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The Industrial Internet Of Things Increases Enterprise Efficiency

Plants benefit from any improvement in efficiency. It is a well-known fact that a 1% improvement in performance has significant benefits overall [1]. Over the years, industrial automation and control together with other operational sit technology (OT) systems ensured that production operations efficiency increased. However, with the gap between IT and OT systems rapidly closing, newer solutions show considerable promise for improving overall enterprise efficiency. These solutions are part of a new industrial revolution generated by the advent of the Industrial Internet of Things (also known as the industrial internet hereafter referred as IIoT)

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) represents a system of smart, connected transducers (sensors and actuators), machines, and mobile devices that always communicate with each other and their users. Additionally, these machines watch their state and report on their performance. The resulting data is usually stored in a central data repository, either in the cloud or on-premises. Once information is available, you can build applications that analyse asset performance, make predictions, alert the users, or control the machines themselves. Therefore, IIoT creates a highly connected and responsive network of devices, processes, and people that transforms the way you design and think about your production environment.


IIOT Systems Improve Supply Chain Visibility


IIoT systems improve the visibility of suppliers, processes, and products. IIoT solutions bring different processes from procurement to fabrication and from storage to final delivery under one roof – a centralised “control centre”. The network of connected transducers, machines, and mobile devices specific to any IIoT systems continuously produces data. These data are captured, pre-processed, and stored resulting in real-time data available from any location. This increased visibility means that production systems integrate with ERP, SCM, and CRM systems [2]. This integration is vital for any company, but it is critical for companies from regulated industries, such as the food and beverage or pharma industries. IIoT solutions create a portal through which anyone can have a full view of the supply and production process, thus alleviating compliance and reporting issues. Also, IIoT solutions help with the reverse supply chain, i.e. product returns. In this context, an IIoT application can identify the cause of product returns [3], resulting in a better understanding of the product usage and of user needs and wants. This feedback is critical for future development cycles because it offers you a direct link to how real users interact with your products. Therefore, IIoT bridges the two parts of the supply chain, providing a 360 degrees view in real-time about everything that is happening with the resources, parts, and products as they come into or go out of the organisation.


The Industrial Internet Of Things Transforms Process And Asset Monitoring


Another area where IIoT solutions shine is process monitoring and optimisation. Application in this space includes solutions to reduce process complexity, discover which parts of the process are most wasteful or suggest improvements to existing processes, optimising them against your desired KPIs [3]. ​ In addition to monitoring industrial assets and operations, IIoT solutions can be designed to track the journey of the product from raw resources to a finished product. Such a solution can inform all the stakeholders about potential inefficiencies in processing and shape the outcome or identify process operations that cause damage. Furthermore, this system could be extended to predict when a product is about to be damaged and exclude it from production before it arrives at Q&A, thus saving time and resources. Finally, it is possible to equip products with sensors and microprocessors to track the effect of the production processes on finished products and to gain information about how customers use, recycle, or dispose of your products. The data generated by tracking the full product journey leads to increased visibility and control of product performance.

Furthermore, the ecosystems created by implementing IIoT solutions are the perfect source of real-time asset and operations performance data. According to Conway, adoption of IIoT solutions causes operations technology to merge with IT [2]. The resulting combination will create a flat and information-driven architecture [2] because the network of connected transducers, machines, mobile devices, and people generates a stream of real-time data that are available from anywhere. It is possible to mine these data for insights about your production operations or to use the data to control industrial assets. The resulting products increasingly automate operations management maximising the overall enterprise efficiency. This type of smart processes is not just a thought experiment. For example, Honeywell implemented an automated predictive analytics platform for offshore oil & gas operations. Their solution reduces waste, and unexpected downtime through continuous monitoring. Also, their solution keeps the number of staff on site low, increasing the safety of the operations. Therefore, when appropriately deployed, IIoT solutions improve plant efficiency.


Improved Instrumentation And Sensors Will Create A Functional Digital Twin Of Your Enterprise


IIoT also contributes to the improvement of a plant’s operations by aiding the development of measurement science and instrumentation which leads to a digital twin of your enterprise. As you saw earlier, IIoT solutions create a network of machines, devices, and sensors communicating with each other and with the outside world. There is nothing that stops us from adding “dumb” sensors on everything, except the increased costs associated with cabling and powering these sensors [2]. However, as hardware and low power modules advance, it will be possible to add as many sensors and actuators on a machine as you seem fit [2]. Imagine a world where we have affordable and reliable sensors and actuators capable of making accurate single measurements. Furthermore, these sensors are small, so small that you can fit many of them on a single machine. Finally, each sensor requires low power to operate and connects to your central network without cables. In such a world you can measure and control every aspect of the machine functioning. However, you do not need to stop there. These transducers generate data, and there is nothing that can stop you also to use these data to create a complete digital twin of your plant. Now let’s step outside your production environment and install sensors in all parts of your enterprise. You have just created a digital replica of your entire organisation. You can now use this digital twin to optimise your operations, assess how changes will impact your enterprise, run simulations and predictions about future events, and much more.

To summarise, IIoT solutions reshape your enterprise, pushing efficiency to unprecedented highs. First, IIoT transforms your production operations through accurate asset performance and product monitoring. Second, IIoT redesigns your enterprise by digitally integrating the production units with the other parts of your enterprise. Finally, over time sensors and actuators become smaller, more energy efficient, and cheaper, enabling you to get increasingly granular data about everything in your enterprise. In a not too distant future, IIoT solutions together with commercial IoT solutions will let you create an accurate, real-time replica of your enterprise.



References

[1] Gildcrist, A. (2016). Industry 4.0 – The Industrial Internet of Things. Apress

[2] Conway, J. (2015). The Industrial Internet of Things: An Evolution to a Smart Manufacturing Enterprise. Available at: https://bit.ly/2JqHDiO [Accessed 25th March 2018]

[3] Vermesan, O., Friess, P. (2016). Digitising the Industry Internet of Things Connecting the Physical, Digital and Virtual Worlds. [pdf] River Publishess. Available at: https://bit.ly/29q7470 [Accessed 23rd March 2018]



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