The sensor-enabled data-rich factories are going to change the world.

The sensor-enabled data-rich factories are going to change the world. Source: Shutterstock

What manufacturers need to know about IIoT

MANUFACTURERS upgrade their factories once every few years. They bring in sophisticated machines to make the job safer and the worker more efficient.

With time, most of the new-age machines have ‘gone digital’. They’re embedded with sensors that either sync up with the company’s local network from time to time or relay information to the servers in real time.

As a result, these machines can be connected together to build an ecosystem that the world knows as the industrial internet of things (IIoT).

What is IIoT’s superpower? The ability to collect, store, harness, and analyze data in real-time.

“Digitalization is changing a lot of things. It’s really driving new business models in many cases. People are finding that once they digitize more and more of their manufacturing, they are able to monetize more and more aspects of the data and the information they are able to collect,” said Siemens’ R&D Manager Roger Hart.

Many manufacturers don’t see the benefits of IIoT at first, so here are some important ways it turbocharges their business:

# 1 | Real-time data and insights

When all your machines and tools have sensors embedded in them, you’re able to understand the performance of every piece of equipment you have, and how they’re used by your workers.

As a result, you can gain insights into productivity and performance, in real-time. Are some of the machines making your workers slow, or do workers struggle to operate some of your equipment? Do people need to be trained to be more efficient? In a ‘connected factory’, you have the data you need to optimize everything – at your fingertips.

# 2 | Predictive maintenance 

When you’re tuned into your machines and constantly receiving data about their performance, it’s easy for you to plug that data into a model and estimate the life of your machines and when they’ll need maintenance.

As a result, you’ll be able to find the right time to repair and service equipment (ideally outside of regular working hours) which will help you prevent downtime in your factory.

# 3 | Tactical location benefits

When everything in your factory is connected via a digital mesh, it’s easy to track tools that are left unattended.

At the end of the day, in practical situations, tools and equipment must serve the workers. If they’re able to focus on their job and not worry about losing track of items issued to them for use, they’ll be much more productive.

# 4 | Paving the way for automation

One of the most important steps to (complete or near-complete) automation in a factory is the building of a digital mesh and a connected environment.

That’s the first step to automating tasks as businesses can pick out what functions are most challenging and time-consuming and tackle them first, then move on to others, slowly automating the entire factory.

# 5 | Providing client insights

One of the most important benefits of building a ‘connected factory’ is being able to provide clients with API access to certain aspects of your production process, helping them track their order in real-time.

Clients can benefit from such insights as it can help them better plan and manage their own production process – and for manufacturers that offer such capabilities, it is easier to forge a strong relationship with the client.