Answering Some Of The Big Questions About Industrial IoT

Industry 4.0 is well and truly upon us. Yet, true to its nature, the technology around us continues to grow and develop at rapid speeds. The fourth industrial revolution has signalled the digital transformation of industrial markets with smart manufacturing currently at the forefront. It represents the evolution of manufacturing, logistics and supply chain, the chemical industry, energy, transportation, utilities, oil and gas, mining and metals and other sectors.

The rise of Industry 4.0 has brought Industrial loT into the spotlight. This technology, with seemingly infinite applications, is taking the world by storm. It’s giving industrial organisations the ability to digitalise their operations to optimise productivity, workplace health and safety, machinery operations and sales as well as reduce production costs.

What is Industrial IoT?

As digitalisation is fast becoming a business priority for many organisations around the world, the term Industrial Internet of Things is beginning to be more pervasive in the context of industry. You may have heard IoT Industry being thrown around. However, you may not have been unable to fully grasp the importance it carries for so many organisations. Until now, that is.

Industrial IoT (IIoT) is essentially the use of internet of things technologies to enhance manufacturing and industrial processes. IoT Industry incorporates machine learning and big data technologies to harness the sensor data, machine-to-machine communication and automation technologies that have existed in industrial settings for years. It essentially takes the technologies we’ve been using for so many years and makes them smarter.

IIoT is all about automation, interconnectivity and interoperability. It brings together machines, advanced analytics and people at work. Effectively implemented, IIoT creates a network of a multitude of devices connected by communications technologies (sensors). This result in systems that can monitor, collect, exchange, analyse, and deliver valuable insights like never before. This interconnectivity and interoperability results in insights which, in turn, drive smarter and faster business decisions for industrial organisations.

IoT based industrial automation projects combine machine-to-machine communication, industrial big data analytics, technology, cybersecurity, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) and Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) to drive unprecedented levels of efficiency, productivity and performance. This combination offers industrial organisations a myriad of transformative operational and financial benefits.

How will Industrial IoT help my company?

Industrial IoT applications carry endless benefits for companies looking to join the digital age. In its early stages, the IIoT market is growing rapidly. In fact, it is expected that by 2025, Industrial IoT will reach approximately $933.62 billion. The scope of cloud applications and scalability are two of the factors that will drive the additional growth across all industries.

The markets that benefit most from Industrial IoT technologies include manufacturing, healthcare, energy and power production, logistics and transportation, oil and gas, and agriculture. These industries mainly benefit from access to an efficient, affordable and easy way to maintain processes.

Other key benefits of Industrial IoT include better-connected facility and inventory management. As well as production flow monitoring, enhanced industrial safety and optimisation of logistics and the supply chain.

Digitalised and connected factory

Industrial IoT applications enable machinery to transmit operational information to managers and decisions makers. This action then enables the operations managers and factory heads to remotely manage the factory units. They can also take advantage of process automation and optimisation. Essentially, with IIoT, every aspect of the factory is connected to each other. They are also connected to one single control centre. With this, a better line of communication is established between workers, machinery, technology and decision makers.

Facility management

One aspect included in the Industrial Internet of Things is the use of sensors in manufacturing equipment. These sensors monitor the productivity and functionality of the equipment. They also enable condition-based maintenance alerts to be sent through to the control centre. IIoT sensors monitor machines in real-time and send alerts when the equipment deviates from its prescribed parameters.

By ensuring that production equipment is operating exactly how it should be at all times, the company is able to conserve energy, reduce costs, reduce/eliminate downtime and increase operational efficiency.

Inventory management

Industrial IoT solutions can also be quite beneficial when it comes to reducing the risk of inventory management errors. IoT technology monitors events across the supply chain in real-time which provides companies with a comprehensive view of their inventory. IoT monitoring allows for company heads to ensure that the estimates of available material and supplies are accurate. This will also help to prevent any lags in production.

Production flow monitoring

By offering better management of inventory and the facility as a whole, IIoT also enables the monitoring of production lines. This starts from the refining process down to the packaging of final products. By monitoring the products in near real-time, Industrial IoT provides scope to company heads. This scope essentially recommends adjustments in operations for better management of operational costs. The technology also alerts managers if production lags at any time which helps to eliminate any wastage and unnecessary work.

Enhanced safety

The Internet of Things combines effectively with the analysis of big data. This works to improve the overall safety of the company’s workers. IoT technology monitors the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) of health and safety. For example, the number of injuries and illness rates, near-misses, short- and long-term absences, vehicle incidents and property damage or loss during daily operations. Any lags in the KPIs of health and safety are reported in real-time allowing them to be addressed immediately.

Optimisation of logistics and the supply chain

By tracking materials, equipment and products as they move through the supply chain, Industrial IoT technology can provide access to real-time supply chain information. Effective reporting of supply chain processes enables companies to collect and feed delivery information into Enterprise Resource Planning as well as Product Lifecycle Management and various other systems.

Connecting plants to suppliers means that all involved parties can trace any interdependencies, material flow and manufacturing cycle time. This data helps companies predict issues. Reduce inventory and potentially reduce capital requirements.

What are the challenges of Industrial IoT?

Like any developing technology, Industrial IoT is not without its challenges. Some companies are facing some challenges in their efforts to adopt IIoT technology. It can be hard to know where to start when working with developmental technology. Some of the most common challenges associated with Industrial IoT technology adoption include security vulnerabilities, the absence of IoT standards and the cost of implementing IoT solutions.

Security vulnerabilities

When it comes to the internet, there is always going to be an extent of vulnerability. Especially when it comes to the security of the technology. As IoT devices communicate automatically with each other, the absence of a secure and adequately encrypted network could open up several vulnerabilities. This means that implementing IIoT in your company must be accompanied by standalone security elements that enable adoption without a higher risk of hack attacks or data leaks. It’s essential to ensure that you have a robust security plan in place before implementing any Industrial IoT applications.

Absence of IoT standards

Another challenge presented in the adoption of IIoT is the multitude of languages, protocols and standards as well as the lack of agreement on which it works best for individual layers of the IoT. There is no single platform of standardisation that will ensure interoperability, scalability, connectivity and security of devices and networks. As, different devices will often use different communication protocols, resulting in a lack of interoperability and an experience that’s far from seamless for customers.

The cost of implementing IIoT solutions

With the adoption of any new technology, there is always an investment that needs to be made. Naturally, a large consideration for companies is the Return on Investment they will get once implementing Industrial IoT into their business operations. The cost of implementing IIoT technology can often seem slightly overwhelming. However, it is important to know what IoT solutions you need in your organisation and the rights one to bring to the stage centre.

The future of Industrial IoT

Industrial IoT is proving to be very disruptive in the industrial sector. In fact, when 500 executives were interviewed by Forbes Insights, more than 90% said that IoT would be integral to the future of their companies. Having everything connected to get real-time visibility into what’s happening in the front and back end of your company will prove to be extremely beneficial.

Predictive analysis suggests that there will be 50 billion connected devices worldwide by 2020. No longer can companies sit idle while they slowly develop their policies around outdated practices. Industrial IoT is about integrating old processes with smart devices and encouraging a higher level of efficiency. Experts predict that IIoT will continue to enhance production levels even further and become the driving force behind various types of innovation.

How to be ready for Industrial IoT

It’s time for companies to dip a toe in the water and create some IoT based industrial automation projects. The first step is to select an Industrial IoT platform that will help get you connected so you can start having visibility into the data. The IoT.nxt platform is one that will help make the efficiencies, cost savings and increased revenue from IoT a reality for your business.

Our platform allows rapid deployment of IoT technologies into a business with little to no disruption to your normal operations. One major strength of the IoT.nxt platform is that our solution is technology agnostic. This means that, while deploying IIoT, we are able to overcome the challenges of connecting any and all devices or systems to your company’s framework. Therefore, you are able to deploy the highest level of technologies as well as achieve interoperability, interconnectivity, scalability, and security between all connected devices.

There is no rip and replace involved with the IoT.nxt platform, and your company can continue to operate as it needs to through the implementation process. With our platform, it is possible to create one integrated view of all your current segregated systems. We’re all about seamless data enterprise rather than just islands of automation. Therefore, the IoT.nxt framework is what you need when dipping your toes in the clear blue waters of Industrial IoT. We can almost guarantee that once your company has begun to reap the benefits that IIoT offers, you’ll want to jump in head first. Our platform will be what takes your business from performing well to performing smart.