The constant hum of excitement about the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is becoming louder and more intelligible every day. It is now clear that we are well past the initial hype, and opportunities for forward-thinking manufacturers are real: a connected enterprise and smarter operations. But manufacturers need to realize that all the benefits of IIoT start with connectivity.
The challenge is as little as one to five percent of plant data are made available to applications and people. It’s not reasonable to expect new data to be connected through traditional control hierarchy because connecting direct inputs and outputs is both expensive and inflexible. Mobile devices alone do not address this issue.
Machine-to-machine communication negates the need for supervisory control and automates decisions, but it will take time as standards and inter connectivity semantics need to be defined in an open and secure way. Manufacturers should not expect sophisticated machine-to-machine communication to be the norm in the next year or two.
The most important thing is to make data available as widely as possible on a business platform. That way new data can lead to new business processes that enable people to do a better job. For example, location-aware devices allow a system to see where people are so they can be served relevant information on their mobile devices. With this information, managers can do their jobs while walking around a plant and operators get instructions specific to their location.
The short-term goal for manufacturing companies should be to find ways to connect and collect as much data as possible from their plants, then make it available through mobile devices to improve the quality of people’s work (and hence the quality of the products). As more data is gathered, those manufacturers who have a suitable cloud-based platform on which to analyze and manage such data will start to gain a substantial competitive advantage. They can then move on to the next phases of IIoT development—analytics and sharing information with suppliers and customers.
Want to learn more? Access “Tying the Shop Floor to the ERP System.”