Technology is infiltrating the manufacturing industry in full storm. In recent years, trends have included the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and industry 4.0, otherwise known as the 4th industrial revolution.
These phrases refer to having physical objects, like machines or devices, connected to the Internet. The industrial part signifies that the connected devices are within manufacturing.
Similar technology is also used in homes. For example, you may have a thermostat you can remotely adjust with your smartphone or lights that automatically turn on when you open your garage door.
In your manufacturing business, it could be a sensor that monitors a bearing on a machine and records the operating parameters and sends the data in real time to a monitoring system. This lets people know if the bearing is operating within limits or if it might fail.
This data can be further analyzed to ensure your team can predict a potential failure and schedule the replacement of the bearing to avoid an unplanned catastrophic failure and excessive downtime.
IIoT allows equipment to communicate and track data on a continuous basis in real time. As this data is obtained, additional systems can then use the information to help you achieve better optimization, alert you of potential problems, and improve your manufacturing flow and asset utilization.
Over the years, OEMs have realized the benefit of this real-time data and have started to build sensors into their equipment, making them the standard now. In addition, many companies have developed aftermarket sensors that can be installed into legacy machinery and equipment. This gives you the opportunity to better analyze and understand your opportunities for improvement in real time.
The benefits of IIoT in your shop:
What are the drawbacks to IIoT? It can increase your vulnerability to a cyber attack.
Every time you add a sensor or transmitter, you are adding an access point to your network—another point where a hacker or computer jock could enter your network and create mayhem for your business.
Make sure you have sound computer and network security measures and policies in place.
When allowing vendors or customers to have direct access to your network and data, make sure they have security protocols and systems in place so you are protected.
The data you receive and collect can be overwhelming. Make sure you have storage and the right analytical software in place to make good use of this data. Many machine and equipment manufacturers can help you select the analytical tools to get the most out of your data.
Depending on your ERP, MRP, and MES systems, you may not be able to manage or process the IoT data you collect. Make sure you understand any limitations of your current systems and if you can or need to upgrade. There are also third-party vendors that can collect, store, and manage your data. However, this usually adds cost as well as additional potential for cyber hackers to enter your system.
Make sure your network and IT can handle the extra data flow, monitoring, and communication. You might have to look at cloud storage or increasing your server space and processing capabilities.
You also need to make decisions on what to do with your legacy machinery. Do you retro fit or just wait until the equipment is depreciated and removed from the shop floor?
If you decide not to upgrade, realize you are not getting the true picture of what is happening on the floor as you only get data from equipment that is IIoT-enabled.
As you see, there are costs to IIoT besides sensors or buying new equipment. However the benefit of IIoT is real and can be measured.
If you want to be an industry leader, IIoT should be a part of your strategy. The benefits of IIoT, the connectivity, and the real-time data may get you where you want to be.