As part of an ongoing series of Industry 4.0 articles to help manufacturers embrace the fourth Industrial Revolution, we will be going through some concepts, theories, and practical examples. Our first article was about Industry 4.0 success stories, and the second was about Equipment-as-a-Service. To keep up with the series, sign up for our newsletter.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is one of the most popular concepts within Industry 4.0. The term, a subset of the general Internet of Things (IoT) trend facing businesses today, is one that we’ve defined before, in our Manufacturing Industry 4.0 glossary.
What Is IIoT?
"Incorporating machine learning, big data technology, harnessing sensor data, machine-to-machine (m2m) communication and automation technologies, this is IoT applied to manufacturing." - Manufacturing Industry 4.0 Glossary
In simpler terms, IIoT is the act of finding ways to link your machines and processes to the internet and the cloud, so that the machines can then, using interoperability, be able to ‘talk’ to each other and to you. It runs on data, and it works based on technologies such as sensors that can give you data on usage and efficiency, and other technologies that can help your machine learn what to do next, and then have that automated.
Who Is Using IIoT?
As per an article by The Manufacturer, currently it is larger multinationals who have started smart manufacturing initiatives, and this extends to IIoT solutions and sensors.
“For your prototypical manufacturing SME, there is still a great deal of uncertainty around what the Industrial Internet represents, how it might positively and negatively disrupt operations, and – most importantly – how those all-important first steps can be taken towards adoption.” – “Widespread Confusion Still Surrounds IIoT”, The Manufacturer
If you’ve read our monthly Industry 4.0 news round-up, you can see that there are many research facilities that partner up with large manufacturers for IIoT initiatives.
As for the types of manufacturers who are more interested in IIoT, The Manufacturer has interviewed the senior director of industry solutions from Stratus Technologies, who has talked about the higher levels of adoption by Oil and Gas companies, Pharmaceutical companies, Food and Beverage, and more.
Rising competition has led to the need for even the well-established mainstream products to be produced more efficiently, hence the need to invest in IIoT and Industry 4.0.
Why Should You Embrace IIoT?
Even though smaller SMEs haven’t started looking at IIoT, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t. The Industry Week 2017 Manufacturing Report shows that key concerns, like workforce challenges and supply chain management, can in fact be tackled through IIoT initiatives such as a cloud-based ERP system or, more indirectly, through increasing efficiency and productivity.
A simple way to illustrate the benefits of IIoT comes from an article by Digitalist magazine, called “Why The IoT Means You'll Never Run Out Of Paper”. It uses paper companies and printer suppliers as the example, and compares the old method of preventive maintenance to replace paper with the IoT method.
With IoT, “paper companies and printer producers can collaborate to ensure paper supplies remain constant. Sensors can transmit data from printers to paper companies, showing the precise type of paper being used and predicting when it will need to be replenished. This real-time data can be integrated into the planning process – ideally using the print shop’s production planning software – and order paper automatically via EDI based on actual consumption.” This helps to reduce downtime, and the need for an extra storage space just for paper.
For many manufacturers, there is also the risk of being unable to prove the Return on Investment (ROI), but with the many research projects and partnerships happening now, there are multiple success stories that can be extrapolated to fit other industries.
The implementation of IIoT solutions can lead to real-time monitoring, quality assurance, and logistics tracking, which is crucial for most manufacturers. At the same time, all of this can be done remotely, thanks to the power of the cloud.
In the end, with a variety of advanced IoT technologies and solutions entering the market, it is crucial for manufacturers, big and small, to look at the adoption of Industry 4.0 solutions, as a year’s worth of cost-savings after implementation can make the difference between being in the red and being in the green.