The Future of Industry: Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things

Web of Industrial Internet of ThingsWhat exactly is the Industrial Internet of Things? The phrase or IIoT has been surfacing more frequently in recent months, accompanied by a lot of excitement and hype. It has been heralded as “pervasive” and “transforming industry” by GE, appearing in a variety of systems from air compressors to irrigation. Yet despite its extensive potential, the IIoT remains an unknown and mysterious entity to many.

The IIoT lacks one simple definition, for IIoT is not the only term used to describe the changing way industry regulates itself. Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet are other terms often used to describe this developing phenomenon. Roughly, IIoT refers to the evolving connectivity among machines, computers, and people. Machines and equipment collect data and, then through the IIoT, these machines transfer and interpret it. The information gathered in one spot is not isolated to that machine, but rather through the IIoT communication occurs between machines and environments. By transforming individual machines into a whole system, IIoT insights can be used to create better business solutions for industrial organizations in sectors such as manufacturing, logistics, oil and gas, transportation, and energy.

Though the ultimate goal of the IIoT would be to create an entire smart factory where every component of operations is monitored, that day remains in the future. Still, a wide mix of current applications are now possible. Even by integrating just one IIoT capable element into an organization’s process can yield a huge return. For instance, organizations that have included smart air compressors into production have seen 60% reduction in unscheduled equipment downtime (Click here for the full case study). If such a large operational improvement is possible with just one element change, imagine the system productivity increase for an entire transformation.

Smart machines allow for constant system monitoring by utilizing the IIoT. The collected data provides insights into the internal status of operations and can be accessed by authorized administrators. With access to so much information, system maintenance is much easier. Often, systems are built with the ability to auto-adjust based on historical data to ensure optimal performance. Even if autocorrect abilities are not possible, having a system that is able to recognize problems makes maintenance easier. Preventative maintenance can quickly turn into predicative maintenance through the insights gained from the IIoT. Before a technician even visits the machine, the specific part and problem area have been identified. Alerts for maintenance and potential system failures ensure a more efficient production cycle, with less overall downtime and greater productivity.

Despite the many obvious benefits of utilizing the IIoT, a 2016 Genpact study found that only 25% of industry have a clear IIoT strategy (Click here for more details).Though the benefits are great, several barriers exist for organizations. Many industrial companies find the complicated nature of sorting through the data to be overwhelming, with 64% citing data integration as their number one concern. Indeed, the process of figuring out how to integrate all the data interpretations into a useable format can be complex.

Luckily, there are many available examples of industrial companies who have successfully integrated the IIoT into their operations for those organizations just beginning. These companies have established data sensors, machine communication, and integrated interpretation. Some of their established products can easily be integrated into your own systems to begin the process of establishing that smart factory.

One such company on the Internet of Things Institute’s list is Kaeser Compressors. They have integrated digital communications into almost all of their products with their special Sigma Air Manager 4.0 control panel. It supports predictive maintenance, analysis of energy costs, and customization of units by collecting information on temperature, humidity, and vibrations. The controller transforms the ideas of Industry 4.0 into a useable format with reliable, real-time updates and system wide controls. The Institute further credits Kaeser Compressors with incorporating the ideas of IIoT into its very business model (For the IOTI’s complete list, click here).

Companies on the IOTI’s list and others demonstrate how common the IIoT is becoming. This connectivity and system integration is slowly becoming the norm for industrial processes. Though not every organization can afford to switch over suddenly to the IIoT and change all machines to smart ones, a transition is certainly happening. As the IIoT continues to develop and technologies strengthen, the provided insights are simply too valuable for companies to ignore.


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