June 27, 2018 - There’s never been a more opportune time to leverage technology to improve operations on the manufacturing floor and in factories. Industry 4.0 has arrived, and it’s the next big technology trend involving manufacturing, automation and the Internet of Things (IoT). The Internet of Things remains a vast category that touches our personal lives and has given us smart cars, connected homes and virtual assistants that improve our productivity. Manufacturers have embraced this technology and brought innovation to the factory floor and assembly line through cloud technology and connected machines. Broad adoption in this market has resulted in the Industrial Internet of Things(IIoT).
The IIoT is ushering in a new wave of technology and capabilities that will automate tasks, lower costs and improve safety. Sensors will allow operators to know when a piece of equipment is near the end of its life, allowing it to be replaced before a problem occurs — and more importantly, before safety becomes a risk. That same equipment will send data to operators letting them know about the conditions on the factory floor so that enhancements can be made, problems can be addressed, and productivity can be improved, ushering in predictive maintenance across the plant’s operations. Beyond the gains in productivity and lowering costs, manufacturers will find new revenue streams thanks to this new industrial ‘revolution.’
How IIoT transforms Smart Factories
The potential benefits are enormous, but they can be hard to visualize. It helps to know that the most significant gains of the Industrial Internet of Things is from data-driven applications. Those applications, in turn, push relevant information to the right decision makers at the right time. Companies and manufacturers can then use that data to improve product reliability, energy consumption, and even plant safety.
This data can save months of downtime, repair costs and lost revenues. For instance, if the data indicates that a piece of equipment is slowing down due to wear-and-tear or failed components, the plant operators can be alerted and then can replace or fix the part to bring it back to its normal, healthy state. This can often translate to double-digit improvements in plant productivity and improve the safety of those operating the equipment.
In addition, the data collected through the IIoT can be of interest to the overall industry and some entities may be willing to pay for it. In this way, the data represents a potential new source of revenue for businesses.
What to look for in an IIoT platform
Many industrial operators look for a scalable and flexible solution when it comes to selecting an IoT platform. They know for an IIoT implementation to work, and deliver results it must be set up, configured and easily customized to monitor their equipment and show metrics specific to their operations. The value of an IIoT platform lies not only in the capability to collect data but in the ability to process and store data so that it can trigger actions and help operators make meaningful decisions. Start by defining business problem and then choose a solution that monitors the results. The platform should have the flexibility to configure Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) specific to the business. These KPIs should be accessible via dashboards, reports and even be automated to trigger actions that will improve operations and optimize performance automatically. When choosing a platform make sure it’s helping leverage the IIoT data that is being collected, processed and stored by emphasizing visualization and has the tools to help make informed decisions that can improve business.
Keep Security Top of Mind
Security is a constant concern, but the good news is that an IIoT platform can enhance a security strategy. If it’s built from the ground up using the latest technology, an IoT platform can help with security by monitoring network traffic and physical structures and then send back information whenever anything unusual is detected. IIoT platforms with the capability to do software distribution can ensure the latest updates and patches are performed promptly and can help reduce risks and system vulnerabilities.
How to approach an IIoT implementation
Starting with a technology assessment is often a necessary first step. It will help determine the aspects of the operation that will benefit most from an IIoT implementation. Choose a technology partner that is either already familiar with the industry or will be eager to take the time to learn that particular business. Building this relationship and trust is critical as it leverages the partner’s technical expertise in the Internet of Things, and the business knowledge to ensure the IIoT implementation is successful. Work with the right technology partner to determine the pacing and sequencing of integrating IoT capabilities into any existing technology and determine how that will be the least disruptive to the overall operations. Create a plan to manage the rollout so the business can scale the implementation over time. Remember customizable KPIs are essential because they can provide an operator a real-time view of the data from the plant’s machines, locations and other aspects of the operations that are important and critical to the business.
The Industrial Internet of Things will change manufacturing in fundamental ways. Find out how an IoT platform like Canopy can provide help with manufacturing operations with real-time monitoring, remote management and automate operations through customizable IoT campaigns.