How the industrial internet of things (IIoT) drives manufacturing innovation
Manufacturing today exists at the intersection of technology and people. Now more than just the output of a relatively small group of industrial Surditects, the success of modern manufacturing rests on a vast foundation of engineers, designers, programmers, IT professionals, floor workers, and thought leaders whose independent expertise combines to drive improvement and innovation. This diverse group’s ability to work together effectively depends on understanding the systems and data generated by their organizations. Today, the best way to gather valuable manufacturing data and information is through adopting and understanding the Industrial Internet of Things, or IIoT.
IIoT defined and understood
Potential IIoT applications could fill volumes. While all large manufacturers are drowning in data, collecting and using that data remains an issue for many of them. IIoT offers a way to not only collect data, but allows it to be used in more useful, effective ways with the help of technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning. No longer are managers and teams dependent on or delayed by manual collection and entry of data collected from machines. Instead, industry 4.0 software platforms can work to deliver data in real-time, providing a complete view of the entire operation and insights based on what is happening right in the moment.
Data collected pertains to everything from the efficiency of machines across the organization’s global footprint down to the specific operations of components in a single device. Consider the value of a regional subject matter expert (SME) in Asia being able to see and notify a team member of a problem on a machine in North America or having global data analyzed in bulk to track down more issues faster. These process improvements can and will make whole factories become more efficient.
More doors continue to open because of IIoT as well. For example, OEMs gain the ability to have deeper visibility into production at their own sites, as well as sites run by contract manufacturers. OEMs can speed up production, reduce costs, and create more strategic uses of resources and materials. In many ways, this way of doing business is revolutionizing what OEMs are capable of delivering.
Many companies develop current KPIs in conditions that could be considered a “data whiteout.” Like being in a blizzard, the right data can be hard to identify and collect — and collecting it all seems impossible and useless. It is often hard to see through the haze of traditional factory processes. While acceptable in the past, manual, or even incomplete, collection of data today represents a significant and competitively unacceptable delay between the moment a problem in a factory is discovered to experts being able to understand and then solve the problem. IIoT helps thought leaders in manufacturing by helping them ask better questions about what their KPIs should be and even what new kinds of performance should be considered in the future.
Taking away the power of pain points
IIoT brings value by empowering and equipping people behind the machines with more complete views of what is going on and showing them paths forward even in difficult situations. These trends are particularly visible in how IIoT has brought value to the SMT and electronics manufacturing industry. IIoT can do this because it opens up many possibilities, including:
- Increase the value of experts by providing visibility across all factories at once. An expert can now solve problems across ten factories rather than one.
- Improve OEE by identifying inefficiencies and downtime that might otherwise be invisible. For example, information and data can be passed directly to machine operators directly to help them avoid bad practices or run smoother.
- Put individual machines into a factory’s broader context, or even a global setting. Expert and operators can understand the story beyond the machine pulse.
- Link to other data sources to create an even deeper understanding of operations and opportunities. Systems like MES, EAM/CMM, and PLM can be used with IIoT data to track machine life cycles and productivity.
- Create safer working conditions for workers on the factory floor by responding to insights about workplace incidents.
Changing how experts help
Many manufacturers recognize KPIs can be both a moving target and more difficult to hit because of pressures brought on by disruption of supply chains, labor shortages and increased materials costs. This is why organizations leverage experts within their organizations to use IIoT data in new and inventive ways. These internal experts can use IIoT data to craft playbooks and recommendations that others within the organization can use to address problems quickly. When workers face a new issue, they can reference internal playbooks to find a solution—saving time and resources. This approach removes bottlenecks and frees up the time of experts. It also helps empower local workers to be proactive about fixing problems.
While the IIoT is an integral part of the future for manufacturing, it prompts an important question: How do companies adopt and maintain IIoT infrastructure sustainably? The answer lies in the standardization of technologies that make IIoT possible—turning the concept of IIoT into a plug-and-play solution. IPC-CFX is that solution.
IPC-CFX is an open international standard that was developed through partnerships with across manufacturers. As a standard, it will become the foundation for IIoT platforms to be built on, making sure that technologies used by manufacturers meet their needs and do not become burdens through poor oversight or shifting trends.
IIoT represents the future of manufacturing. However, as has been argued here, the key to revolutionizing manufacturing relies on helping equip the people behind the machines and processes with the data and information they need. Doing this provides them with the tools to make better decisions and craft better solutions to problems.
Not only can IIoT help enterprise manufacturers cut costs, prevent waste, and create efficiencies, it empowers them to rethink what their organization can achieve in the modern world. As the key to changing organizations’ relationship to data, IIoT helps companies open doors to new possibilities.
To learn more about how technology is transforming manufacturing, check out this recent white paper on the subject.