The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT): Taking Manufacturing Measurement to the Next Level

Industrial Internet of Things

There is a concept called “The Measurement Paradigm” that states: “We don’t know what we don’t know. We can’t act on what we don’t know. We won’t know until we search. We won’t search for what we don’t question. We don’t question what we don’t measure.”

It is this last portion – measurement – that could be the most intriguing aspect of IIoT or Industrial Internet of Things.

IIoT, defined as smart-connected operations within a plant or production facility to create products and services, is a subset of the much broader IoT arena that has been getting so much press over the past few years. It seems that there are those that think that everything in our world would be better if connected to the Internet.

I, personally, am not sold on this. Would my life really be better if I get a text alert that my toast has just popped up? But as the Anuva Manufacturing’s VP of Operations who has overall responsibility for the performance of an electronic manufacturing facility, I long for technology that can immediately tell me how the operation is performing.

Large, highly automated manufacturers have had non-IIoT technology in place for years that allow them to monitor nearly every aspect of their operations. While this gave them considerable improvements in productivity and quality, it required tremendous capital investment and ongoing resources to manage – something that smaller operations simply cannot justify. IIoT, however, may offer a much lower-cost solution for smaller manufacturers to finally be able to MEASURE – in real time – how they are performing. By applying continuous-improvement efforts to those aspects that can now be measured, smaller manufacturers will also begin to experience increased productivity and quality.

For example, consider wanting to know something as mundane as how many of a particular product are at what stage of the production process. It can be challenging. Many manufacturers have equipment that is perfectly well-suited to produce high-quality products efficiently, yet they lack the ability to connect to a network for something as simple as reporting the number of widgets produced. Imagine a simple, low-cost IIoT device that can be attached to the equipment that scans product as it exits the equipment and reports this wirelessly to a database. Now imagine this same device deployed at every process stage – whether machine-based or manual, hand-assembly operations. Plant managers would have immediate – real time – visibility to their throughput. Now that this is finally being measured, the management team may start to see opportunities for improvement and take appropriate actions. Live “dashboards” could be implemented and even text alerts could be sent if, say, the output of a certain operation drops below a predetermined threshold.

IIoT devices could also be implemented to monitor the health of equipment and drive predictive maintenance, such as a motor that is starting to run warmer than normal, rather than the classical preventive maintenance (e.g. every three months you need to lubricate this motor). This could drive down maintenance costs significantly over time and minimize equipment failures.

Here’s one other interesting aspect of IIoT. Over the coming years, the baby boomers who make up a major percentage of today’s workforce will be retiring at a rate not seen before. Where is the replacement workforce going to come from? Guess what – there are not enough new workers available to replace those who are retiring. Further, most companies will want to continue to grow their output. The only solution is to implement more automation and technology that will allow the operation to become more efficient and allow existing workers to produce more widgets per day. Equipping a factory with IIoT technology is one tool that can allow this to happen.

Whether you are looking to design or develop a technology device or want to know more about how IoT or IIoT technology can improve your business, Anuva can help. Contact us today!

By Jim