The trend of digitalisation has been with us since the first computers have found their way into businesses. In the HVAC, refrigeration and building controls industries, the benefits of digitalisation can be gained by both end-users and installers. Benefits include streamlining operating processes, putting new automation procedures in place saving costs and energy, and remotely monitoring equipment to detect faults and underperformance at an early stage. Vertical markets of all types profit from digitalisation, including food retail, the cold chain, manufacturing, commercial buildings and many more.
However, the definition of digitalisation is not always clear and some businesses are left questioning how they can implement it.
What is digitalisation?
Embracing digitalisation to reap the benefits is often hindered by confusion around the meaning of the term. If digitisation and digital transformation are thrown into the mix, the result can be a vague definition for all three terms that doesn’t properly define any of them. Using the terms interchangeably poses the risk of underestimating their individual impact.
Digitisation is fairly straightforward and refers to bringing analogue information to a digital format. Examples include transferring customer details that used to be stored in filing cabinets to a digital file saved on a PC, or keeping maintenance records of HVAC equipment digitally accessible rather than stored handwritten in a folder. The important thing about digitisation is that it refers to the information being digitised, not the processes.
Changing the processes happens in digitalisation. There is no one clear definition of digitalisation, some refer to how social life is impacted by digital communication, others to how businesses change their structure to generate more revenue. What both approaches have in common, is that processes, whether societal or business-related, are changed through digital technology. Gartner provides a definition on the business level: “Digitalisation is the use of digital technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities.”
While digitalisation refers to the change of processes, digital transformation refers to a change in business culture. It ultimately changes the way a business operates to deliver best value to its customers. Digitalisation is necessary for a business looking to digitally transform.
IoT and Automation Key to Digitalisation
Automating processes through digital means is a fundamental aspect of digitalisation. In the HVAC, refrigeration and building controls industry, automation plays a key role in optimising operating efficiency, cutting costs and reducing energy consumption.
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to equipment on-site communicating via the internet. The IoT enables automation of operating processes through allowing information, such as signals to turn a device off or on, changes to set-points, or fault reports, to be passed between devices. Automating these processes ensures that everything is operating at best performance.
Installing IoT capable devices that allow the automation of operating processes, whether it is in manufacturing, food retail stores, the cold chain, or any type of commercial facility, is necessary to fully digitalise processes and gain the benefits of digitalisation.
Open Protocol Systems
In order to implement automation and benefit from digitalisation, it is essential to operate the facility with equipment based on open communication protocols. Closed, or proprietary, protocols restrict the user to equipment from one manufacturer. If new digital processes are going to be implemented that require the installation of new equipment, only equipment using the same protocol can be installed which limits the choices, often to one option or maybe even no option if the equipment is not available for this type of protocol.
Open protocol solutions facilitate digitalisation. HVAC, refrigeration, lighting and other building control devices operating based on open protocols, can seamlessly integrate into existing infrastructure and communicate with each other. If new equipment needs to be installed to enable new digital processes, it can easily be connected to a system based on open protocols.
It has always been essential to monitor the condition of equipment to detect faults or issues that could lead to a decrease in productivity, output, or system failure. Digitalisation enables businesses to streamline the monitoring of equipment and allows to do so remotely. Devices connected via the IoT send data to remote monitoring software where it is analysed and issues handled if needed.
Remote monitoring is an essential tool to optimise a building’s infrastructure. It can provide insight into the operating data of individual HVAC, lighting and refrigeration devices, which allows users to identify not just issues but also opportunities for improvement. When utilised to its full potential, asset management software can lead to a reduction in operation and maintenance cost as well as a reduction in working capital. Other benefits that remote monitoring offers include streamlined data management, predictive maintenance, equipment-failure management and energy management.
Open Protocol & Remote Monitoring Solutions.
Resource Data Management’s (RDM’s) HVAC, BMS and refrigeration control solutions are based on open protocols. Their internet protocol (IP) communication system applies down to the device level and works with existing, third-party network infrastructure. The system is demonstrably future-proof and expandable.
RDM’s award-winning software, ActiveFM, offers all benefits of remote monitoring mentioned above. In addition, it offers robust asset management on an enterprise level and unique plug in options such as Live Maps, which provides visibility of assets by geographic region and at-a-glance data used for predictive maintenance.
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