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DIGITALISATION Making the best of Industrial IoT

Jan 4, 2019

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) refers to the application of IoT technologies at the manufacturing and industrial level. It is designed to increase efficiency and accuracy with the market expected to reach $232.15 billion by 2023. This article looks at a list of things for an organisation to consider before finalising on an IIoT strategy.

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IIoT is a transformative digital evolution that is focused on the use of advanced analytics that helps in improving operational costs and reliability, increase production efficiency, and accelerate supply chain performance. It also helps in improving collaboration across sites, improves information and knowledge sharing between teams, enables better asset maintenance and fosters streamlined maintenance.

The long and short of devices

The IIoT ecosystem is led by devices. Be it PLCs, DCS, controllers, sensors that are driving machines, processes, or robots, the device ecosystem in the IIoT landscape is rich. The devices lay the foundation for automation and enable edge gateways to acquire real time data from assets. However, Industrial IoT is a great deal more than just devices. It is more about using the data from these devices, such that they can deliver a tangible business impact. So, while devices are an important part of the IIoT journey, here’s a look at what organisations embarking on this journey must pay close attention to.

Assessment of existing business processes

Before embarking on the IIoT journey, an organisation first must take a close look at their existing business processes. This has to be done to identify and assess the business challenges that correspond with that process and gain insights into how IIoT could help mitigate those problems. For example, if industry workers are spending long hours fire fighting maintenance issues or if machine breakdowns become common and lead to increased downtime, then it is apparent that these are areas that need improvement. If the supply chain is not operating efficiently and is impacting business outcomes, then that needs to be changed. This assessment helps in chalking out an IIoT roadmap and makes the implementation process smoother and more efficient.

Assessing the mix for IIoT implementation

Familiarisation with common IIoT applications, such as real time OEE, preventive and predictive maintenance, energy management, supply chain optimisation, inventory planning, etc is a good place to start. Along with this, organisations have to ensure that the end-user is committed to using the data generated across this new network.

IIoT connects several devices to monitoring systems and sensors, and generates, and collects humongous volumes of data. It is the analysis and use of this data that unleashes efficiency and opportunity in the industry. Taking a phased approach to IIoT implementation, identifying areas which will benefit the most, and having the most willing user base are the things to be taken into consideration. Starting with small projects in key focus areas is more likely to deliver an impact than looking at a large-scale IIoT implementation rollout throughout the plant.

Evaluating the right partner and solution

A smart manufacturing solution has multiple touch points. It encompasses the breadth and depth of your organisation and touches almost all people working with you. Thus, choosing the right solution and partner is extremely crucial.

Defining a clear roadmap

Having a clear roadmap for IIoT implementation will include defining the why, what, how of IIoT and then striking a right balance in various aspects, which may seem contradictory.

  • Why: This entails the vision, strategy, business objectives and pain areas

  • What: This involves the applications for data acquisition, visualisation, analytics, etc to service areas like production, maintenance, supply chain, etc.

  • How: This revolves around considerations, such as, the technology, connectivity, network, environment (cloud, storage/database), application security, privacy management, E2E data encryption, firmware attestation, etc.

Along with these individual components, it is essential to build the IIoT technology in a modular fashion to allow scalability, so that adding functionalities do not challenge the hardware design and data model. Organisations also have to define the overall IIoT implementation strategy and then bring the right resources on board. Setting concrete goals and identifying high priority areas that have an immediate business impact should top the priority list.

Developing the data framework

The real value from IIoT comes from centralising the data and then integrating applications to process this information. Data consolidation is another aspect that has to be looked into closely. Data has to be consolidated from different sources using communication technologies and open integration to enable smart analytics and draw meaningful insights. To eliminate maintenance needs of these applications, they are best deployed in the cloud instead of on-premises. This also facilitates in making data from multiple sites easily available in these applications

Focusing on the network

For successful IIoT systems, organisations need to ensure that they have a secure and stable network in place. There is a lot of data that is generated and flows within the IIoT ecosystem. The number of users on the network also increases. With an outdated network, the system cannot keep pace with the demands and can impede growth. It thus becomes imperative to focus on network segmentation, boundary protection, and to evaluate how the network should be set up to allow IIoT systems do their magic.

IT and OT convergence

Convergence of IT (Information Technology) and OT (Operations Technology) in IIoT systems enables secure and reliable data movement to applications and users beyond the shop floor. Thus, this aspect becomes fundamental to IIoT systems. While it might be simple to implement alarm monitoring, it can be significantly more challenging to discover ways to correlate information from different business systems with the plant floor. But it is this sort of convergence of IT and OT that will really unlock the value of IIoT systems.

Security

Finally, it is crucial to ensure that security is not an afterthought. Optimum security must be designed at all levels. It is also important to have systems in place that analyse the networks and systems for potential vulnerabilities. Network security systems should be able to identify intrusions, breaches or leaks as or before they happen. They also have to have the capability to stop incidents and repair damages to the network or to system integrity promptly and ensure that security patches can be applied all across network in the event of a vulnerability. Using standard security solutions and best practices is always preferred.

Ensuring maximum output

IIoT has a number of benefits and is focused on having a tangible impact in an organisation. To ensure maximum output, an organisation must pay close attention to areas that require urgent or long term assistance and shape the development of IIoT accordingly. It is also important to get familiarised with its operations and Data Analysis from a local level to a large scale implementation. Understanding the vision, application and means of applying IIoT is crucial for increasing productivity and efficiency. Additionally, data must be consolidated and a stable network must be in place, along with security systems. Thus, it is through these considerations that an organisation can reap maximum benefits from IIoT.

Image Gallery

  • Digital Transformation

    A smart manufacturing solution has multiple touch points

  • Centralising Data

    The real value from IIoT comes from centralising the data and then integrating
    applications to process this information

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