The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), also known as Industry 4.0, has received a lot of media hype in recent years. This movement entails connecting and monitoring equipment, vehicles, and other hard assets within a company’s aggregated information network to enable additional organizational insights, efficiency, and control. The benefits are clear for multiple industries. However, few vendors offer tangible products and services to enable the complete vision.
In this series, we’ll offer practical advice to prepare your business for the IIoT and provide tips to select an IIoT platform. Future series will focus on specific industry solutions and more detailed examples of real-world IIoT deployments.
A connected enterprise allows an organization to have more comprehensive, accurate, and immediate visibility into the inner workings of the company. This enhanced visibility enables a variety of benefits, which can lead to greater product quality at a lower cost as well as better customer service. Here are the primary benefits of a connected enterprise:
Additional organizational insights allow for more effective decision-making at all levels. For example, engineers on the shop floor can be alerted when equipment isnt performing optimally or goes out of service completely. This gives the ability to fix any problems quickly or preferably before a problem even occurs.
More proactive decision making can be facilitated by predictive modeling. For example, the historical performance of equipment can be used to predict when maintenance activities should be performed to prevent downtime and to maximize the life of the equipment. Future equipment purchases can be based on the historical performance and maintenance data of specific brands of equipment.
Increased Operational Efficiency
There are various types of operational efficiency that can be achieved with a connected enterprise. This includes productivity gains, supply chain automation, energy conservation, regulatory compliance (e.g. safety, environmental) adherence, and logistics enhancements. For example, in the industrial gas industry, tanks need to be refilled on a periodic basis. Sensors can be deployed to detect how much gas is in each tank so that it is refilled at a specific tank level to minimize both the tank refill cost and the risk of a tank running out. Refilling a tank too soon results in unnecessary work effort, vehicle wear and tear, fuel consumption, customer interruption, and management overhead.
Reduced Risk of Loss
Connecting the enterprise can reduce the risk of loss. For example, in the pharmacy industry, many drugs need to be stored within a specific temperature range to maintain their potency. Sensors can be deployed to monitor and automatically detect when drugs are nearing the upper or lower bound of their acceptable temperature range. This allows someone to be alerted to correct a potential problem before the drugs are ruined. Without this insight, impotent vaccines may be administered to a child, or ineffective drugs given to a critically ill patient.
Reducing the risk of loss also has insurance implications. Insurance companies may offer lower premiums to companies that deploy IIoT solutions that demonstrate tangible risk reduction with a comprehensive monitoring system and associated remediation processes.
Significant value can be created and captured with a comprehensive connected enterprise strategy. It can also pose challenges, but those can be minimized with advanced planning. Next in this series, we’ll cover the recommended implementation approach.