Five positive impacts from the IIoT on manufacturing

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has impacted manufacturing in areas such as predictive maintenance, safety, and supply chain visibility.
By Ryan Nabozniak April 22, 2017

Image courtesy: Bob Vavra, CFE MediaManufacturing is using the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to tremendous effect and the impact has created many positive developments. The IIoT’s advantage is especially noticeable in these five areas:

1. Predictive maintenance

Regular maintenance is a key component of smooth plant operations. By planning regular (usually annual) outages for equipment maintenance and repair, companies can reduce the likelihood that they’ll be hit with unplanned outages as the result of emergencies. But, there are some problems with this approach. Not all equipment needs maintenance at the same time and on the same schedule.

The IIoT allows companies to move to a predictive maintenance model instead. With real-time performance monitoring of equipment and devices, companies can plan their maintenance schedules around when the equipment actually needs it, rather than according to an arbitrary schedule.

2. Supply chain visibility

Supply chain visibility is both essential and challenging, especially in industries like food, where ingredients may be sourced from a wide variety of vendors, and new regulations demand complete transparency. With the IIoT, manufacturers have real-time visibility into everything that happens to their products—before, during, and after the actual manufacturing process.

For example, through the use of sensors, food manufacturers can determine if their products have been exposed to temperatures, pressures, or other environmental conditions that might render the food unsafe to eat. Having this knowledge ahead of time can save companies millions of dollars in recall costs.

3. Cross-facility operations analysis

Comparing how efficiency and product quality to a sister facility used to be difficult to answer in great detail. Today, manufacturers can use the IIoT to gather and analyze data from multiple facilities. From this vantage, they can make better decisions related to operations efficiency, quality control, and so on.

4. Automation

The IIoT is, essentially, machines talking to one another without a person interfering (and introducing errors). This enables more automation solutions, which manufacturers have been adopting in droves, resulting in both increased efficiency and higher-quality, more consistent products.

5. Safety

This might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about the IIoT. Nevertheless, companies can use all the help they can get when it comes to plant safety.

Rockwell Automation’s Dave Krieger gave a talk at this year’s EHS Today Safety Leadership Conference, noting, "Safety has always been there, but not one has ever really collected data. That could help in compliance and auditing."

It could also help with the bottom line. For example, by tracking safety events that lead to downtime, companies may be able to identify trends and put measures in place to prevent them from happening.

Ryan Nabozniak, application consulting engineer, Aucotec. This article originally appeared on Aucotec’s website. Aucotec is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media, cvavra@cfemedia.com.

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