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What’s The Magic of The Industrial Internet of Things?

Larry Turner
By Larry Turner CEO, Hannover Fairs USA

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has elements of the fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk.

The technology behind IIoT, also known as Industry 4.0, which was established at HANNOVER MESSE in Germany, can be perceived as a “magical solution” where you sprinkle the beans and your business grows.

An Accenture survey of 1,400 C-suite decision makers (including 736 CEOs) from the world’s largest companies indicated that 84 percent believe that new, service-based income will result from IIoT.

However, 73 percent indicate that concrete progress is low, with just 7 percent having a funded strategy.

While the potential for the “magic” remains high, the reality of how to implement IIoT on the factory floor requires a thoughtful approach that does not start with technology or data. It starts with identifying your business needs and culture.

In order to understand the premise and promise of IIoT, we need to understand the former and current state of industrial automation. According to Greg Giles, director of MES at RedViking based in Plymouth, Michigan: “IIoT is something all manufacturers want to be a part of but many don’t understand what it is yet.”

In the 1990s, there existed networking devices collecting information via field bus about facility processes and utilities. This involved collecting information on electric grids, air distribution, cooling systems and process controls then correlating this with operations and cost controls.

Over time, this expanded to serial buses and now to data collection via IIoT. This includes standard Ethernet stacks, transport protocols, servers, and bringing data from local networks into the Internet and Cloud based computing. All of this has created the current reality for today’s manufacturer; the ability to realize a smart manufacturing facility and new positions for its workforce.

“However, IIoT and Cloud are not synonymous. Smart manufacturing facilities can implement IIoT without the Cloud,” Giles added.

Where To Start

According to Beth Parkinson, market development director of Rockwell Automation headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, “Manufacturers need to identify where their organization is today, and assess where they want to be, who are their competitors today and who might they be in the future.

Consider what needs to happen to stay globally competitive. Don’t make the mistake of changing your operation just for technology’s sake. It is critical to understand what you are trying to solve with any change.”

Parkinson added, “Understand what parts of your operation are creating challenges and where you see opportunities. Then at a base level, ask yourself, what is the state of automation in our operation? Can it meet the needs today and for future strategies? How strong is the network and security infrastructure, and related policies?”

Example questions to ask your manufacturing operations team include:

  • Is the state of automation in our operation good as-is or are there excessive downtimes?
  • Do we have tribal knowledge that we have not captured or automated that could create problems in the future?
  • What decisions are we trying to make?
  • Where should we apply analytics?

Giles added, “Clients come to RedViking with specific issues, items and questions about problems with their industrial automation setup. Many don’t realize that their problems often tie into bigger operational issues. Therefore, RedViking often engages with clients to find where the root issues lie by process integration to ERP or MES so that they can recognize the value of IIoT.”

Sloan Zupan, senior product manager at Mitsubishi Electric Automation in Vernon Hills, Illinois, said, “The first step to an effective IIoT strategy is to identify what risk you are trying to mitigate or what pain you want to resolve. Once this has been identified, build a business case that is actionable and outlines measurable results. This will increase buy in from various stakeholders who will fund and provide support for the initiative.”

Zupan added, “An IIoT strategy is best implemented around specific use cases. From there you can add additional functionality that addresses the next risk to avoid or pain that needs to be alleviated. The most successful IIoT implementations are based on building blocks that address the largest challenges first.”

What Pains Can IIoT Solve

Giles stated, “We worked with a company’s operations team that was unclear about how to repair breakdowns in certain areas on the floor. They needed to know where to source parts and then once repaired, wanted to understand and measure the success of the repair.”

RedViking implemented an IIoT solution establishing traceability on repairs helping to eradicate area confusion. The IIoT solution also helped the client company source parts and visibly reminded the team about repair history.

“Essentially, IIoT established documented evidence for specific units, including failure information and analytics on all unit failures and successes of repairs,” added Giles.

Zupan added, “Mitsubishi Electric Automation works with customers who want short-term returns on their investment in IIoT. We help customers implement IIoT solutions to provide visibility into manufacturing asset performance and energy usage.”

IIoT helps fuel better decisions about how to best invest capital to address underperforming assets via data collection and analysis. Said Zupan: “IIoT told clients what assets are using energy at a rate not consistent with other similar assets. IIoT has enabled customers to better predict machine failures through monitoring key performance indicators such as OEE and energy consumption.”

The Magic of Transparency

Aside from the practical applications, what may be driving U.S. manufacturers to incorporate IIoT is the utility of this technology in deconstructing the silos prevalent in our manufacturing workplaces. Tribal knowledge led to the building of these silos. For better or for worse; IIoT is the magic tool to flush out this knowledge, connect silos and render them transparent.

Because IIoT is a disruptive technology for many factory owners, focusing on a solid business case and not solely on the immediate pursuit of big data is crucial. Working within your company’s culture to ensure that everyone accepts this prospect is also paramount.

A great first step to take towards implementing an IIoT platform is to visit RedViking, Rockwell Automation and Mitsubishi Electric Automation and many other Industrial Internet of Things experts and thought leaders at Industrial Automation North America 2016 co-located with IMTS in Chicago from September 12 – 17, 2016. Approximately 200 technology and solutions providers will be on the show floor demonstrating their latest solutions.

Senior executives from these companies also will discuss the latest initiatives on the Industrial Internet of Things at the Global Automation and Manufacturing Summit, also held during IMTS 2016.

Larry Turner is President & CEO of Hannover Fairs USA, Deutsche Messe’s U.S. subsidiary and organizer of five HANNOVER MESSE industrial technology portfolio events co-located at IMTS 2016.

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