Thermigas Taps Sierra Wireless to Increase Industrial Water Heater Uptime

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Sierra Wireless, a global IoT solutions provider, has announced that Thermigas is using Octave™, its all-in-one edge-to-cloud solution, to increase uptime and reduce maintenance costs for industrial water heaters.

Using Octave, IoT services & strategy consulting firm Oxelar developed and deployed a preventive maintenance Industrial IoT (IIoT) application in less than two months. By connecting its water heaters to the cloud, the application alerts Thermigas and its customers if one of these heaters needs a settings adjustment or other maintenance to prevent downtime.

Patrice Le Du, Thermigas CEO, said: “Our water heaters are business critical. If they stop working, our customers have to shut down their production lines. We’ve been trying to develop a predictive maintenance IIoT application to guarantee our water heaters’ reliability for years. But connecting our water heaters to the cloud was more challenging than we expected, and we didn’t make the progress we needed to. That changed this year. Using Octave, Oxelar delivered a working prototype at a speed we didn’t think was possible. Launching this application is a significant achievement that will drive improvements in uptime of our water heaters, cut our maintenance costs, and create a new revenue stream for our company.”

Reducing Equipment Downtime with Preventive Maintenance
Thermigas’ industrial water heaters are used by its customers to process food, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals, as well as to treat or clean industrial surfaces. Even a few minutes of downtime can stop the customers’ production lines, costing them thousands of euro for short stoppages and even higher losses for longer ones.

The new preventive IoT platform developed and managed by Oxelar extracts temperature, pressure, and other data from Thermigas’ industrial water heaters and orchestrates its integration into the cloud. If this data indicates a problem, the cloud-based IIoT application then sends real-time alerts (via email and/or SMS) to Thermigas and the customer, informing them that they need to act to prevent equipment downtime. For example, customers can avoid downtime by logging into the IIoT application to remotely adjust the heater’s settings, manually do maintenance themselves, or schedule a maintenance visit by a Thermigas technician.

Improving Loyalty, Lowering Costs, and Creating Revenue with Industrial IoT

Thermigas’ industrial water heaters are extremely reliable, with average uptimes higher than 99.9 percent. However, considering how business-critical the heaters are for its customers, Thermigas has been exploring how to use the IIoT to further increase that uptime percentage since 2016.

Such an IIoT application would boost customer loyalty and satisfaction by increasing water heater reliability, but it would also allow Thermigas to ensure their water heaters are working properly prior to annual inspections by government inspectors. This would cut their costs by reducing the need to send service technicians to customers’ facilities prior to inspections.

Additionally, Thermigas planned to create new, recurring revenue by providing customers with predictive maintenance as a service, since it would lower its customers’ total cost of ownership.

Building and Commercializing an Industrial IoT Application In Less Than Two Months

For more than four years Thermigas struggled to build this application from scratch, with the extraction of data from its water heaters’ controllers, sensors, and other Operational Technology (OT) systems in particular causing them problems.

Thermigas recently partnered with Oxelar to help them find a way to overcome the barriers that were preventing them from launching a predictive maintenance application. Oxelar initially estimated it would take six to nine months for it to build the IIoT infrastructure needed to extract data from Thermigas’ water heaters and integrate it into the cloud.

However, Oxelar then tested Octave, and realized that the Modbus protocol and APIs built into the edge-to-cloud solution would allow them to easily extract data from Thermigas’ OT systems. With Octave, Oxelar was able to move from the start of application development to deployment of a commercial application prototype in less than eight weeks. Having rigorously tested the application with one of their largest customers, Thermigas currently plans to make its new predictive maintenance IIoT application generally available to all its customers in January 2021.

François Dumoulin, Oxelar CEO, said: “We have been working with customers for years on IIoT applications for remote monitoring of industrial equipment. It can take months to have the software written and to assemble the other infrastructure needed to extract, orchestrate, and act on data from this equipment. Sierra Wireless Octave simplifies this entire process. We plugged the Octave FX30 IoT gateway into the Thermigas water heater’s controllers and sensors, and were able to begin extracting data almost immediately. We are already looking at more opportunities to use Octave to provide our customers with even higher return on their IIoT investments.”

Freeing Firms to Focus on Industrial IoT Data, Not Infrastructure
In addition to reducing time to value for the application, with Octave Thermigas can send firmware and application updates over the air to their water heaters, making it easy for them to update the application with new energy efficiency and other capabilities over time.

Octave also offers Thermigas predictable message-based pricing, allowing them to accurately estimate their data transmission costs, and extensive wireless coverage, thanks to its ability to automatically connect to the best available 2G or LTE-M Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) network in an area.

Olivier Pauzet, VP Product IoT Solutions at Sierra Wireless, said: “For years, Thermigas’ efforts to create smart, IIoT-enabled assets has been hampered by complexity. This happens to too many companies, and its why we introduced Octave. By freeing Oxelar from having to worry about how to extract data from Thermigas’ water heaters and orchestrate its integration into the cloud, they could focus on using this data to predict when these heaters might need maintenance. With Octave companies can stop dreaming of how they will use the IIoT to transform their business – and start doing it.”