The Internet of Ice Cream (and Things)

By Contributed Article | August 22, 2016

By connecting an Italian line of frozen-treat machines via the Internet of Things, the equipment maker prevents unnecessary ice cream downtime.

ice-cream-300The maker of large-scale gelato, ice cream, and frozen-dessert equipment, Carpigiani of Bologna, Italy, re-upped its agreement with connected-business solution provider Telenor Connexion earlier this summer with hopes that 4,000 gelato-making machines will soon join another 8,000 remotely monitored machines via the Internet of Things.

Like all machinery, ice cream-equipment is routinely maintained according to a set schedule, but still, it’s prone to failure, usually in the hottest months when customers are queuing up for a frozen treat.

While operators are fixing the machines, customers can’t get their gelato fix and machine owners lose sales.

Predictive vs. Preventative Maintenance

The Internet of Things, with its remote-monitoring capabilities, can dramatically cut equipment downtime because the sensors and devices connected to the machines continually measure their performance and alert owners to a number of operating issues, including imminent part failure, scheduled maintenance, or the need for part upgrades, says Giovanni Virgilli, Carpigiani’s Internet of Things solutions manager.

Predictive, rather than preventative, maintenance means the gelato equipment is much less likely to fail unexpectedly, he adds.

As early as 2007, Carpigiani understood the need to predict maintenance failures to prevent downtime issues that could cut customers’ sales, especially during top-business summer months. So long before the Internet of Things became the flavor of the month, Carpigiani, which makes more than 10,000 machines each year, sought a way to continuously, remotely monitor machines that are located in both small ice-cream shops and large fast-food chain restaurants.

The IoT connection is a smart one, as it jibes with a recent Tata Consulting Services report that found manufacturers, including food and beverage makers, expect the IoT to bring in a 27.1% average revenue increase by 2018.

Early Monitoring Solutions

Nine years ago, Carpigiani itself developed Teorema, a connected, after-sales service system that provided maintenance information and schedules based on actual machine use rather than on a set schedule. The service was rolled out in 2007 to customers in Italy and Germany, Virgilli says.

The solution used subscriber identity module cards to connect ice cream machines. The SIM cards allowed the frozen-treat maker to communicate with Carpigiani. The circuit card identifier recognized the card, and thus the machine, in the field. This allowed Carpigiani officials to know which piece of equipment was experiencing problems.

The SIM cards relied on third-party applications to connect to a network, but within Italy and Germany there was limited network connectivity, so only applications specialized to those countries could be used to connect the machines. When Carpigiani chose to expand its warranty services worldwide via its 400 partner networks, executives knew they needed to up machine connectivity, Virgilli says. A SIM card supplier for each country became unmanageable.

“As connected services become an increasingly important part of our offering and an area we invest significantly in, a global service provider is essential,” he says.

Real-time Data with IoT

In 2010, Carpigiani turned to Telenor Connexion’s Internet of Things solution, which is tied to more than 400 mobile networks via a global SIM.

“We now have a single code of device that fits any machine, no matter where in the world it will be sold or used,” Virgilli says.

In 2014, the frozen-treat equipment maker offered the service to customers as part of an extended, all-inclusive warranty service called Teorema4U.

Because the equipment monitors the life of the machine based on actual use, not time, owners reduce the risk of downtime, says Mats Lundquist, Telenor Connexion chief executive officer.

The data generated by the machines and gathered by the warranty-service system continually examines the state of the equipment and provides the customer with many service options. For instance, Teorema schedules the substitution of needed parts only when necessary and it bases part substitution on the quantity of ice cream produced. It also helps users to organize the operative management of the cleaning and refill cycles, based on actual consumption and production volume to avoid waste, Lundquist says.

Energy Plus, a Teorama service, knows the details of the user’s production needs and can advise on how to save energy. It always recommends the most efficient use of the machine, based on the business needs, he adds.

And, as intended when Carpigiani first began to work on the connected equipment model back in 2007, the system alerts owners that a part might be about to fail, reminds them of scheduled maintenance, and alerts them when maintenance might need to be sooner than regularly scheduled due to the number of hours the machine has been in operation, Lundquist says.

Today, more than 8,000 Carpigiani machines, comprising 300 models, are connected to Teorema. Now, the gelato-equipment maker has plans to expand into Asia and to connect another 4,000 ice cream machines throughout the next two years, Virgilli says.

Those lined up for a summer treat thank his department for its foresight.

Jean Thilmany is a freelance writer and contributor to ConnectorSupplier.

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