The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT): Real progress or just hype?
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has been depicted as a revolution that is changing the face of industry. But in a practical sense, how does IIoT affect the way factory operations staff and machine builders perform their tasks, and how will IIoT help plant management deliver higher profitability numbers? The value lies in the ability of new “smart” technologies to link automation systems with enterprise planning, scheduling, and product lifecycle systems.
Let’s look at how IIoT process changes will affect workers:
- Connectivity – Industrial devices that were typically not “connected” are now being manufactured with built-in intelligence. These devices hook into the information network and report back via data-gathering monitoring systems. This is fueling explosive growth in the granularity of information that can be analyzed.
- Job enrichment – Instead of just operating mechanical equipment, workers now evolve into a new generation of “augmented” workers. These workers, through the use of mobile devices and augmented reality, can do a much better job of interpreting data and forecasting process behaviors. As a result, work becomes simplified and production systems grow more efficient.
Plant executives also have several reasons to be optimistic:
- Cost – Prices for such advanced technologies are much lower than in the recent past, both for the hardware that gathers the data, and the software that interprets it.
- Security – The linked systems are based on open, standard internet and cloud technologies. This enables secure access to devices and information.
- Efficiency – Core manufacturing systems such ERP, Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) systems, Supply Chain Management and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems have been traditionally managed in an independent fashion. This prohibits a holistic view of the enterprise. Now it’s projected that the flood of IIoT-enabled smart devices will facilitate information exchanges among such systems, resulting in efficiency gains of up to 26%.