A machine that gives advance notification to the owner about an imminent breakdown. Smart glasses that allow field technicians to work hands-free while remote supervisors walk them through solutions. Intelligent factory floors connected to the cloud to obtain the status of raw material progress or assembly line production in real time.
All of these are examples of how factories of the future will work. There is little doubt that IoT is already, and will continue to be, the single biggest driving force behind Industry 4.0. According to McKinsey, IoT will have a potential economic impact of up to $6.2 trillion by 2025. A research study by IoT Analytics expects manufacturing to be the biggest IoT platform segment, reaching $438 million by 2021. And a Genpact research study states that almost 81% organizations globally believe successful adoption of IIoT is critical to future success — even more so for high-tech and large enterprises.
IIoT: Opening new possibilities and growth areas
There is more than one way in which IoT can enable industries to accelerate growth, transform economies and achieve a new level of competitiveness. With IIoT, manufacturers can ensure greater efficiencies across the value chain, ranging from operations and services to engineering and product supply.
1. Predictive maintenance: Every year, manufacturing units across the world suffer from huge losses due to faulty machines and equipment, rework and machine failures. IoT can help factory owners predict a solder defect or a type of component defect before it has occurred. This helps owners identify a potential issue and take urgent action to address it, thereby ensuring that there are no faulty pieces. The eventual outcome is that manufacturing time decreases, there is no repeated work and the amount of scrap reduces significantly. By aggregating real-time data from sensors installed on the machinery and equipment, manufacturers can track current machine operational status and also receive alerts if there is a possibility of any failures or unplanned downtime. All these factors enhance operational efficiencies and help aid in increasing revenues.
2. Enhanced field service: Companies that have their products and equipment distributed worldwide — for example, elevators or large healthcare equipment — often face a challenge where after-sales service or troubleshooting are concerned. Usually these companies have field service executives that visit different locations for troubleshooting or servicing these pieces of equipment. Often these field executives or technicians must spend a great amount of time going back and forth with back-office experts for more complex problems or must refer to technical guides or tedious repair manuals. IoT can help field service executives by using predictive maintenance systems. Field service executives can identify potential issues before they blow up into a major problem, thereby ensuring quick fixes before creating major inconveniences to the customers. By using smart glasses, technicians can work hands-free and even work remotely with back-office experts. Field technicians can also share real-time photos and videos, annotate on the shared visuals and even create handholding mechanisms with back-office staff, thereby making troubleshooting quick and seamless.
3. Energy management: It is estimated that IoT can help manufacturing units reduce energy bills by up to 20% through energy efficiency measures. By using smart meters, manufacturing units can track how resources are distributed and consumed, lower operating costs, reduce thefts and improve forecasting. Compressors if left on but not used can consume up to 70% of their full power. When identified, such unnecessary energy consumption can be drastically reduced by remotely managing manufacturing assets using connected sensors. Energy management systems can also optimize energy consumption to reduce CO2 emission and manufacturing operation costs.
4. Asset tracking: Digital asset management (DAM) is rapidly becoming one of the mainstays of retail and logistic verticals. In fact, the retail industry is expected to hold the largest share in the asset management system market. DAM offers unparalleled benefits, like real-time asset tracking, greater accountability and enhanced asset management, which ensure better customer service and increased organizational efficiency. Manufacturers, suppliers and end customers can track location and status, as well as condition of items at every step — from the time assets leave the warehouse to their final destination. If at any point any of the items are damaged or are in danger of being potentially damaged due to weather conditions, temperature changes, poor handling or are at a risk of being stolen, manufacturers and suppliers, as well as customers, get instant alerts, enabling them to take preventive or immediate action. Some of the key applications of IoT-driven DAM include inventory management, shelf stocking, check-out process management and counterfeiting elimination. Real-time location systems are expected to grow at the highest rate between 2016 and 2022.
The inherent benefits of IIoT, including asset optimization, smart monitoring, predictive maintenance and, most importantly, intelligent decision-making, are rapidly making it an irreplaceable technology. An amalgamation of different factors like machine learning, big data, sensor data, M2M communication and automation, IIoT is no longer the “next big thing.” We are well into the IIoT age.