Equipment-as-a-service (EaaS) involves renting out or providing access to equipment and collecting payment periodically, rather than selling the equipment outright. This payment model enables end users to pay for costly or infrequently used equipment as an ongoing operating expense, which can open new markets for machine builders.
Shumaker Industries is an OEM that builds automated truck wash systems using a PLC to control position sensors, wash nozzles, etc. Shumaker wanted to add a remote monitoring option for customers who were interested in a rent-to-own arrangement but their PLC didn't have the ability to perform the database transactions they would need to monitor usage.
Martins Electrical Service (MES), the system integrator that Shumaker hired to design this new option, initially experimented with a proprietary remote monitoring system — wireless sensors that pumped data into a cloud database through a local Internet of Things (IoT) gateway. But the system could deliver updates only every 10 minutes and the data was locked in the vendor's private storage system.
MES took a new approach. Rather than installing additional sensors, they used groov RIO from Opto 22 and the system's ten software-configurable I/O channels to capture existing sensor data in parallel with the wash system's PLC.
Then, using Node-RED — IBM's open source IoT platform embedded in groov RIO — they organized that I/O data into time-stamped sets associated with a vehicle number. Finally, they connected a 4G cellular router to groov RIO and pushed those data structures from Node-RED directly to cloud-hosted storage, which they rented from MongoDB.
This approach allowed MES to deliver a scalable monitoring system without worrying about vendor lock-in or IT infrastructure maintenance. And by simply grabbing existing I/O signals, they avoided the need to communicate with or modify Shumaker's existing PLC controls.
To complete their EaaS design, MES built a Web-based dashboard that lets Shumaker visualize the wash system in operation with one-second resolution. Node-RED also generates e-mail and text alerts including a monthly report on the number of trucks processed by each wash system that Shumaker uses to calculate billing.