-term reduction in everyday operating processes, and increase the reliability of the industrial pumps,” the authors wrote. “Furthermore, it is likely to enhance the product performance and reduce energy consumption, thereby augmenting the product demand in end-use industries, such as water and wastewater, oil and gas, and construction. Increased productivity offered is expected to bolster the product demand over the forecast period.”

This week, two companies – PeopleFlo, a company whose own journey is a study in digital transformation over the last two decades – and ZEDEDA, a leader in orchestration for the distributed edge – introduced a breakthrough solution called MachineEdge that makes possible intelligent edge control proven to reduce pump system energy consumption and increase reliability to reduce unplanned downtime and lengthen pump useful life. In addition, MachineEdge generates a high-resolution electrical and mechanical dataset that allows for remote condition monitoring, diagnosis, and in the future AI and ML applications.

Presenting on a webinar on February 10th, Mike Thompson, CTO of PeopleFlo, explained how ZEDEDA’s edge orchestration solution accelerated the development of their MachineEdge pump optimization system. “We needed solutions to three challenges: updating software external to our Azure IoT Edge modules, holistic device security, and device monitoring,” Thompson said. “MachineEdge is now able to transform the combined performance of control loop machines – pumps, motors, and control valves – in a digitally orchestrated fashion with ZEDEDA’s edge solution.”

PeopleFlo is revolutionizing fluid technology by transforming industrial pump systems from passive, stand-alone, and disconnected assets into smart, synchronized, and connected assets, Thompson explained. “MachineEdge reduces energy consumption by 50% and drives down CO2 emissions while improving the reliability of control loop machines: motor, pump, and control valve. With ZEDEDA, we found a straightforward, holistic edge management and orchestration solution built on an open architecture enabling us to on-board, deploy and manage thousands of MachineEdge devices.”

“PeopleFlo’s domain expertise lies in pumps and pump systems and by providing them a plug-and-play, ready-to-run orchestration solution for the distributed edge, they can focus on delivering value to their customers through unique apps and services rather than building the underlying infrastructure,” said Seyi Verma, Head of Product Marketing for ZEDEDA.

Microsoft’s Azure IoT Edge services are, like the forecast growth of digital solutions in the industrial pump sector, growing steadily. In a blog published in 2019, Microsoft revealed that after a $5 billion investment in IoT and intelligent edge in 2018, their platform was powering customer solutions with thousands of devices, at scale, with the number of devices supported has grown nearly 150 percent year-over-year. That growth trajectory continues with continued investment, particularly in the Industrial IoT world.

“Azure IoT Edge provided a clean way to develop edge apps for use with Azure IoT Hub; however, PeopleFlo needed a way to manage the underlying infrastructure and deploy apps in a secure and scalable fashion,” Verma said.

ZEDEDA’s integration with the Azure IoT platform provides full lifecycle management capabilities (hardware, OS, Azure IoT Edge Runtime, Azure IoT Edge modules), single-click bulk provisioning, and risk-free updates. With Azure Device Provisioning Service (DPS) integration, ZEDEDA enables MachineEdge devices to be on-boarded automatically while seamlessly connecting to Azure IoT Hub within minutes.

ZEDEDA’s Zero Trust security model enables hardware root of trust (e.g., TPM), measured boot, remote attestation, encryption, I/O port management, and distributed firewall to govern data flow from edge to cloud in a secure fashion.

“ZEDEDA helped PeopleFlo fast-track MachineEdge readiness by eliminating the integration of time-consuming and complex independent services with a single secure orchestration solution,” Verma said.

“We had a clear vision but needed a solid partner in order to scale,” William Blankemeier, President of PeopleFlo, said in a case study published by ZEDEDA. “We looked at our options and reached out to ZEDEDA – they provided exactly what we needed at exactly the right time. They enabled us to focus on delivering value to our customers while providing a mature orchestration solution for the distributed edge, saving us years of development time and getting MachineEdge ready for the market.”

PeopleFlo was founded in 2004 to design and manufacture EnviroGear, a new line of zero-leak pumps for customers in the chemical market. “Our initial strategy was based on a conviction: a holistic approach to product development, built by combining an innovative product design with a cutting-edge ‘lean’ production system, would create unprecedented value,” Blankemeier said. “As a result, we developed a new industrial pump concurrently with a new production system to create a fully integrated product line.”

The company continued to innovate on behalf of a blue-chip roster of companies, including DuPont, PPG, Cargill, Ashland, Chevron, and ADM. Their proprietary one-product-flow production system demonstrated the ability to cut production costs incurred by competitors by nearly 50%. Delivery lead times were dropped from an industry average of 40 days to under 10 days. Gross margins topped 50%, and operating income reached 35%. 

Ever curious and determined to improve pump technology, Blankemeier decided to focus on innovation and sold their EnviroGear product line and related manufacturing assets to Dover Corporation. In addition, Dover licensed PeopleFlo’s one-product-flow production system for use in manufacturing the EnviroGear product line.

“In 2012, we transitioned from a pump manufacturer to an engineering design and innovation company,” Blankemeier said. “We turned our 10,000 square foot facility into a pump innovation lab with dedicated project hot spots, built a prototype shop with state-of-the-art CNC machines, and set up pump test stands.” Among other innovations, through an innovative system tailored to engineered products, Blankemeier and his team developed magnetically coupled zero leak pump innovations that utilized rare-earth magnets to solve reliability, energy consumption, and initial cost problems.

As “Industry 4.0” also accelerated over the next few years, PeopleFlo focused on how digital technologies can solve big, important pump system problems.

“We had an epiphany: it was counterproductive to monitor and predict pump performance without first addressing the root cause of most pump energy waste and reliability problems – operating a fixed-speed pump with a control valve,” Blankemeier said. “This configuration works well for process control but has serious unintended consequences routinely wasting about 50% of energy consumed and driving pump operating points outside their intended design envelope. This unstable, off-design operating condition undermines reliability by causes unnecessary premature pump failures that can lead to unplanned downtime. We recognized exciting opportunities to use pump system digitalization and AI tools to stabilize and optimize baseline pump performance to provide a firm foundation for predictive pump analytics.”

In 2018, PeopleFlo pivoted to focus on applying digital technologies to transform pump system performance, from lower lifecycle cost for end-users to greater environmental protection for the planet. “We continue to work hard every day to achieve this greater vision and to contribute all we can to the reduction of waste and carbon dioxide emissions. We are honored to work with ZEDEDA  and Microsoft Azure to advance solutions that truly make a difference.”

“When we have the opportunity to work with visionary companies like PeopleFlo,” Seyi said, “our inspiration and motivation skyrockets. Being part of the intelligent edge revolution is exciting – it’s challenging, it’s hard, and it is more creative than any other space we’ve seen in technology in decades. It’s one thing to develop electro-mechanical pumps across thousands of applications and another thing to drive the intelligence, control, and security that ultimately allows those physical pumps to pump digital data into advanced systems. It’s been awesome to put the collective expertise together to support PeopleFlo’s vision and the positively disruptive MachineEdge vision.”

(The ZEDEDA and PeopleFlo webinar is available on-demand here).


Arti Loftus is an experienced Information Technology specialist with a demonstrated history of working in the research, writing, and editing industry with many published articles under her belt.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

Special Correspondent

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