The implementation and use of the internet of items (IoT) has transformed businesses in the way that they operate, communicate, and utilize data. In manufacturing, these changes have come at a rapid pace, and an industry that was slow to evolve is now digitizing at lightning speed.

Speaking of lightning speed, today’s manufacturers have to be fast across all facets of operations to be competitive in the modern marketplace. This demand for speed together with the advancement of IoT technology has sparked another movement in manufacturing – the industrial internet of things (IIoT).

IIoT is the next level of IoT technology and is exceptional in the way its application has fully transformed manufacturing. Companies today that are looking for a competitive advantage need look no further than the capabilities that IIoT affords you — the benefits impact everything from maintenance to supplier logistics to employee workflows to product delivery.

To get started, you must first understand industrial IoT and the way it is transforming manufacturing operations.

What is Industrial IoT (IIoT)?

IoT technologies exist all around us – all those connected devices we use like wearable technology and virtual assistants are made possible by IoT. Industrial IoT, then, is taking the digital interconnectivity we have come to depend on and applying it into massive manufacturing operations, where the risks are higher, but the payoff is greater.

According to TechTarget, IIoT can be formally defined as “the use of smart sensors and actuators to enhance manufacturing and industrial procedures. Also known as the industrial net or Business 4.0, IIoT leverages the power of smart machines and real-time analytics to take advantage of the data that dumb machines have produced in industrial configurations for years.”

Industrial IoT capabilities need widespread digitization of manufacturing operations. Organizations must include four primary pillars to be considered a fully IIoT-enabled operation:

  • Smart machines equipped with sensors and software that can track and log data.
  • Robust cloud computer systems that can store and process the data.

Advanced data analytics programs that make sense of and leverage data accumulated from programs, informing manufacturing improvements and operations. Valued workers, who place these insights to operate and ensure proper manufacturing function.

Benefits of IIoT

According to a consultant’s forecasts, the Industrial IoT market size is predicted to reach $210 billion by 2024. In fact, Industrial IoT makes up more than 17 percent of the number of IoT projects worldwide.

So, what can manufacturers expect from today’s industrial IoT solutions? These are 5 of the biggest benefits of adopting a fully connected IIoT manufacturing operation.

Increase efficiency

The biggest benefit of IIoT is that it provides manufacturers the ability to automate, and therefore optimize their operating efficiency. Robotics and automated machinery can work more efficiently and accurately, boosting productivity and helping manufacturers streamline their functions.

Additionally, physical machinery can be connected to software via sensors that track performance on a constant basis. This enables manufacturers to have better insights into the operational performance of individual pieces of equipment as well as complete fleets.

IIoT-enabled data systems empower manufacturers to enhance operating efficiencies by:

  • Bypassing manual tasks and functions and implementing automated, digital ones
  • Making data-driven decisions regarding all manufacturing functions
  • Monitoring performance from anywhere — on the manufacturing floor or from thousands of kilometers away

Reduce Errors

Industrial IoT enables manufacturers to digitize nearly every part of their business. By reducing manual process and entries, manufacturers are able to reduce the biggest risk associated with manual labor – human mistake.

This goes beyond just operational and manufacturing mistakes. IIoT solutions also can reduce the risk of cyber and data breaches caused by human error. A Cyber Security Trend report cited people as the largest cause of cyber security breaches, with human error being the offender 37 percent of the time. 

AI and machine learning-enabled programs and machinery can do much of the essential computing themselves, eliminating the potential for someone to make a simple mistake, and set the manufacturer’s data at risk.

Predictive Maintenance

Nothing negatively impacts a manufacturing operation greater than machine downtime. Aberdeen Research Group calculates that the average cost per hour of downtime across all manufacturing types equates to $260,000. What could be causing such drastic issues that manufacturers cannot operate? The answer is straightforward – lack of appropriate and predictive maintenance.

When maintenance in the manufacturing world is reactive rather than proactive, manufacturers are stuck trying to identify what the issue is, how it can be repaired, and what it will cost. With predictive maintenance powered by industrial IoT solutions, all of those issues are alleviated.

When machinery performance and function is tracked consistently, manufacturers can create a baseline. This baseline and the corresponding data enables companies with the information they should observe any issue before it occurs. They can then schedule maintenance prior to downtime, which benefits them that they:

  • Have the parts required for the Work.
  • Know the cost of the job beforehand, and can budget for this particular
  • Move manufacturing to another area of the facility, so the merchandise quotas are unaffected. 
  • Make sure that machinery is operating at maximum efficiency

Easily Improve Safety

All of the data and sensors required of a fully functioning IIoT manufacturing operation are also helping to bolster workplace safety. “Smart manufacturing” is turning into “smart security” if all of the IIoT sensors work together to monitor workplace and worker safety.

Integrated safety systems are protecting workers on the floor, on the line, and in distribution. If an accident occurs, everyone in the facility can be alerted, operations can cease, and company leadership can intervene and make certain the accident and incident is resolved. This incident can also generate valuable data that can help avert a repeat occurrence in the future.

A newer alternative some manufacturers are using is the use of wearable technologies among their employees. Wearables have been part of IoT since its infancy, and it are just now being utilized in industrial IoT operations.

Wearables help leadership keep tabs on things like employee position and the ambient noise levels, and they can then enhance work conditions and potentially enhance performance. They can also alert employees when they aren’t following appropriate workplace safety procedures, so they can correct their actions and stay safe on the job.

Help Lower Prices

Knowledge is power, and the knowledge provided to manufacturers via IIoT solutions is providing them the resources they need to reduce costs and generate greater revenue. Data-driven insights into operations, production, marketing, sales, and much more can steer businesses in a profitable direction.

All of the aforementioned benefits of IIoT – predictive maintenance, fewer errors, improved quality control, and maximized efficiencies — will all boost profits for a manufacturer. Industrial IoT also offers arguably the most valuable tool for leaders of a manufacturing company — insights from anywhere, anytime.

Remote observation of manufacturing operations is currently possible 365 days a year, 24/7, from anywhere in the world. This 360-degree view into the whole manufacturing process, and the follow-up service provided to customers in their buying travel, is an invaluable asset.

About the Author

Cesar Agostino

Hardware and Software Design Leader in 4i Platform.

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