Picture this: you’re a manufacturing supervisor at a chemical processing facility. Your job is tough and technical, but you’re confident in your team and its abilities to deliver. After meeting with your production leads to communicate the week’s deadlines, you’re headed back to your office for an important call.
But something’s not right. The rotary kiln was lubricated today, but the employee who maintained the machine added excess lubricant without realizing it. Too much lubricant can pose a dangerous fire hazard and send the entire machine up in flames. Your employees on the floor are in grave danger, and they have absolutely no idea.
Before the advent of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), this story could have very likely ended in tragedy. Today, that’s not the case. Because you’re a future-forward supervisor, you’ve installed an IIoT-enabled sensor connected to the kiln. It alerts you and your workers of the dangerous temperature conditions before it hits a critical peak. You’re able to mitigate the issue or evacuate before the machine explodes. Not only have you averted a life-threatening scenario, but you’ve potentially saved your company from shelling out thousands of dollars in damages.
While the above scenario is a hypothetical one, it’s based on reality. IIoT devices are permeating the manufacturing sector at breakneck speed, transforming the industry with capabilities that are quickly outpacing their predecessors.
New Manufacturing in the Age of IIoT
Providing companies with capabilities like predictive maintenance and conditioning monitoring, the IIoT is proving to be many manufacturers’ cutting edge. And it’s not just multinational corporations who are waking up to the benefits of the IIoT; small and mid-sized enterprises are also hopping on the train, leveraging everything from smart meters to location trackers that help employees keep track of tools. By 2025, the global IIoT market size is expected to balloon to $106.1 billion — up from a cool $76.7 billion in 2021.
Implementing IIoT technology into your manufacturing business, when done correctly, can tighten workplace safety, improve workflows, and close gaps in efficiency. However, it also presents various challenges.
Because IIoT technology is evolving at lightning speeds, many manufacturers grapple with a lack of talent trained to utilize that technology properly. IIoT devices also require maintenance, regular security checkups, and more, all of which can hamper a company’s adoption of the technology.
Despite its challenges, however, implementing IIoT benefits manufacturers in the long run. Competing in a world of next-gen products, manufacturers will increasingly have to keep a finger on the pulse of IIoT or risk obscurity.
In this blog post, we’ll cover the top considerations to make when planning to dive headfirst into IIoT. Between understanding your business’ technology needs and enhancing your security protocols, here are our top five tips for successful IIoT implementation.
1. Understand exactly what your business needs
The first step is understanding exactly what your business needs in order to apply the best solution. Consider this: before a doctor writes a prescription, she listens to her patient’s concerns first. She’ll conduct an assessment, corroborate that information with her own medical expertise, and then reach a diagnosis. That’s all to say: in order to come up with a viable solution, the doctor first must understand the problem at hand.
The same goes for manufacturers looking to leverage IIoT solutions. You’ll want to know your diagnosis before prescribing the technology to tackle the problem. What’s the problem your company is trying to solve?
Perhaps faster product introduction would make a significant improvement to your business. Or is the real issue productivity and reduced lead time? Maybe you require better visibility and control of the supply chain. Whatever the case may be, define your goals to find a targeted IIoT solution.
2. Consider your monitoring options
Monitoring is a crucial aspect of every manufacturing process. It applies to a range of business functions, whether that’s facility management, asset management, or manufacturing execution. Depending on your business needs, IIoT monitoring technology can offer a range of solutions to ensure product and equipment quality, such as monitoring of temperature, water quality, steam pressure, and vibration levels, to name a few.
Monitoring the overall health of your equipment is also a huge game-changer for manufacturers. This is what’s known as condition monitoring, which involves measuring variations in indicators of performance and status of connected machinery. Condition monitoring helps manufacturers improve resource utilization and prevent unplanned downtime. It also empowers them with the data to make smarter decisions, detect opportunities for improvement, and take corrective action before issues actually occur. Condition monitoring also enables higher equipment lifespan, given that it helps manufacturers schedule maintenance ahead of time to prevent part failure or system damage.
3. Put security first
Unfortunately, everything that’s connected to the internet — whether it’s a cell phone or an industrial smart meter — is vulnerable to security breaches. What’s more, given the staggering speed at which devices are coming online, hackers are gaining more access to vulnerable endpoints. Just one hack could shut your devices down, compromising product reliability and worker safety on the floor. Adding an extra layer of security to your IIoT devices enables remote fleet management and deeper insights into your device access, so you can keep both your products and your staff safe from malicious players. Security also heightens trust within your brand, which is key to winning the hearts of the customers who matter most.
Certain companies (like Firedome) provide holistic IoT and IIoT cybersecurity measures that prevent exploits. Powered by 24/7 monitoring, marketing services, and custom analytics reporting, Firedome protects both your devices and your data so you can powerfully differentiate your offerings — and give your customers the confidence to buy them.
4. Discover how to optimize your supply chain
IIoT technologies make it easy to optimize your supply chain. Discovering how to take advantage of these technologies is an important step to understanding how IIoT can maximize production efficiency in the long run.
There are a few features of IIoT-connected devices that can greatly improve the efficiency of your supply chain. Location tracking, for example, gives stakeholders a glimpse into exactly where raw goods and materials are as they’re en route to processing facilities. This information is used to forecast delays, manage expectations, and adjust schedules as needed based on real-time updates.
IIoT also assists manufacturers by automatically updating the status of certain assets. That means that instead of manual sorting and logging of data, employees can spend their time on more mission-critical tasks, boosting overall efficiency. It also plays a role in monitoring the condition of goods as they make their way through the supply chain, enabling stakeholders to make smarter decisions in real time and updating inventory needs.
5. Roll out implementation and training
So, you’ve decided it’s finally time to introduce IIoT into your manufacturing facility. That’s great news — but it’ll take some work to get employees on board and well-trained to work with the technology.
Before you’re able to roll out implementation, you’ll need organizational buy-in and approval from all stakeholders involved. The best way to do this? Draw up a proof of concept (POC) that demonstrates the IIoT technology’s ROI for the business. Once you’ve received the okay from management, you’re ready to scale into implementation. It’s best to do this with a project roadmap that outlines your strategy, cost, and timeline.
It’s also important for management and employees to approach the adoption of IIoT technology with safety and education top of mind. Prior to implementation, create a thorough training program that underscores device features, their limitations, and protocols necessary for operation. Involve all stakeholders — the quality assurance manager, the safety manager, employees who will use the equipment, maintenance workers, etc. You’ll also want to loop in your IT team, given that the dependability of your wireless network is critical for your devices to communicate.
The IIoT market share is mushrooming, and manufacturing is having a field day. IIoT increases efficiency, improves workplace safety, and provides stakeholders with real-time updates that enable them to make smarter decisions. Before jumping in, remember the key takeaways for successful IIoT implementation:
- Always identify your goals before implementing an IIoT strategy.
- Consider what kind of monitoring options will work best for your business.
- Make sure security stays a top priority.
- Understand how the IIoT will help optimize your supply chain.
- Ensure all company stakeholders and employees are up to speed on training before rolling out IIoT technology.
But don’t forget: while burgeoning IIoT developments offer great opportunities, they also come with heightened security threats. Don’t leave your business vulnerable. Get in touch and safeguard your IIoT devices today!