What can the IIoT do?

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) enhances manufacturing operations by enhancing connectivity, equipment management, monitoring production, and customer relationships. Nine additional IIoT benefits are highlighted.

04/02/2018


The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) connects devices and people and collects and enables more intelligent machines, more autonomous machines, and enables those machines to talk to each other. Courtesy: Maverick TechnologiesIn the industrial world, it's called the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)—a huge buzzword in manufacturing and the topic seems to be everywhere. Like the Internet of Things (IoT), the IIoT connects devices and people and collects and shares large amounts of data. The IIoT enables more intelligent machines, more autonomous machines, and enables those machines to talk to each other.

Unfortunately, many people haven't heard much else when it comes to the IIoT. Beyond smart devices, and collecting and sharing data, most people haven't heard what the IIoT can do. Nine additional IIoT benefits are highlighted below. 

1. Monitor production

With the IIoT connecting smart machines and collecting and sharing large amounts of data, it is now possible to monitor production in real-time. This allows for immediate responses to production upsets, helps eliminate wasted time, and reduce in-process inventory. Planned production can be compared in real-time to actual production; machine and line speeds can be changed in real-time, and in-process inventory adjustments can be made, as well. The IIoT enables production to finish on time and in sync with the in-process and raw materials inventories.

2. Manage equipment remotely

IIoT-enabled machine connections allow equipment to be managed remotely. A worker has the ability to manage or monitor the equipment from anywhere and is not restricted to being right in front of the piece of equipment that needs maintenance. Smart sensors can be used to better understand what's actually happening with the equipment. Protocols can be established to proactively manage the equipment, conserve energy costs, and reduce overall operating costs.

3. Equipment maintenance

Condition-based maintenance alerts can be easily implemented using the IIoT. The IIoT is a key enabler for reliability-centered maintenance and for machine-learning paradigms used to support predictive maintenance. This adds up to increased throughput, reduced downtime, lower maintenance costs, high machine reliability, and a greater return on invested capital in the form of better machine use and output.

4. Item identification and communication

Barcodes are mostly on everything and radio-frequency identification (RFID) is increasingly being used in the place of barcodes because of its greater flexibility. Coupled with GPS, RFID provides enhanced capabilities, but collecting and sharing the data can still be an issue. The IIoT can connect barcode systems and RFID systems and eliminate many inherent communications problems by allowing these systems to collect and share large amounts of data on products, materials, work-in-process, locations, and movements for improved real-time management.

5. Continuous improvement with data analysis

Lean manufacturing and six sigma and other continuous improvement paradigms need a lot of data. This is why the IIoT is so important. The IIoT helps aggregate product data, process data, and other data and helps get it to the right people and the right places for analysis. This is exactly the continuous improvement people need to identify problems, get to the root cause, implement improvements, and confirm those improvements worked.

6. Autonomous material handling

The IIoT can connect to just about anything including material handling equipment such as automated guided vehicles (AGV) and automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS). The production line can trigger an AGV to pick up products or drop off materials. The AGV can trigger the ASRS to put some products into storage, and the production line can trigger the ASRS to send more raw materials, which in turn triggers an AGV. This can all work autonomously with each unit by communicating with the others in real-time.

7. Improved communication with suppliers

The IIoT enables communications with suppliers by providing operational information to the suppliers for remote process automation and optimization. IIoT-based communications with suppliers can be expanded to include production throughput, inventory levels, work-in-process and material levels, all to support just-in-time inventory delivery, vendor-managed inventory programs, and better management of inventory and materials.

8. Improved customer relationships

When it comes to customers, the IIoT can provide cross-channel visibility into finished goods inventory levels. This allows reduced inventory levels, reduced transportation costs, reduced warehousing and distribution costs, and better customer service. It helps manufacturing and distribution operations get the right products to the right places at the right times, which helps keep customers happy.

9. Enhanced management decisions

In a highly competitive environment, the management team must have real-time information to make decisions that can have a significant impact on a company's costs and profits. The IIoT enables management getting the right information to see what's happening on the manufacturing floor so they can make the decisions necessary to better manage overall operational costs and improve company profits.

The IIoT can do a lot more than most people have considered. It connects devices and people, collects and shares large amounts of data, and enables and integrates more intelligent and autonomous machines. IIoT is a great tool and can enable manufacturers to improve a wide range of operations. Pick an opportunity and go.

John Clemons is the director of manufacturing IT at Maverick Technologies. Edited by Emily Guenther, associate content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media, eguenther@cfemedia.com.

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