That the Internet of Things (IoT) is perfectly described as a disruptive technology is no surprise. In fact, in terms of digital transformation, the manufacturing industry has particularly emerged as a leader with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). IoT is at the heart of the current industrial transformation (being labelled Industry 4.0) internationally. Based on IDC data from 2017, the manufacturing sector was the leader in IoT spending charts and the trend is only poised to continue right into 2020.
So what kind of an edge does IIoT give the manufacturing industry?
At the Manufacturing Site
Unlocking Insights in Real Time, Improving Productivity: IIoT’s ability to connect devices, networks, and software across multiple operations seamlessly allows manufacturers to receive information in real time across the spectrum. This enhances decision-making abilities in real time. With IIoT’s ability to convert data into several units of measure, based on need; interact with other machines, maintain statistics and handle safety and performance issues of equipment or production lines, its uses are manifold and downtime, as a result, is definitely minimal, if any. IIoT also makes tracking of quotas, predictive maintenance and product usage analysis simpler, allowing for better R&D in product as well as service development.
Putting these applications in manufacturing operations in perspective General Electric (GE) estimates that a 1% improvement in productivity across its global manufacturing base can mean $500million in savings annually. On an international scale, this 1% improvement can mean an addition of $10 to $15 trillion to global GDP in the next 15 years.
In the manufacturing operations sector, IIoT will bring together asset management as well as intelligent manufacturing. It will ensure performance optimization, improve monitoring systems and planning. It will also fine tune human-machine interactions. An important outcome will be the coming together of cyber-physical systems and IIoT which are essentially two sides of the same coin.
From the Production Level
Product Asset and Management: With a massive potential in terms of applications, IIoT’s second highest application is in product asset and management. From assessing quality and performance, to predicting bottlenecks and breakdowns, its predictive maintenance capabilities are also high. It is at this level that IIoT has the ability to aggregate product related data based on parameters of customer sentiments and other third-party data collection drives to pinpoint potential trends and correct quality issues that may arise. It also keeps a constant check on inventories and maintains a steady flow through the length of the value chain, right up to the customers.
At a Global Supervisory Level
Enabling Better Decisions Across the Hierarchy: IIoT enables management across the board to have a bird’s eye view of their production line and its status, location across the globe being immaterial. Any changes for better operations can be done remotely thanks to the interconnectivity that IIoT offers. For the R&D departments, the insights that are offered help understand usage patterns of customers as well as track the quality of machinery and in turn product manufacturing. All of which can be re-engineered based on real time insights and decision making. It also helps on the field – because humans are needed for maintenance on the ground level as well. Predictive analysis will help in catching problems right at the start and ensuring that seamlessness is a way of life for manufacturers.
While these may be the three primary use cases for IoT in manufacturing, there are several other ancillary sectors that will benefit as well. There are a host of services and assets that indirectly contribute to the manufacturing process and are no less important. IIoT and its abilities also help in enhancing worker safety on the manufacturing floor and the field. This is done through health monitoring, air quality management, vehicle health safety management and the like. Quality control and the packaging and transportation level is also something that comes under its purview.
What finally emerges is that IIoT is well on its way to helping the manufacturing industry create self-sufficient eco-systems. The interconnectivity ensures that every aspect of the manufacturing process is available for inspection, correction, enhancement and improvement at all times, in real time, enabling smarter decisions and therefore a much needed upper-hand in a competitive environment. It works on the principle of the importance of data in the smart manufacturing equation. The invaluable insights that one can gain from IIoT, which are applicable to both the manufacturing and the consumer side, as well as everything in between, cannot be denied in the current age.
Getting on board the IIoT bandwagon is not a matter of being part of a trend, but rather taking a firm step into Industry 4.0. As early adopters of the technology will tell you, the quality of insights available and their accuracy can give any business a clear edge on market trends and requirements. What more can any manufacturing organization ask for!