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October 11, 2022

It’s no secret that the age of smart manufacturing is here and fully underway. Most industries are already leveraging the power of data-driven insights and the adoption of smart manufacturing platforms.

But many companies are still lagging in adopting technology for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). While leaders in these companies understand the broad concept of smart manufacturing, they may not yet grasp the real-world use cases and applications of what the technology can do for them.

What Is IIoT?

IIoT refers to the billions of devices connecting physical factory assets to the internet to leverage real-time data and produce accurate, actionable insights. IIoT technology is distinct from IoT because its connectivity is used exclusively for manufacturing. It creates a smart factory ecosystem for managing production more efficiently. A simple IIoT vs. IoT rule of thumb is that IIoT is manufacturing based while IoT is predominantly consumer based.

IIoT manufacturing represents the convergence of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT). By using big data and advanced analytics, companies can combine control systems, automation, core business functions, SCADA, and more with traditional IT to render insights that enable process improvement.

IIoT’s Role in Manufacturing

There are several benefits of IIoT real-world applications that show you what IIoT can do both for your role and your company.

Increases Efficiency and Productivity

One purpose of smart manufacturing is to connect factory assets to a cloud-based analytics platform. As data is analyzed, trends and insights are revealed based on machine-generated data. These insights reflect machine condition, machine health, production process, and other variables that contribute to accurate KPIs for total visibility into the production process.

Managers and operators are empowered to make decisions that reduce downtime, address bottlenecks, and lead to process improvements. Smart manufacturing platforms also mean companies can develop new maintenance strategies to move from preventive to predictive maintenance.

Combined, these capabilities significantly improve OEE, labor utilization, capacity planning, and throughout. As process improvement and optimization take hold, efficiency within a smart factory substantially improves, as does productivity per employee.

Takes Automation to New Heights

Automation has long been part of manufacturing, and many OEM producers build their equipment with automation onboard or quickly retrofitted to needs. Connecting these assets to a smart manufacturing platform means that the data can be used to propel automation even further.

Many smart manufacturing platforms enable autonomous or semi-autonomous operation, making decisions based on data analysis. With more autonomous automation, companies can realize lower labor costs and upskill existing labor to take on additional tasks.

Improves Quality

The same data-driven insights used for process optimization and improvement are available for quality analytics. Because the data is unsiloed and standardized, the same collected information can be used with quality analytics and quality management systems.

But today’s IIoT solutions allow you to go even further. IIoT devices can measure and alert operators to temperature variations, batch inconsistencies, and off-spec values as they arise, effectively halting quality issues before they even start.

Advanced systems allow optical scanning to detect defects such as surface finish, color, or contour, which human quality monitoring cannot do. An IIoT solution with quality monitoring device connectivity will significantly reduce scrap and rework, positively impacting service level, inventory, and brand reputation.

Lowers Costs

Operational budgets are a concern for any factory, but IIoT devices and a robust cloud-based smart manufacturing platform are designed to lower costs. As OEE rises, equipment utilization means more uptime, and quality and production monitoring also mean higher throughput and less operator intervention. The ability to deploy continuous improvement initiatives and reduce bottlenecks as or before they arise means more efficient processes, and that improves the bottom line.

Putting IIoT to Work for Your Operation

IIoT is a journey with different onramps. Whether you’re just dipping your toes into smart manufacturing technology or are making a big investment for the future, it’s clear IIoT is the core innovation that will truly unleash the power of data within your manufacturing operation, empower your workforce, and lower your operational costs.

To discover more about what IIoT is, how to implement it, and which industries leverage it the most, read this guide.

About the Author

Plex Team