A new era, called Industry 4.0, began to disrupt the industrial landscape through the automation of traditional manufacturing. Intelligent devices connected to the Internet interact with each other without direct human participation, collect and process large amounts of data. Self-learning systems based on artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, and many other cutting-edge sustainable technologies help modern enterprises evolve.
All these solid technologies comprise Industry 4.0, the key element of which is IoT in manufacturing or the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Let’s shed some light on the core principles and benefits of IIoT.
What is IIoT?
The Industrial Internet of Things is a system of integrated computer networks and connected industrial facilities with built-in sensors and computer systems. The technology represents a quantum leap in programs for collecting and exchanging data and the ability to monitor and control things in an automated manner remotely.
IoT solutions for manufacturing are based on cloud and big data technologies, including management systems for distributed mega-repositories of industrial data, predictive analytics systems, information platforms, digital models, and industrial production technologies.
The Industrial IoT devices and technologies include the following components:
- Devices and Sensors can record events, collect, analyze data, and transmit it over the network. Communication means (a heterogeneous network) is an infrastructure that combines heterogeneous communication channels – mobile, satellite, wireless (Wi-Fi), and wired.
- Industrial IoT Platforms are provided by various IT vendors and industrial companies for device and communications management, applications, and analytics that can be used in various spheres. Modern IoT manufacturing platforms also provide a development environment and IT security solutions.
- Software Applications and Analytics are responsible for data analytics, predictive modeling, and intelligent device management. Data storage systems and servers are capable of storing and processing large amounts of various information.
- Security Solutions are responsible not only for the information security of all IoT manufacturing components but also for the security of the operational processes. As IIoT technologies are tightly integrated into IT and manufacturing processes, security becomes a priority for a company deciding to implement IIoT in its infrastructure.
IoT solutions implemented in the manufacturing industry generate many new challenges. Businesses must take prudent approaches when solving such challenges as industry standards and methods, technological safety, and regulatory framework.
What is the difference between IoT and IIoT?
The Internet of Things is a system of physically connected objects with built-in sensors and software, connected by a shared network and designed to collect and exchange real-time data. IoT is also characterized by an autonomous mode of operation and the ability to control things remotely. It allows you to create dynamic networks which consist of billions of elements interacting with each other. IoT provides a connection between the accumulated amount of data and real objects. Applications, services, and devices are themselves considered data sources for real objects.
Unlike the conventional IoT, which includes wearable devices for end-users, smart home elements, self-driving cars, etc., IoT solutions in the manufacturing industry incorporate a plethora of devices designed specifically for industrial use. These are smart sensors that are installed in industrial equipment: machine tools, conveyors, assembly lines, elements of engineering infrastructure, robots, and analytical platforms for collecting data from connected devices.
IIoT is the underlying technology for digital business transformation since it provides vital benefits for any enterprise. In particular, IIoT does the following:
- reduces human labor
- increases management efficiency
- allows better asset/resource utilization
- ensures cost-efficient operation/production
- improves security at workplaces
The data makes it possible to radically change the organization’s existing operational and strategic operations and influence the transition to a new technological order. For instance, IoT devices can make equipment maintenance easier by determining when manufacturing machines need repairing by detecting levels/rates of vibration, heat, and other critical metrics.
For more information on IIoT and the difference between IoT and IIoT, please refer to our article.
How is IoT used in manufacturing?
To develop a successful business in the manufacturing field, companies need to make correct and timely decisions based on reliable and proven information. Such a workflow is possible by leveraging progressive manufacturing IoT capabilities like machine learning, big data, and automation technology allowing to create a system in a system.
A system in a system is a combination of a limited quantity of constituent systems that are autonomous, operable, and connected to each other for a certain time to accomplish a specific task). These resources can accurately and consistently extract, receive, analyze, and transmit data to achieve greater efficiency, reliable management, and better quality control throughout the supply chain.
IoT solutions in the manufacturing industry use high-performance computing, smart sensors, mobile applications, IoT cloud platforms, and enterprise digitalization. All these technologies allow to:
- turn data into meaningful insights for enhanced business decisions
- achieve efficient and safe cooperation
- use predictive analytics efficiently
- monitor and manage data in real-time
- use smart and connected assets and devices
The use of sensors in the production process helps prevent damage to equipment/products, reduce operating costs and improve the quality of goods and services.
Example: Let’s consider a non-contact corrosion detection technology. If implemented correctly, it continuously monitors corrosion and erosion of metal in pipelines and vessels using unique sensor control methods, radio data transmission, and advanced analytical algorithms. This monitoring technology provides years of maintenance-free operation. It ensures reliable submission of consistent data, even under the most challenging conditions, allowing engineers to observe the evolution of corrosion and erosion processes in real-time.
The central component of the corrosion monitoring system is sensors that operate on the non-contact measurement of sheet metal thickness using ultrasound. These sensors operate on battery power and transmit the collected information over the radio channel, which minimizes their installation cost and makes it possible to use them at remote sites massively.
The sensors are also designed to operate in hazardous environments and remote locations. In addition, analytical software can accurately predict corrosion or erosion in pipelines and vessels, which in turn improves the overall operational efficiency of the plant.
Euristiq has recently developed an IoT cloud platform for a hardware manufacturer. The client needed a platform for remote device management. Our team provided a solution with all the necessary functions to control, maintain, and collect data from connected devices (sensors) produced by the client. Our solution allows the client to register, manage, communicate, and send updates to the devices. It also accumulates data for further analysis.
Another project that our team had the pleasure to work on is the creation of a utility monitoring/management system (UMS). This manufacturing IoT solution we delivered receives data from GIS, SCADA, sound level meters, hydraulic models, water samples, etc. Then it transforms the received data into important performance indicators and essential values by representing them on a map. Basically, the monitoring solution we created observes the state of the utility’s delivery network and then identifies and prioritizes improvements.
IoT in manufacturing: use cases
Initially, the big advantage of the Industrial IoT concept was the integration of industrial, information, operational, and technological processes into a single system. The final outcome was expected to increase operational efficiency and reduce costs.
The structural component of IoT is the creation of systems that use artificial intelligence to automate processes and solutions. Removing a person from the loop of control increases speed and productivity, which can fundamentally change business in general.
In the past few decades, a huge part of conveyor work and production has been done by robots. Sensors send large amounts of data to local computers or cloud storage for analysis and AI algorithms handle the information received in a context-sensitive manner. In this way, automation and artificial intelligence are reaching new and advanced levels.
IoT in the manufacturing industry allows the creation of countless new opportunities and business outcomes. An extensive sensor network provides an immediate response to changing conditions. This is especially valuable when managing limited resources such as water or energy. More and more utilities are using smart meters that register and show consumed resources in real-time. These counters also display variable rates. More and more businesses and homeowners (including large data centers that consume a lot of electricity) have applied sophisticated algorithms to optimize the use of energy in the buildings, as well as reduce costs. Today, smart thermostats connected to air conditioners can determine how to mix outdoor and indoor air, taking into account the temperature inside and outside the building.
The abovementioned IIoT applications are good examples of how businesses can improve productivity and decrease expenses by adopting IoT in manufacturing operations.
A digital twin is a virtual replica of a certain object that traverses its complete life cycle and applies simulation, ML, and reasoning to boost decision-making. To put it simply, it implies designing a complex virtual representation that is a precise copy of a physical object. An object can be a house, a plane, a bridge, etc. Sensors installed on the object gather vital information and provide it into a virtual model. With this data, companies can improve various processes across the entire structure.
For an enterprise to produce a product at a lower cost but of the same quality, it is necessary to have complete control over the production. This is exactly what manufacturing IoT allows to do. Thanks to various sensor parameters, companies can control the technological process much more accurately compared to standard approaches. They can transfer vast volumes of data collected by the sensors.
Many manufacturing organizations receive insights with the help of digital twins of their business process or enterprise. For instance, they can discover why and where the enterprise is losing resources. Analyzing the information received, the management team can correct the production process, optimize costs, identify excessive losses, and increase productivity, thereby reducing production costs. IIoT helps to model business processes of enterprises in different “dimensions” in near real-time modes using the data obtained from remote monitoring.
Leveraging sensors, wireless connectivity, and data analytics, custom IoT development services provide the ability not only to monitor the equipment and the manufacturing process but also to manage it remotely. The remote monitoring system allows to supervise the manufacturing process in real-time and deliver maintenance updates or inflict other necessary changes quickly. Companies that use remote monitoring and control have higher productivity rates because they can focus on the tasks at hand without worrying about equipment maintenance.
PepsiCo uses a unified IoT platform to improve the reliability of its manufacturing system, reducing downtime and optimizing communications through remote monitoring.
Cisco has reduced energy consumption by 15-20% at a single manufacturing facility by installing sensors to monitor energy flow and identify inefficient equipment.
Asset-rich manufacturers will definitely benefit from IoT-based asset tracking. It can minimize the time it takes to find a certain piece of equipment and also optimize its usage. It can prevent theft and unauthorized asset use, as well as optimize logistics and save costs.
Asset tracking can also be used to streamline production, overseeing crucial components of the supply chain. This technology can provide a detailed analysis of manufactured goods during various stages of their production. It can help determine how long each stage takes to eliminate blockers and streamline the manufacturing processes.
Benefits of IoT in the manufacturing industry
Collection of data from connected devices and sensors (things), transmission over various protocols of wired and wireless communication, and analyzing and displaying the result – this is how a regular IoT solution works.
According to Gartner research, companies’ main barrier to implementing IoT solutions in their business is insufficient staffing and the lack of expertise. The CIO Magazine posted the research according to which 33% of businesses can benefit from learning how to work with IoT. Therefore, it is of high importance to bring on board experienced IoT specialists with solid skills.
Major IIoT benefits are:
- reduction of the production cycle
- reduced operating costs
- planned optimization
- predictive maintenance
- increased equipment uptime and reduced downtime
- improved product quality
The manufacturing Internet of things uses big data/analytics and machine learning technologies to generate insights based on data from manufacturing equipment, products, and sensors. Manufacturers can use this data to identify inefficiencies and improve customer service. IIoT allows businesses to provide better quality control, more efficient supply chains, and sustainable development. And last but not least, IIoT is a way to reduce costs.
Cost reduction and increase of income are achieved with:
- optimizing the processes of managing equipment as property (maintenance and repair)
- more efficient process management (energy management)
- improving transparency of relationships between different entities.
New business model
The Internet of Things in manufacturing is enabling businesses to create entirely new business models. Companies can now implement a practical IIoT strategy by consolidating data from multiple disparate systems in the cloud, leveraging higher-level analytics, and outsourcing experts to work remotely.
At the same time, decisions based on predictive analytics allow transforming the entire workflow. For instance, thanks to predictive analytics companies can be notified of problems and dangerous situations before they even occur. This approach helps avoid downtime, increases labor productivity and production safety, and makes it possible to monitor what is happening at production sites. You can control processes even in the most remote places at the enterprises of subcontractors/suppliers and manage the transit of goods located anywhere in the world.
The renowned motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson initiated the implementation of Industrial IoT in their business to achieve flexibility and efficiency in manufacturing processes.
Harley-Davidson gained a lot with the IoT capacities. In fact, Harley Davidson is a good example of the proven adopter of manufacturing IoT. The company decided to streamline the individual systems into one IP network, merge data, and ultimately connect one plant to IoT capabilities. The outcomes were as follows:
- 80% increase in decision-making speed
- the assembly timeline shortened from 18 months to 2 weeks
- the production volume increased by almost 7%.
Ford Motor has achieved similar success. The corporation has enabled 25 of 40 IoT assembly plants to accelerate communications, improve scheduling, and manage more than 2 million production options in real-time.
The top challenges for IoT adoption in industrial manufacturing
The successful implementation of IIoT in manufacturing depends on four main factors:
- obtaining visual production data in real-time from smart sensors and automated systems;
- secure transmission of this data to the desired point in the world;
- analyze data with fault-tolerant, scalable software to generate business insights;
- subject matter expertise to enable decisions that will improve operational efficiency.
One of the challenges of IIoT adoption is that the solution created must work steadily and have a security system to protect itself from abnormal situations and malicious actions. No doubt, to create a cyber-physical system in an enterprise, you should choose reliably proven elements from trusted suppliers. Choose an IoT provider for your manufacturing process with the utmost care and expertise.
So far, there are many challenges regarding integration with existing systems. What exactly does it make so difficult? One IoT solution includes many connected devices, and it is difficult to properly connect them for a huge number of endpoints. In addition, IoT utilizes new communication protocols, which means companies require integration platforms fully aligned with those protocols.
There are also common security threats like Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. Since the industry moves towards greater adoption of IIoT and platforms, the threats will grow as well. As of today, companies use channel protection, antiviruses, cryptography methods to ensure safety.
One of the biggest challenges while implementing an IoT solution is choosing between an off-the-shelf platform or building your own one. The success of the project significantly depends on this decision.
The platform serves as a base for building vertical solutions and products that perform specific tasks. This is much easier to do on a ready-made platform than to design software and hardware from scratch to some extent, possibly reinventing the wheel. But sometimes custom-made platforms can be a better decision for your business as they allow more extensive possibilities in terms of your business scale-up. Several dozen IoT platforms are present on the market, both from the most prominent vendors and niche technology companies.
The decision to use one of them or to develop your own depends on the company’s business requirements and goals. First of all, it is necessary to understand whether your company can afford its development and formulate its functionality requirements. If your enterprise has some specific tasks that are not included in the functionality of existing solutions, you should think about your own development solution which may turn out to be cheaper than an existing one.
Here are a few tips one should consider for the most effective implementation of IoT in manufacturing:
- Centralize data first, and only then integrate applications for the selection and processing of the information.
- Applications located in the cloud and not in the control system itself eliminate the requirements for their maintenance within the enterprise. In that way, they are given access to additional data coming at once from several production sites or even different industries.
- IIoT applications can include applications that incorporate advanced process control (APC) systems, condition-based monitoring (CBM), conservation corporate historical data servers, mobile solutions, and planning.
The global IIoT market is at an early stage of development, but it is already gaining momentum. IIoT implementation allows businesses to increase productivity, respond quickly to customer requests, meet environmental and safety requirements, extend equipment life, and much more.
If you’re not sure what IIoT solution to implement, our company is at your service. Euristiq is a software development company with vast experience in legacy software modernization, IoT software development, cloud solutions, and more. We help companies solve complex problems with the help of advanced technologies. Our qualified team is passionate about creating successful software products and providing further support for your business.