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The Industrial Internet of Things

May 18, 2017, on Catavolt  Blog

At this point everyone is familiar with the phrase ‘Internet of Things’ or ‘IoT’ and what that means to our lives. There are now wearables like smart watches to monitor our heart rates, refrigerators that make our shopping lists and home assistants that hear our voices and order our pizzas. But, how can the IoT help us at work? Let’s look at the ‘Industrial Internet of Things’ or ‘IIoT’ – the application of IoT to industries like manufacturing, mining and energy.

On your shop floor, the ‘T’ in IIoT includes sensors and PLC’s that provide specific measures. And, you might not know it, but your core manufacturing equipment likely already contains many sensors pre-installed. Capturing these measures as data – count, heat, pressure, weight, size, etc. – is the core to improving your productivity and efficiency. Processing that data, analyzing it, finding patterns, determining failure points now becomes your ‘I’. The access to this data, the measures, now allow us to calculate and monitor throughput, utilization, attainment and OEE at the plant, department, line and machine level in real time.

Manufacturers that utilize IIoT have seen an average 28.5% increase in revenues (Business Insider, Oct 12, 2016 – http://www.businessinsider.com/internet-of-things-in-manufacturing-2016-10). That’s significant and possible just by using the data that you already likely have access too.

Sensors and PLC’s

Clearly the first step in utilizing IIoT is getting the right measures. This doesn’t need to be difficult. Implementing mobile apps to manually record data like hourly counts and meter readings provides a good starting point. Further, updating existing equipment with sensors or PLC’s can automate that process. Finally, connecting to the data already captured by your equipment can provide measures in high volume.  A combination of all three will be likely in most organizations. In short, there is a way to get the core data.

Systems and Software

Next, you need the right tools to access, store and process the data.  Excel spreadsheets have been a constant on shop floors since Microsoft enabled us to type +A1+B2.  But, let’s no longer rely on PC tools to provide business critical processes. You might look at BI and SCADA systems. These are great solutions for high speed process manufacturing. But, they can be expensive or difficult to implement. And, in the case of BI, getting to just see your data might not be enough of a benefit.

There do exist rapid mobile app development (RMAD) platforms that can access and capture data, workflow and take action on data and provide specific KPI’s about your data.  All in real time and on a mobile phone or tablet as well as on a PC. It is possible, even on smaller shop floors, to gain the advantage of IIoT. By gathering and processing the right data you can improve your manufacturing productivity and efficiency.  Your throughput, utilization, attainment and OEE can be at your fingertips and immediately actionable.

Rachel McAuley, Catavolt