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  • Writer's pictureKaronn Blue, P.E., PMP

The Industrial Internet of Things

Last week we discussed Industry 4.0 and how the concept is impacting businesses, specifically in the manufacturing industry. We briefly touched on the “Internet of Things” and I thought it would be beneficial to dive a bit deeper into the Industrial Internet of Things, or IIoT.

In short, IIoT is connecting industrial devices, sensors, machines, and standalone systems in a closed, private network where the data can be leveraged to increase revenue, decrease cost, and make business processes more efficient.  Your initial thought might be.. well of course all  these devices and systems should be connected. But hold your horses. Let me give you a bit of context about industrial facilities. Most are built to produce products for 50 years or more and the systems inside the facilities must be upgraded over time in order for the facility to remain competitive. Think about how long many of the major Power Plants have been running and supplying electricity to customers. I have worked in industrial environments for 20 years, starting as a package handler at UPS in college and now as an engineer who designs, builds, and integrates the systems inside of these facilities and can tell you first hand that many are “Frankensteinish.”

So what is the value of IIoT and why should you and your company explore use cases? Here are a few ways that your business can leverage connected systems:

  1. Increase assets utilization. With better data, contextualized with clear meaning (data remediation), teams can make sense of information delivered by these connected systems. Issues are more easily discovered and predictive maintenance can be conducted to improve production.

  2. Safety and security can be improved in several ways. Advanced facial recognition algorithms to identify and keep track of individuals while they are on your premises is one area.  Personal Protection Equipment such as wirelessly connected hazardous atmosphere monitors can be setup to alert the appropriate response teams in the event of an emergency, which could be life or death.

  3. Productivity. As you begin pulling in data from these standalone devices and systems, a story begins to unfold regarding the health of equipment, inefficient processes, and areas to improve.  You not only know the problem, but have real data to make decisions.  However, there is one critical step in delivering real value from productivity improvements projects. You must start with a clear understand of the problem. When all of these devices are connected, and the information is organized meaningfully, and you have a clear idea of what is causing time to be wasted, you are now on your way to leverage IIOT to change your culture.

Essentially IIOT and Industry 4.0 are about increasing revenue, reducing costs, or making better use of time. If your project doesn’t improve either of these 3 areas, why go through the headache to change. The global economy offers many advantages, but one disadvantage is extreme competition. For those businesses that are slow to explore use cases in transformations shifts like IIOT, it’s unfortunate, but difficult times await. The benefits are too great and risks too high not to leverage the ideas that these concepts offer.

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