It goes without saying that the world we live in today is very much the digital age. Today we are more digitized and connected than ever before. Against this backdrop, digitization is one of the industrial gas industry’s biggest trends for 2022.
And it’s in this digital age where New Jersey-based Anova comes into play. A global leader in remote monitoring of industrial assets, providing Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) solutions that enable improvements in efficiency, safety, service and profitability, the company has been leading digitization in the industrial gases market for over 30 years.
Formally DataOnline, Anova has built up long-standing relationships with six major global gases suppliers, more than two dozen regional gases producers on six continents and over 100 distributors in the North American independent gases and welding distribution community, plus a number of equipment suppliers and end-customers.
But while Anova’s longevity and experience continues to support its leading role in the digital age, the company, like many, has experienced a series of headwinds in the last 12 months.
Solutions for trends
But Kevin Lynch, Senior Vice-President of Industrial Gases at Anova, told gasworld that these headwinds, supply chain trends and shortages have presented the company with opportunities.
“Timely right now is helium, as there has been a lot going on in the helium sourcing world for the past few years,” Lynch told gasworld. “New sources have come on-stream, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) continues to ramp down its supply. It’s personal to me because I have worked in the global helium business units of two of the world’s major helium suppliers over a 15-year period, prior to joining Anova. I know first-hand the challenges the people in those businesses face. Imagine you have a helium ISO container worth a million dollars and helium contents worth half a million inside of it. It’s on its way from the US to Asia, but it can’t get on a ship and out of the Port of Los Angeles. Pressure is building every day, and if it doesn’t get moving soon, you are going to lose a load of helium.”
He added, “Without a helium monitor on that ISO, you don’t know where it is or what’s going on inside it. With an Anova helium monitor on that ISO, you will know exactly where it is and what the conditions of the helium and the nitrogen shield is. You have much more control of the situation, and you can take appropriate action to protect your cargo. That is why all the world’s major helium suppliers, and many of the smaller ones, are monitoring their ISOs with Anova remote telemetry units.”
Anova strengthened its offering to the helium market in 2020, along with many others in the industrial segment, with its Hardware-as-a-Service (HaaS) option. Consisting of a bundle that enables industrial gas distributors to utilize Anova’s hardware, actional software and mobile app solutions with upgrades, telecommunications and hosting, and customer service and support, the solution has been a hit with many involved in the tank business.
Lynch explained that at the heart of all of Anova’s solutions is a fusion of three elements:
- Robust, flexible and durable hardware, built to last many years in harsh operating conditions, easily upgradable through changes in communications technology and capable of handling a wide variety of sensors and input types to monitor any type of asset that is of interest.
- Dynamic, easy to use software to visualize inputs and provide actionable intelligence about what is going on with the assets, including off-the-shelf integrations into dozens of back-end ERP and logistics systems.
- Industry and applications expertise, helping customers to know what to do with the recorded information.
“Our online software portal, Anova Transcend™, is what pulls all the information from our telemetry devices together. Those devices are on dozens of different asset types and product contents,” Lynch said.
But it’s not just in the helium market where Anova has seen increased demand for its products. One of the most turbulent headwinds of the past two years has been the coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19).
“The world still hasn’t put Covid-19 behind it, so the interest in medical oxygen has remained strong, heightened by some of the crises we all saw in certain regions, including India and Brazil, where oxygen was not making it to hospitals in sufficient quantities to serve patients’ needs,” Lynch said.
“So, at a minimum, the industrial gases industry is trying to make sure that all medical oxygen liquid tanks have remote monitoring and telemetry to inform production and delivery schedules. And they want to be certain that those telemetry devices will work reliably, so they come to the trusted brand that we at Anova are grateful to be.”
Lynch continued, “The other area of heightened and growing interest is in mobile assets more broadly. The strains that we see on the supply chains all over the world have raised awareness of the fragility of the system.”
Companies have had a rethink of their supply chain strategies due to the pandemic’s impact.
“We have been running in a world based largely on a just-in-time manufacturing philosophy,” Lynch said.
“Companies used to be able to keep inventories low and replenished frequently by a reliable supply connection. Covid-19 and the governmental responses to it broke the chain. Inventories got used up, re-supply did not happen fast enough.
“This affects all industries, including industrial gases, so people are re-thinking some of their philosophies regarding inventory and the reliability of transportation. This is causing some re-balancing of the supply network and is driving a desire for a more complete view of where the goods are throughout the chain of supply. Remote monitoring and telemetry inform this view.”
Speaking on Anova’s plans, Lynch said, “In terms of software, Anova Transcend™ will continue to grow in its functionality including enhanced business insights and efficiency analytics.” He continued, “We will also be rolling out an upgrade to our explosion-proof telemetry units, suitable for monitoring flammables, such as hydrogen and LNG, where we are seeing strong interest.”
“In addition to this, we will continue to grow with the Anova Industrial Gateway, which is what we use to monitor high-flow data inputs from PLC-based customer applications equipment and other advanced systems.”
Looking ahead to the future, and future developments in the industry, Lynch said, “We expect that the demonstrated fragility of the global supply chain will cause many companies to relocate sources of supply closer to end markets. Labor cost arbitrage is great in a world where everything flows reliably all the time, but we’ve seen that we don’t live in that world.
“There’s good news there for some of the more developed economies that have seen much of their manufacturing base move offshore. Over the next several years, we expected a lot of that to move back ‘home’. Other than a few high-value products, such as helium and certain electronic gases, the industrial gases business is governed by shipping value economics that keeps production close to customers. So, the knock-on effect of home-shoring of manufacturing and processing facilities will be more industrial gases production plants, distribution facilities and related infrastructure in places like North America and Europe. We serve our customers wherever they need us and are ready to meet their needs.”