Looking Forward: How IIoT Impacts Manufacturing and Product Development

IIoT and Industry 4.0

With the advent and acceleration of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), businesses in the manufacturing sector face important business considerations regarding technology adoption. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of everyday devices, appliances, and other objects equipped with computer chips and sensors that can collect and transmit data through the internet. The network of connected things collects and shares data about the way things are used and about the environment around them.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is similarly applied to industrial applications, connecting machines, and devices to extract data to enhance and optimize process controls. The IIoT is comprised of interconnected sensors, instruments, and other devices networked together with computers’ industrial applications.

Through the current period of industrial advancement, known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0, small and medium enterprises are considering how to upgrade operations by adopting digitization in order to stay relevant and compete in the manufacturing industry for the long term. 

Companies must decide how to approach technology implementation and weigh the costs and risks associated with augmenting existing equipment or investing in new systems. 

The gradual transformation toward complete “smart manufacturing” has begun, but full-scale implementation will be gradual. While 71% of industrial manufacturing executives confirmed that they’re building or testing IoT-related solutions, the truth is that full-scale digital transformation is a long way off. 

SMEs are taking IoT implementation step by step, starting with business operation areas that are easily adaptable and promise the highest ROI. IIoT adoption is an incremental process that occurs as new technologies, equipment, and systems become more readily available.

IoT and Industrial Manufacturing Forecasts

According to IoT Analytics, the industrial industry spent over $64 billion on IoT in 2018 and Industry 4.0 spending is expected to increase to $310 billion by 2023. IoT Analytics recommends paying attention to specific supporting technologies, including additive manufacturing (3D printing), collaborative robots, and connected machine vision.

The white paper, The Industrial Internet of Things: An Evolution to a Smart Manufacturing Enterprise released by John Conway of Shneider Electrics, summarized the transformation.

“Suppliers and users must start adopting IIoT technologies in their products and operations if they wish to remain competitive in the marketplace. The good news is that technological maturity is such that businesses and enterprises can now introduce IIoT solutions by phasing in new technologies that shift their physical infrastructure base over time.” 

Let’s take a closer look at some of the challenges and benefits for SMEs need to consider regarding the future of manufacturing and IIoT adoption.

IoT Adoption Risks and Concerns

Technology adoption doesn’t have to mean “rip and replace.” Technological innovation is ever-evolving and making investment decisions in new equipment or systems is complicated. 

First, SMEs are concerned with costs and expenses associated with augmenting existing systems. Transforming a traditionally linear process into a gradually interconnected system will ultimately save time and money, but upfront costs and downtime are inevitable.

Tech disruption in the manufacturing industry has further complicated the ongoing talent shortage and training programs. “Shifting skill sets due to the introduction of advanced technologies is cited as one of top five reasons manufacturing jobs remain unfilled,” according to Deloitte. Training and educating operators will be a crucial aspect of industry transition, requiring people to adopt new skill sets and capabilities to get the most out of technology.

Finally, increased data integration will require advanced data analysis. Training people to leverage the benefits of IIoT in order to optimize the investment is essential. Eventually, reskilling will lead to the reallocation of human resources by manufacturing operators.

IIoT adoption is highly dependent on cybersecurity and cloud computing that supports equipment and enterprise systems at scale. Transferring information between humans and machines requires secure and reliable technology assets. 

For SMEs, there are many layers of IIOT adoption to consider including mechanical and electrical parts, advanced sensors, networks, applications, and devices, not to mention strategic vision to evolve manufacturing businesses.

The Benefits of IoT in Manufacturing and Product Development

Predictive Maintenance Will Increase Operational Efficiency 

IoT adoption will enable predictive maintenance and prove to be the key to incredible cost-savings. The ability to address issues in advance, based on information relayed by connected sensors, will help determine when and where maintenance is needed, and reduce overall downtime. 

As operators are able to detect issues and potential delays before they occur, processes improve, costs go down, and safety increases. Predictive maintenance and access to data will increase production and efficiencies in real-time, and ultimately evolve industry operating procedures and standards. 

Predictability, by definition, allows for better planning and ongoing production optimization will give greater insight into maintenance scheduling and process management.

Regular maintenance helps increase the lifespan of parts and reduces waste and facility space used for storing additional parts. Current technologies allow operators to pinpoint specific bottlenecks and augment assets with sensors, or programmatically monitor variables to achieve more efficiency.

Data Analytics Will Continually Optimize Processes

Assuming that the technology is in place, access to data will help improve processes across the board, on a continual basis. With the use of sensors, cameras, HMI, and PLCs, we can gather relevant information faster to attain higher yields. 

As operators pinpoint the most relevant data, they can gradually lower expenditures and increase the bottom line. Remote control of machinery using sensors and analytics tools will show patterns and highlight potential areas for process improvement, from a distance. 

Advanced sensors enable the ability to stop processes when necessary, pinpoint issues, reduce waste, and save energy. The interconnectivity allows for greater accountability and faster problem-solving.

Safety & Monitoring

Facility managers in IIoT environments will experience the benefit of proactive safety measures. Humans won’t be able to operate machines or devices when the environment or conditions are potentially unsafe. Processes will only run under specific conditions and safer sequences will gradually change industry safety standards and procedures.

Real-time and historical safety information can be instantly communicated via text or email. This data will help improve facility safety and provide opportunities for highly specific training to ensure safe behavior that protects human operators in manufacturing environments.

Looking Forward to Gradual IIoT Adoption

Product development firms play a key role in IIoT adoption. In order for SMEs in manufacturing to effectively make the transition and claim all the benefits Industry 4.0 has to offer, product development and custom automation solutions will be foundational.

Assets like mechanical and electrical parts, advanced sensors that help provide data, and the ability to implement controls and smart devices into existing systems are important pieces of the IIoT puzzle.

The modern industrial evolution is underway and partial or full digitization is inevitable. Along the way, manufacturing facilities can take advantage of opportunities to strategically implement IIoT solutions, one step at a time.

Contact PDFact to learn more about how we can support your digital transformation strategy and implementation.