The implementation and use of the internet of things (IoT) has transformed industries in the way that they operate, communicate, and utilize data. In manufacturing, those changes have come at a rapid pace, and an industry that was once slow to evolve is now digitizing at lightning speed.
Speaking of lightning speed, today’s manufacturers must be fast across all facets of operations to be competitive in the modern marketplace. This need for speed combined with the advancement of IoT technologies has sparked another movement in manufacturing – the industrial internet of things (IIoT).
IIoT is the next level of IoT technology and is unique in the way its application has completely transformed manufacturing. Companies today that are looking for a competitive advantage need look no further than the capabilities that IIoT affords you – the benefits impact everything from maintenance to supplier logistics to employee workflows to product delivery.
To get started, you must first understand industrial IoT and the way it is transforming manufacturing operations.
What is Industrial IoT (IIoT)?
IoT technologies exist all around us – all those interconnected devices we use like wearable technologies and virtual assistants are made possible by IoT. Industrial IoT, then, is taking the digital interconnectivity we’ve come to depend on and applying it to massive manufacturing operations, where the risks are higher, but the payoff is greater.
According to TechTarget, IIoT can be formally defined as “the use of smart sensors and actuators to enhance manufacturing and industrial processes. Also known as the industrial internet or Industry 4.0, IIoT leverages the power of smart machines and real-time analytics to take advantage of the data that dumb machines have produced in industrial settings for years.”
Industrial IoT capabilities require widespread digitization of manufacturing operations. Organizations must include four primary pillars to be considered a fully IIoT-enabled operation:
- Smart machines equipped with sensors and software that can track and log data.
- Robust cloud computer systems that can store and process the data.
- Advanced data analytics systems that make sense of and leverage data collected from systems, informing manufacturing improvements and operations.
- Valued employees, who put these insights to work and ensure proper manufacturing function.
Benefits of IIoT
According to a Morgan Stanley forecast, the Industrial IoT market size is expected to reach $110 billion by 2020. In fact, Industrial IoT makes up more than 17% of the number of IoT projects worldwide.
So, what can manufacturers expect from today’s industrial IoT solutions? These are 5 of the biggest benefits of adopting a fully connected IIoT manufacturing operation.
- Increase efficiency
The biggest benefit of IIoT is that it gives manufacturers the ability to automate, and therefore optimize their operating efficiency. Robotics and automated machinery can work more efficiently and accurately, boosting productivity and helping manufacturers streamline their functions.
Additionally, physical machinery can be connected to software via sensors that monitor performance on a constant basis. This enables manufacturers to have better insights into the operational performance of individual pieces of equipment as well as entire fleets.
IIoT-enabled data systems empower manufacturers to improve operating efficiencies by:
- Bypassing manual tasks and functions and implementing automated, digital ones
- Making data-driven decisions regarding all manufacturing functions
- Monitoring performance from anywhere – on the manufacturing floor or from thousands of miles away
- Reduce Errors
Industrial IoT empowers manufacturers to digitize nearly every part of their business. By reducing manual process and entries, manufacturers are able to reduce the biggest risk associated with manual labor – human error.
This goes beyond just operational and manufacturing errors. IIoT solutions also can reduce the risk of cyber and data breaches caused by human error. A Cyber Security Trend report cited people as the biggest cause of cyber security breaches, with human error being the culprit 37% of the time. AI and machine learning-enabled programs and machinery can do much of the required computing themselves, eliminating the potential for someone to make a simple mistake, and put the manufacturer’s data at risk.
- Predictive Maintenance
Nothing negatively impacts a manufacturing operation more than machine downtime. Aberdeen Research Group calculates that the average cost per hour of downtime across all manufacturing types equates to $260,000. What could be causing such drastic issues that manufacturers cannot operate? The answer is simple – lack of proper and predictive maintenance.
When maintenance in the manufacturing world is reactive rather than proactive, manufacturers are stuck trying to identify what the issue is, how it can be repaired, and what it will cost. With predictive maintenance powered by industrial IoT solutions, all of those issues are alleviated.
When machinery performance and function is monitored consistently, manufacturers can create a baseline. This baseline and the corresponding data empowers companies with the information they need to see any issue before it occurs. They can then schedule maintenance prior to downtime, which benefits them in that they:
- Have the parts required for the job
- Know the cost of the project beforehand, and can budget for it
- Move production to another area of the facility, so the product quotas are unaffected
- Ensure that machinery is operating at maximum efficiency
- Improve Safety
All of the data and sensors required of a fully functioning IIoT manufacturing operation are also helping to bolster workplace safety. “Smart manufacturing” is turning into “smart security” when all of the IIoT sensors work together to monitor workplace and employee safety.
Integrated safety systems are protecting workers on the floor, on the line, and in distribution. If an accident occurs, everyone in the facility can be alerted, operations can cease, and company leadership can intervene and make sure the accident and incident is resolved. This incident can also generate valuable data that can help prevent a repeat occurrence in the future.
A newer option some manufacturers are utilizing is the use of wearable technology among their employees. Wearables have been part of IoT since its infancy, and it are just now being utilized in industrial IoT operations.
Wearables help leadership keep tabs on things like employee posture and the surrounding noise levels, and they can then improve work conditions and potentially improve performance. They can also alert employees when they aren’t following proper workplace safety procedures, so they can correct their actions and stay safe on the job.
- Reduce Costs
Knowledge is power, and the knowledge provided to manufacturers via IIoT solutions is giving them the tools they need to reduce costs and generate more revenue. Data-driven insights into operations, production, marketing, sales, and more can steer businesses in a profitable direction.
All of the aforementioned benefits of IIoT – predictive maintenance, fewer errors, improved quality control, and maximized efficiencies – will all boost profits for a manufacturer. Industrial IoT also offers arguably the most valuable tool for leaders of a manufacturing company – insights from anywhere, anytime.
Remote monitoring of manufacturing operations is now possible 365 days a year, 24/7, from anywhere in the world. This 360-degree view into the entire manufacturing process, and the follow-up service provided to customers in their buying journey, is an invaluable asset.
Hitachi & IIoT Solutions
Industrial IoT is digital transformation on the grandest scale, and at Hitachi Solutions, we have the expertise to lead such a transition.
Our IoT Service Hub serves as a command center for manufacturers looking to utilize the data and insights at their fingertips and leverage them into positive business decisions. These solutions can monitor performance, maximize efficiencies, handle predictive maintenance, and more. In fact, the Hitachi Service Hub was given the IoT Breakthrough Award for Industrial IoT Solution of the Year for 2019.
If you would like to start implementing industrial IoT solutions into your operations, or would like to learn more about Hitachi for manufacturing, please contact our team.