The Internet of Things is making its way into the manufacturing industry. Many larger manufacturers have already been making the move towards a connected facility as well as connecting everything in between. As implementing IoT systems and hardware becomes more affordable and streamlined more manufacturers will make the move to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Right now manufacturers have a unique opportunity to get the immense value out of the IIoT before their competition has the chance. The Industrial Internet of Things offers manufacturers the ability to gather essential data from all aspects of their organization and analyze all of it to assist in decision making. Not only can the IIoT help executives make decisions but the entire facility would be able to wirelessly communicate with each other and make necessary adjustments and decisions on their own. Machine to machine communication will help production lines work together more efficiently and even scale back or increase production to match demand.
Even if you are thinking about implementing the IIoT into your manufacturing operation in the future, there are steps you can take to get ready the IIoT today. The first step before you even think about starting on this mission will be to come up with a goal. Without a solidified goal in mind there will be no way to track your success and gauge how well your connected enterprise is working for you.
1) Gather The Data
One of the most crucial aspects of the IIoT is the organizations ability to gather, analyze and distribute the data throughout the entire business. The information that can be gathered from all this data can help executives make informed decisions on everything from day to day operations to supply chain management as well as every process in between. To be able to benefit fully from the IIoT every production process as well as the facility itself should be outfitted with sensors that will gather the necessary data. You can start small by updating equipment in small increments which will help yourself or your employees from becoming overwhelmed, but the sensors are the means that data will be gathered. Once you have a way to capture the data it should be sent to a central storage system like a cloud so it is able to be accessed anywhere at any time. Keeping your data stored on a sensor won’t do you any good if the data is only accessible by physically retrieving the data from the machine. Uploading the data to a remote server will give manufacturers and any essential employees the ability access the data from anywhere at any time
2) Process The Data
Data gathered from sensors can be compared to raw materials, they first need to be processed and analyzed before they are of any use to executives and employees. As the IIoT becomes more widespread more IT providers are creating the means for manufacturers to analyze their data as it reaches its storage location. Shop around for the best IT solution that works for your organization and create a relationship with your IT provider. As you experiment with your connected organization you will need to ensure that you and your IT provider have a clear line of communication to ensure your IIoT system is running as smooth as possible. Once a system is in place to analyze and store the data, this information will become much more useful for real-time decision making. Making decisions based on cold hard data has the potential to drastically increase your organizations productivity.
3) Machine – Machine Communication
Once data is stored and analyzed, there is more this information can do besides assist in your own decision making. Machines are now becoming much more advanced and able to look at the data and make their own decisions to ensure operations are working as efficient as possible. There is a need for machines to not only be able to upload data to a central server but they need the ability to communicate with other machines on the production line. This unique ability can give your machines a leg up on the competition by controlling production to meet the current demand for your products as well as predicting when systems will need maintenance. For example, if data gathered from consumer reports suggests a dip in demand, your machines can use this information to slow down production so not to cause excessive inventory of a single product. Also, predictive analytics can use all of the information that the machine is gathering about itself to see how well the system is functioning and if a breakdown is inevitable. This kind of information can keep production lines running smoothly since machine maintenance can be determined before a breakdown, the machine can be fixed before it even breaks down and other machines on the production line can pick up the slack.
Many manufacturers have been in business for decades and a majority of them have been using the same equipment for that same length of time. This legacy equipment can pose a problem when trying to upgrade to the IIoT. These older machines were not designed to perform all the functions that are associated with the IIoT. The fact is, many of the machines can be upgraded to support a host of digital systems. Sensors can be implemented in nearly every machine. However, upgrading these machines to communicate with other systems on the production line could be more difficult. In the age of the IIoT it may be wise to invest into newer, digitally controlled machinery but that is entirely up to the manufacturer.
The Industrial Internet of Things has the potential to add so much value to an organization and can drastically upgrade an organizations image. Manufacturers are having a very difficult time finding new talent but the IIoT opens up new recruitment possibilities to attract these new tech-driven generations. To fully make use of all the IIoT has to offer, it is extremely important to make sure your organization has a plan and the systems in place for all 3 of the steps mentioned above. Without having a plan and an IT service in place a manufacturer will not be able to take full advantage of all the services the IIoT can bring to an organization. It is also extremely important to remember to take your time and work on one aspect of your connected organization at a time. There is no out of the box solution for manufacturers that want to implement the IIoT into their facility, but this does not mean it is impossible.