The Internet of Things (IoT) is a transformational technology that forms a central pillar of Industry 4.0. Connecting machines to analytics platforms via internet-connected sensors means they can be remotely monitored, or even monitor themselves. This allows potential problems to be predicted, resulting in less downtime and greater efficiency. The implications for the cooling systems market are obvious, and back in 2017, this was something that occurred to Zachary Wernlund, Güntner’s Smart Solutions Manager for the Americas. And when Güntner launched its own version of Shark Tank, looking for innovative ideas from its workforce in the Americas, Wernlund was able to put his ideas into action.
“I realised that the IoT was going to play a key part in the future growth of the whole industry, so it was something we had to move towards.”
SMART SOLUTIONS MANAGER, GÜNTNER
“When I first started at Güntner I worked heavily on the service side, so I interacted a lot with customers – and particularly when they were having pains. But there was often a disconnect between the actual situation and what we saw here at Güntner, because our insight came purely from what we were told over the phone or through seeing pictures. With an IoT solution, we would have the data in our hands right away,” he remembers. At the Güntner Shark Tank event, Wernlund and his small multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary team carried off the prize, beating 44 other teams in the competition. And then the hard work began. “Before, it was just an idea,” says Alejandro Lomas, currently Product and Innovation Manager at Güntner, who organised the event. “Now it was time to put that idea on paper and actually develop a work plan.”
Wernlund and his colleagues began working on a prototype, going through, as he puts it, “many, many, many iterations”. But it wasn’t just a question of developing the technology, there was also the commercial side to consider. “We had to think about sales, because this would be an entirely new product for our sales guys, so we needed to develop a strategy and ways to promote it and sell it,” he says. “And then there was the legal angle, making sure there were no problems with collecting data. Basically the whole thing was like building a new business from the ground up within Güntner.”
Wernlund and his team have now completed the first phase of the project. The team has designed an interface that allows customers and Güntner operatives to monitor real-time information such as temperature, fan velocity, voltage and operating hours. Equipment can be connected via cellular data, WiFi or ethernet, and if the system detects an anomaly, it sends an alert via email or SMS to the customer and Güntner. But this is just the start, says Wernlund: “It's great to be able to visualise the data and collect it, but the end goal is to start using that data, building machine learning into our control system and applying predictive maintenance and predictive control, using data from all our units around the world.” What Wernlund ultimately envisages is a globally connected Güntner ecosystem, powered by AI and automation, in which failures can be predicted and spare parts sent out before a customer even knows they are needed.
Güntner’s IoT solution was recognised at the Technology & Innovation Leaders Awards organized by TNE Magazine in Monterrey, where it won a prize. “In recent years, Monterrey, Nuevo León has been Mexico’s own Silicon Valley, so the recognition means a lot,” says Lomas. “It proves that Güntner is one of the pioneers of Industry 4.0 in Mexico.”
“The possibility of being connected to the equipment in real time allows us to be on hand for our clients in their plants whenever they need us. And at the same time, if the data we collect helps us improve how the system operates in general and make the best use of energy and water, it supports our global sustainability objectives.”
EPC SALES REPRESENTATIVE, GÜNTNER