How IIoT Brings You Closer to Customers

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The manufacturers gaining the competitive edge on product quality and customer satisfaction appear to be those that adopt smart-manufacturing technologies, including the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Why is IIoT such a key differentiator in today’s economy? It lies in the ability to monitor, correct and optimize operational issues in real time.

A headline in Chief Executive Magazine recently posed the question: “Who’s Pushing U.S. Manufacturing Forward?”

“Accelerating the rebound in U.S. factories depends on what they make and how they make it, not just where,” wrote Chief Executive contributor Dale Buss.

It’s a statement that rings especially true today. Talk of trade wars, changing consumer demands and continuing workforce shortages mean U.S. manufacturers must place a greater emphasis on quality, innovation, and efficiency to remain competitive.

Dependence on low-cost sourcing won’t win the game anymore.

Many manufacturers have relied on outsourcing to remain competitive. But this model isn’t quite as effective as it once was. For one, wages are increasing in many low-cost countries, such as China. Also, consumer demands for faster delivery and more customized products mean manufacturers can’t afford long lead times, supply chain disruptions or quality issues.

The winners appear to be manufacturers that adopt smart-manufacturing technologies, including the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Why is IIoT such a key differentiator in today’s economy? It lies in the ability to monitor, correct and optimize operational issues in real time. If you make things efficiently at home there’s no reason to source materials halfway around the world. And that means you can serve customers faster and be agile enough to meet their demands for more customized products or just-in-time deliveries.

The key is finding IIoT systems that provide the in-depth analytics you need to make immediate decisions to correct variations in quality or increase throughput. Sensor-based data systems are nothing new. IIoT has become a catchphrase for any manufacturer that deploys a sensor to its equipment or production line to receive critical performance data over the Internet.

But truly effective IIoT includes dashboards, alerts and statistical analysis to correct problems as they happen and adjust production to meet changing customer requirements. Many IIoT systems still deliver information to traditional spreadsheets, such as Excel, which requires manual manipulation to begin root-cause analysis.

In fact, according to Deloitte’s “Global Cost Survey Report,” digital solutions, such as data analytics, are the most effective ways to drive cost savings. Analytics and automation empower “companies to analyze mountains of data and identify key costs savings opportunities. These technologies will help increase efficiency and effectiveness — evolving new platforms and driving cost improvement across the entire enterprise,” according to Deloitte.

Chief Executive Magazine recognized rapid prototyping manufacturer Protolabs as a company that’s “pushing U.S. manufacturing forward.”   The St. Paul, Minnesota, company helps manufacturers respond to customer demands faster with services such as 3-D printing. Company President and CEO Victoria Holt noted that about half of companies’ annual revenues are from products they launched within the last three years. In other words: product lifecycles are getting shorter.

“To be able to address that, we’ve got to be taking advantage of manufacturing technologies and Manufacturing 4.0, or we won’t be able to compete,” Holt told Chief Executive.

Is IIoT Secure? 5 Tips to Protect Your Factory

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Disruptive innovations come with risks. Think about the recent tragedy involving a self-driving car in Arizona. While this is an extreme example of what can happen when technology fails, it’s a reminder that safety must always be a priority.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is no exception. Operational technologies (OT), such as plant-floor equipment and machinery, have traditionally lacked exposure to the type of attacks that IT systems face. But now more manufacturers are tying their IT and OT systems together as they adopt IIoT technologies.

We understand that companies have concerns about security when connecting their devices to the Internet. Fortunately, there are strategies manufacturers can implement to secure their IIoT investments.

1. IT and Operations Must Collaborate

The operational side typically doesn’t consider security requirements, so it may lack an organized security practice, notes Gartner contributor Susan Moore. However, a primary focus for IT is protecting information. This is why IT and operations need to collaborate early in the IIoT implementation process.

“IT and OT cultures are not incompatible, but they require executive guidance to realize initial alignment,” Moore writes.

2. Know What You Have

A simple, yet often overlooked safeguard is knowing exactly what IIoT devices you have in place and where they’re located.

“You can’t secure what you don’t know you have, so an effective IoT security strategy must begin with a comprehensive inventory of all networked assets,” according to an IndustryWeek article by contributors from Crowe Horwath LLP. “In addition to known and authorized devices, the inventory also must capture unauthorized or previously unmanaged devices, such as security cameras, monitors, machine sensors and other devices that have been plugged into the company’s network by employees or vendors without the IT department’s knowledge or participation.”

 

3. Opt for Multi-Layered Security

Make sure your IIoT network doesn’t rely on a single technology for security. For example, Google Cloud offers security at the device and network levels as well as security for apps running on the network, data storage, and hardware. With Oden’s IIoT solution, all data sent over the network is encrypted and transmitted over a secure VPN connection.

 

4. Stay Up-to-Date

Don’t ignore updates or patches.

“If a device is running out-of-date software, it may contain unpatched security vulnerabilities. Such vulnerabilities may allow exploitation of the device and its data by attackers,” notes the IoT Security Foundation.

This includes updated an IoT device’s firmware to the latest version, “which incorporates all current bug fixes, vulnerability fixes, and mitigating or compensating controls,” according to Crowe Horwath.”

5. Assess and Test

Continuously assess your security. This includes risk-based analyses with business impact statements, Crowe Horwath suggests. This will allow you “to prioritize projects and make the most of limited resources.”

Security issues related to IIoT are rare. Taking a few precautions can ensure IIoT technologies remain safe. Don’t hesitate to consult with IIoT experts to determine how you can safeguard your system while reaping the benefits of a smart, connected enterprise.  

Preparing For Artificial Intelligence In Manufacturing

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In today’s technology space, it is almost impossible to go a day without reading or hearing about artificial intelligence (AI). AI has applications in seemingly every major industry, but what is really going on?

AI, as a subject, can sometimes be confusing to understand. There are many subsets of AI, and each one serves a distinct purpose. Our goal in this post is to dive into the ways that AI is being implemented in manufacturing and to give you ideas for how your manufacturing business can prepare for artificial intelligence now and in the coming future.

 

Applications In Manufacturing

Machine learning is the main area of AI that is currently being applied in manufacturing. The purpose of machine learning is to give a computer the ability to learn new information without being explicitly programmed to know that information. This is made possible through machine learning algorithms, which dictate the way that an AI system should break down and process information.

As an AI system gathers more and more data and learns from it over time, it can gain the ability to make accurate predictions, automate decision-making, detect real-time malfunctions, and much more. For a manufacturer, this will translate into greater efficiency in production, waste management, cost-savings, and will also introduce new features like:

  • Improvement in the accuracy of maintenance and repair schedules
  • Predict workloads based on market trends
  • Product quality management
  • Process controls
  • Management of operations
  • Predictive maintenance/asset management
  • Supply chain management/sourcing
  • Safety and facility management

All of these bring tremendous value to a manufacturer, and that is why AI is such an important area to focus on.

 

It Is All About Data

Data is the lifeblood of AI. For an AI system to function effectively, it needs a substantial amount of data at its disposal. The better the data, the better the AI. This is why it is absolutely necessary for a manufacturer to move their operations onto a digital medium.

The first step in preparing for the integration of AI in a factory is to enable the machinery with data tracking and communication ability. At Oden Technologies, we offer a simple data collection device that can be plugged into any machine or PLC to allow for data to be wirelessly transferred to our cloud-platform.

Once the hardware is in place, the next step is to connect the machinery to a central platform where the data will be recorded and processed by different algorithms. Every platform offers some differences in features, but the main objective is to ensure that you are collecting valuable data about your manufacturing operations. Having a large quantity of quality data is necessary to train an AI to be able to more accurately do all of the things that it is capable of. With less data comes less accuracy.

 

Third-Party Services

In most cases, it makes the most sense to use a 3rd-party service because of the significant amount of capital needed to develop such a platform. There are various platforms available, and the best part about competition is that it will drive the products and services to deliver more value to the customer.

When you use a platform to manage and operate your smart factory, you are limited to the features that this service provides. The good part, however, is that these companies are already providing features based on AI and will continue to develop and make use of new forms of that technology. By working with a provider, you can trust that they will focus on these features.

 

Straightforward Preparation

Preparing for the integration of AI in manufacturing is pretty straightforward. You either spend hundreds of thousands, if not millions, to hire AI engineers to develop a system for you, or you use a 3rd-party service that is already building out these features. Once you find the right company to work with, it is as easy as adding a plugin to your machines and connecting them to the platform online.

If this is the route that you choose to go, the best part is that you do not need to worry much about any other preparation. As long as the service that the customer is using is implementing effective machine learning algorithms and other aspects of AI, the benefits of this technology will be easily attainable.

3 Ways IIoT Helps Attract and Retain Workers

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“The challenge for manufacturers in the U.S. isn’t foreign manufacturing; it’s the high school guidance counselor,” Brian Fortney, global business manager for Rockwell Automation, told Design News. They don’t understand that manufacturing is high tech. The plants are not dark and dangerous.”

Yes, the workforce skills gap still plagues manufacturing. In fact, 71 percent of manufacturers responding to The Future of the Manufacturing Workforcesurvey by Manpower say “insufficient manufacturing skills is increasing in severity now and will continue to get worse over the next several years.”

For manufacturers, the skills challenge often comes down to an image problem. On the one hand, many people still view manufacturing as “dark and dangerous.” Another common misperception is that automation or the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) are replacing workers. In reality, highly automated, smart operations help manufacturers empower their current workforce and attract top talent.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the key ways IIoT empowers the workforce, while helping manufacturers close the skills gap.

Developing the Next Generation of ‘Problem Solvers’

In a previous post, we discussed the benefits of real-time production performance tracking. Sensor-connected devices provide workers with more information at their fingertips. The modern workforce is becoming tech savvy and expects to have instant access to critical information, whether it’s displayed on a workstation monitor or via mobile devices. They also want more fulfilling jobs that provide opportunities to create value.

IIoT frees your workers to focus on problem-solving activities rather than repetitive, sometimes dangerous tasks. These connected workers have “easy access to smart operating procedures, and both generic and asset-specific instructions and checklists. Carrying hundreds of pages of unwieldy manuals prove a thing of the past,” according to an Accenture report. 

 

Breaking Down Productivity Barriers

Of course, all manufacturers want their workers to be more productive. Unfortunately, data often exists in silos, which means your workers don’t have access to critical information they need to increase productivity. It also means workers are expending more energy on mundane, physically demanding tasks.

Frustration mounts when workers must stop the line or their machine to troubleshoot a maintenance or quality issue. IIoT allows for true predictive maintenance. In an IIoT environment, workers often receive real-time condition-monitoring alerts, such as vibration data, temperature fluctuations and energy consumption. This results in less downtime and improved employee morale. They also may receive real-time analytics that show variations in product quality or yields.

A Single Source of Truth

When data exists in silos, workers in separate departments may view or interpret data differently. This creates frustration, disagreements about the data integrity and oftentimes low employee morale. Consistency across your enterprise is essential to ensure everyone is working in concert to achieve a common goal. A cloud-based analytics platform can help that’s accessible anywhere, from any device helps break down data silos.  The system takes data inputs, processes the information and provides feedback. The data that is collected gets uploaded to the cloud and is safely stored so that it can be accessed by any Internet-connected device.

 

Other Things to Consider …

The workforce shortage isn’t going to remedy itself. IIoT is becoming a critical component to addressing current and future workforce challenges. Consider IIoT solutions that are accessible to an unlimited number of users. This reduces information siloing and helps you build a more empowered, collaborative team of problem solvers. Also, if you’re an early adopter, look for out-of-the-box solutions that don’t require lengthy, complex commissioning times, which will only complicate your workforce challenges.

Examples of IIoT In The Workplace

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The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is influencing the manufacturing industry in a big way. In short, the IIoT makes use of networks, like the internet, to aggregate data from connected devices. The data is centralized on a platform where it can be processed and translated into meaningful insights. There are many examples of IIoT being used in the workplace. The platforms and services available to manufacturers can help with everything from machine performance monitoring to predictive maintenance. Many of these systems also incorporate machine learning and other subsets of artificial intelligence to optimize performance and more accurately make predictions.

In this post, we will look at some of the best examples of how IIoT improves the way a factory operates.

Real-Time Performance

One of the best uses for IIoT in a manufacturing plant is for the real-time performance tracking capabilities. When a factory connects their machines to an IIoT platform, the machines will start reporting data for how they are operating. The platform will provide a view that shows every input and corresponding output for all of the machines that are in operation.

This functionality offers huge benefits for a company. With real-time performance tracking, a plant manager or employee can monitor the entire factory and get immediate notifications when a machine or group of machines are not performing at their expected or optimal level. This will ultimately lead to quicker fixes, increased efficiency, and higher quality products.

Factory Integration

Another one of the examples of IIoT in the workplace revolves around the way in which the factory’s machines are enabled with the tracking and communication features. In most cases, the machines already have ports where external devices can be plugged in.

Oden Technologies offers simple data collection device that can be plugged into any machine or PLC and can communicate wirelessly to their platform. This simple integration is what makes some services stand out from others. Factory integration is big part of IIoT but it should be a short process and shouldn’t require factories to purchase new machines and equipment.

Predictive Maintenance

The last example of IIoT in manufacturing is in a system’s ability to make predictions on when maintenance should take place for a machine. This is part of the IIoT incorporates machine learning algorithms. These algorithms look through large amounts of data to recognize patterns, which help the AI form models that represent the correlation between inputs and outputs. Over time, the machine learning algorithms will have enough ‘training’ to be able to make predictions about what may happen based on given data.

In the example of predictive maintenance, the machine learning algorithms will be able to take the performance data from the machines and figure out the likelihood that this machine will need maintenance and by what time. The more data that a factory has at its disposal, the more accurate these predictions will be. This is an approach that leads to cost savings over time and higher productivity.

The Smart Factory

All of these examples of IIoT in the manufacturing industry come together to form what is referred to as a “Smart Factory.” A smart factory has a sort of sensory system that allows it to monitor itself and communicate this information through a unified network. When paired with AI and machine learning, a smart factory can start to make predictions that lead to smarter business decisions for a manufacturer.

The IIoT brings tremendous value and is very easy to take advantage of. It is as simple as getting in contact with the right IIoT platform and integrating this technology into your business. It is important to start collecting this data today so that you can benefit from now and in the future.

What Is Machine-to-Machine (M2M) Communication?

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Machine-to-machine communication, or M2M, is at the core of what makes a smart factory smart. The smart factory model relies on a machine’s ability to track and report on data that is relevant to its operation and productivity. Without this capacity, the machinery is useless and cannot contribute to the insights that may be generated through a cloud-based platform.

In this post, we will look at how M2M communication influences the smart factory and the ways it can be applied in manufacturing. This will help give you an understanding of the smart factory from the ground up.

 

How It Works

M2M communication is just what it sounds like; it is the act of two or more machines or systems sharing information with each other. This transfer of information can occur through a wired medium, but it is more commonly done wirelessly. M2M is also not just limited for physical machinery, but can be between individual chips, sensors, or components within a machine.

In manufacturing, many companies offer plugins that can enable traditional machinery with the ability to connect wirelessly to the internet and with online, cloud-based platforms. For instance, Oden Technologies offers a simple device that can be plugged into any machine or PLC to communicate wirelessly to their cloud-analytics platform. Once the machinery is enabled with wired or wireless communication, it now has the physical means to communicate with each other and with any system that is connected to the same network.

 

Applications In Manufacturing

M2M communication influences the way that a machine reports on and shares data in a manufacturing environment. It is incredibly important for plant managers to understand the current state of their factory, and one way to give them this information is to allow machines to communicate it directly to the manager through a software interface. Having accurate and relevant data will allow employees to gain meaningful insights on ways to improve their business.

Downtime in manufacturing occurs when a system or machine is not operating at its expected efficiency. This results in significant costs for manufacturers, and because of this, it is vital that manufacturers have systems in place to accurately report on the state of their factory at any given time. With M2M communication, each individual sensor on a machine reports its data to a central platform to solve this problem.

fourth industrial revolution factory

When a machine is operating at a lower efficiency or malfunctions, it will talk to the other machines and to the platform itself. This is for two reasons: 1) So that the factory employees can be notified and make the necessary manual adjustments or fixes, and 2) So that the other machines can make automated adjustments, like changing their rate of production or operating times.

 

M2M Automation

A major theme in M2M communication is automation. Automation can be good and bad depending on how it is implemented, but its purpose is always to improve efficiency, lower costs, and optimize production. Every manufacturing company is looking to reach these goals, and to do this, the proper technology must be deployed in their factory.

M2M communication is crucial to automation because it allows developers to dictate how a machine should operate based on certain conditions. For example, if a machine malfunctions, the system would be able to detect what part of this machine is inoperational and could even place an order for a replacement component.

 

The Value of M2M Communication

M2M communication creates the foundation for a smart factory that can be powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. This form of a smart factory can bring tremendous value for the manufacturer such as increased productivity, reduced material waste, predictive maintenance and more. A smart factory is powered by big data, and any AI system is only as useful as the data that it has access to and it’s ease of use by factory employees.

A core component to machine learning is giving a computer system the ability to learn without explicit programming of that knowledge. The only way to do this is for a system to have access to information about itself and its environment, and that is only possible through M2M communication.

 

M2M For Optimization

On a more general level, the true value the M2M communication brings is the capacity for optimization. Whether it is through manual maintenance on machinery from real-time notifications, or it is an automated chain of actions that developers design to complete tasks, the ability for machines to exchange information is at its core.

What is IIoT?

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The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) refers to the industrial applications of a network of internet connected devices. The devices that are used in such a system measure, track, and share information about various components in the manufacturing process. All of the data that the hardware collects is sent to a central, cloud-based service, where it can be properly organized and analyzed.

The application of the IoT for the manufacturing industry is sometimes referred to as “Industry 4.0,” and is already being offered by some companies. The IIoT will allow manufacturers to acquire and access a far greater amount of data at quicker speeds. This ultimately leads to more insight and efficiency for a factory. The IIoT is continuing to evolve and is providing immense value for manufacturers, so let’s take a look at the benefits the IIoT has to offer.

How Does it Work?

IIoT can be seen as the “back-end” of the various IoT categories. Although it is largely hidden from the average consumer’s view, many of the everyday objects that people use are heavily driven by IIoT technology. Almost every modern manufacturer makes use of some sort of IIoT ecosystem to optimize and streamline their operations.

IIoT incorporates machine learning and big data to generate powerful insights on how a factory is functioning. To do this, IoT devices are installed to collect data from sensors that are added to or built within the factory equipment. This can include almost any device or measure any piece of information that manufacturers think may influence their operations. The data is aggregated onto a central platform where it can be easily digested by a plant manager or other factory employee.

Benefits of IIoT

A powerful network of IIoT devices can significantly improve operational efficiency, scalability, monetary savings, time optimization, and communication across an entire organization. The various IIoT devices that are installed in the machines of a factory will continuously gather machine performance information (which consists of potentially millions of data points). This information is stored via the cloud, processed through a data analytics platform, and then used by plant managers, engineers, operators, and executives in a variety of ways.

When a factory integrates internet connected devices into their operations, it gives the factory a sort of sensory system. This new ability for the factory to collect information about itself will translate into manufacturers making much more informed decisions. In fact, with enough information, manufacturers are able to perform predictive maintenance on their machines so that they can avoid the cost of downtime.

This all leads to the optimization of machine performance, which will save manufacturers time and money. IIoT can also enable manufacturers to maximize their factory’s overall output. Whether it is utilizing big data to make predictions or to detect underperforming machines, IIoT is poised to drive this industry.

 

 

Why Should Manufacturers Invest in IIoT?

IIoT is already changing the way that manufacturers operate in the age of the internet. With access to significantly more information, manufacturers are optimizing and breaking informational silos with their access to shared analytics platforms.

Data is one of the most valuable commodities for technology integrated organizations. Unlike most investments, an investment in data is guaranteed to appreciate in value over time. The more data that is gathered, the better it can be used to make previously uninformed decisions.

Decision making is a huge bottleneck in manufacturing, mainly due to its risk-management factor. It is crucial to bring together as much information as possible to assess the risks of a given decision. The introduction of the IIoT allows manufacturers to monitor and store detailed factory data for quick access to production metrics and fast historical querying capabilities.

It is also crucial for manufacturers to gather as much data as possible when thinking about the future application of artificial intelligence (AI) in their factory. Without getting into too much detail, AI is as powerful as the quality and quantity of data that it has access to. For AI to make or suggest these decisions, it would need a large pool of information at its disposal. The longer that you have been collecting data, the more data will be available to feed into the AI. This is why it is increasingly important to implement the IIoT into a factory.

A Solution for the Future

IIoT solutions in the manufacturing space can be accessed by anyone. If you want to enable the utmost level of performance at your factory, this is absolutely the way to go. The benefits of a properly integrated IIoT system will even carry over to the sales and marketing department where factory productivity information can be used to make financial projections, targeting decisions, and much more.

IIoT is clearly driving the future of manufacturing. Innovation has been taking place at an increasingly faster pace, and it won’t be slowing down anytime soon. One way to get ahead, however, is by taking advantage of IIoT technology and the insights that it provides.

Industry 4.0 Misconceptions Debunked

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In the world of manufacturing, there is plenty of skepticism surrounding Industry 4.0 technology. Will it live up to the hype? Is it too early to consider? Is the manufacturing industry really moving in this direction? As with any cryptic subject, there is also a list of misconceptions that arise due to skepticism. We feel that it’s time to address the objections to adopting advanced technology in manufacturing. Let’s talk about a couple Industry 4.0 misconceptions.

 

 

Misconception 1: “I should wait to start investing in Industry 4.0.”

 

This very well might be the most common misconception that manufacturers have about Industry 4.0. When any innovative technology is in its early stages, only a few invest in the technology before it becomes popular. These are known as the early adopters.

As with any investment, it’s only worth time and effort if the ultimate ROI is significant. Industry 4.0 is no different. What makes Industry 4.0 especially compelling for manufacturers is the value that data accumulates brings to a factory in the long-term. Data is the only asset that is guaranteed to appreciate over time. Since big data and data analytics are the backbones of Industry 4.0 technology, it’s especially beneficial for manufacturers to start investing today.

Why?

Because it can take a long time to create a full-fledged smart factory. In competitive markets like manufacturing, it’s vital to have the foresight to adopt new technology that will keep you ahead of your competition. By integrating smart factory technology and simultaneously adjusting your operations from the insights gleaned from those solutions, early adopters of Industry 4.0 technology will gain the competitive advantage over those who play ‘wait and see’.

Misconception 2: “It’s not worth making the difficult transition into smart manufacturing.”

 

Contrary to popular belief, taking the first steps to building a smart factory don’t have to be a painful, headache-filled process. With services like Oden, which makes data collection and hardware tech integration easy for manufacturers pressured to digitize, it’s become easier than ever to make the move.

When most people hear “Industry 4.0” or “smart factory” they picture an extremely expensive, entirely automated factory filled with machine-learning robots working 24/7. In reality, a smart factory can be achieved by simply connecting your existing equipment to IoT devices that capture data and installing software that provides analytics that shorten your time to resolution and production improvement.

If you implement Industry 4.0 technology today, you’ll benefit from it in both the short term, by making immediate production improvements, as well as in the future, when you are ready to adopt more technology into your factory. Manufacturers who start data collection now will also benefit from having years of data to train machine learning models on to make better, more informed decisions.

Misconception 3: “Industry 4.0 isn’t happening anytime soon.”

 

This simply isn’t true. In fact, PwC recently did a thorough study on Industry 4.0, in a global perspective, and published their findings in a 30+ page analysis. The PwC study even shows that 83% of manufacturers, in various industries and countries, believe that data analysis will become important to their operations by 2021. In fact, even General Motors, one of the dominating manufacturers in the automotive industry, has made moves to integrate data gathering systems into their operations. If that’s not enough proof that Industry 4.0 is coming to fruition, Oden is living, breathing proof that the manufacturing industry is leading the pack of Industry 4.0’s exponential growth.

Misconception 4: “It is difficult to learn about Industry 4.0.”

This one definitely has some merit to it. There are few resources circulating in the world of manufacturing that provide clear and concise information about Industry 4.0, which is the exact reason why we produce that content.

We’re trying to increase Industry 4.0 literacy through our weekly content because we believe that manufacturers looking to digitize shouldn’t be left in the dust of technological innovation. We want to provide the resources that will help them learn why the journey to digital manufacturing is important, inevitable, and easy to start today.


 

The path to maintaining technology advancement within a factory doesn’t have to be difficult for plant managers. Services like Oden are aiming to erase misconceptions about Industry 4.0, especially the misconception that transitioning to a smart factory isn’t worth the investment.

connected factory IoT sensors

Industry 4.0 In-Depth: Sensors and IIoT

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connected factory IoT sensors

As Industry 4.0 technology increases in popularity, it’s vital that manufacturers understand the terms associated with it. However, vocabulary is only the tip of the iceberg. For any individual who wants to get ahead of the competition in their space, having a clear understanding of the technology they’re working with is just as fundamental. This is especially true for manufacturers who feel pressure to digitize. The Industry 4.0 space is a fairly complicated realm that involves a series of different, separate technologies coming together to build one aggregate system.

One way to think about Industry 4.0 smart factories is to view it as any other complex machine. Let’s use a computer as an example. Computers aren’t a single technology. Computers are the aggregate product of various different pieces of hardware like CPUs, GPUs, SSDs, and countless other elements. Industry 4.0 smart factories, like computers, aren’t a single piece of hardware– smart factories are the product of multiple components that are integrated together to build an efficient system.

Today, we’ll be talking about IoT and sensors, one of the most important terms to understand for manufacturers who aim to build a smart factory. Machine sensors aren’t anything new, but the development of devices that can extract information from these sensors is garnering a new age of information distribution and empowered decision making. In fact, Mark Cuban, a prolific investor in technology, says that sensors are indeed the future. Excited about IoT and sensors yet? We’ll break it down for you.

IoT and Sensors– What Are They?

 

IoT sensorsThe IoT (Internet of Things) is a term used to describe the collective number of hardware in the world that gathers data and is connected to some form of internet connection. A great way to think about the IoT is to imagine it like a giant web of devices that gather information and sometimes share that information with each other (depending on who owns them). Some of the devices in the IoT are cell-phones, laptops, and other devices that are commonly associated with the internet. However, sensors that exist within or added to factory equipment, make up 8+ billion of the IoT volume.

It is the adoption of smart devices, which extract the data from sensors, and gather the process metrics and calculate insights, that really provides the power in Industrial IoT. Industry 4.0 technology has become more useful and practical for manufacturers to leverage. Since smart devices gather various data points (temperature, humidity, production speed, etc.) they are especially important to engineers and operators. Advanced devices that calculate metrics, such as OEE and scrap, are the key to providing actionable information to the plant managers and executives of smart factories.

How do sensors and IoT relate to Industry 4.0?

sensors the cloud IoTMachine sensors connected to smart devices, in conjunction with the cloud, make up the IoT and serve as the backbone of Industry 4.0 technology. Everything starts with sensors, but without devices to gather information from wherever they’re placed, nothing else will work.

The long-term consequence that manufacturers who fail to digitize will face is the technical expenses they’ll incur by not integrating smart devices into their machines. It’s important to start as soon as possible. Rather than trying to retrofit their existing machines for PLCs and SCADA systems, or buying expensive new equipment, it’s more effective to invest in smart technology that can easily gather data from your existing machine sensors without additional upgrade expenses.

In the near future, at the peak of Industry 4.0 adoption, while every other manufacturer struggles to catch up, manufacturers who digitize today will be ahead in three ways.

  1. Early adopters will have more data to work off of and can make more informed decisions.
  2. The technology is already integrated into their operations. Early adopters will be able to leverage the technology better and more effectively than newbies.
  3. Since data is an asset that appreciates with time, they will have the benefit of compound interest. The more data a factory has accumulated, the better.

Why should manufacturers invest in Industry 4.0 technology today?

While it may seem burdensome for manufacturers to install smart devices into their already-functioning factory, they should invest in the long-term and start today. Eventually, all manufacturers will need to integrate this hardware into their factory because if they don’t, they will be at a heavy disadvantage against their competition.

Blockbuster didn’t see value in video-streaming on the Internet in 1990’s. On September 23, 2010, Blockbuster filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, having incurred $900 million in debt and outperformed by on-demand video streaming services. The same could easily happen to manufacturers who sit by idly while their competitors invest in the future (Industry 4.0 technology) and bring the smart devices to their factories. The solution? Become an early adopter.