IT in Manufacturing

What IIoT Means for manufacturing

April 2023 IT in Manufacturing

How the IIoT enhances efficiencies in the factory

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is perhaps the biggest buzzword in automation today and it is a key aspect of Industry 4.0. But IIoT is more than just the way of the future. IIoT already impacts the way factories operate today and it will increasingly impact businesses in the future. Therefore, it is essential to understand the terms being used, recognise how IIoT technologies are already being implemented in manufacturing facilities, and prepare your business for the future.

Industry 4.0, IoT, and IIoT

The term Industry 4.0 broadly describes the current wave of technological innovation as an era in history characterised by interconnectivity, enabled by the internet and wirelessly-connected devices. By way of background, Industry 1.0 refers to the era of water and steam power, and Industry 2.0 the era of electric power. Industry 4.0 follows closely on the heels of the digital era, Industry 3.0, and many manufacturing facilities still operate using digital technologies. While digital technologies have enabled the collection of large amounts of valuable data, this data primarily exists in silos that are not easily accessible for analysis and actionable insights.

The technologies of Industry 4.0 take data collection to the next level by making data readily available and by automating the communication between industrial automation equipment and systems. This allows businesses to leverage data in more meaningful ways, including enabling predictive analysis for machines as well as process optimisation across the factory floor.

While Industry 4.0 refers to a period of advancements in technology, the Internet of Things (IoT) describes the technologies that connect objects – from consumer electronics to industrial components – to the internet. The Industrial Internet of Things (or IIoT) refers specifically to the impact of this innovation on industrial applications.

IoT/IIoT technologies together create ‘smart’ networks. For example, the wireless technologies of a smart home connect homeowners to almost anything in the house – from their home security system to their refrigerator – and allow remote accessibility via smart phone. Similarly, a smart factory provides plant managers with visibility, analytics, and remote access to wirelessly connected machines.

The key benefits of IIoT technologies for factory automation include:

• Visibility and remote access to the operational status of machine components (both historically and in real time) allows plant managers to monitor and diagnose systems quickly, and identify and resolve problems before the impact on machine availability and productivity compounds.

• Predictive analytics allows for more accurate planning of machine maintenance, which can help reduce machine downtime, increase mean time between failure (MTBF) and reduce costs of unnecessary preventive maintenance and spare parts inventory.

• Interconnectivity enables seamless communication among machines, components and people. Interconnectivity increases efficiency by allowing for more autonomous machine performance and streamlined manual processes. Overall, the increased visibility, analytics and interconnectivity afforded by IIoT mean that these technologies are not just short-term investments or solutions to immediate problems; rather, they enable continuous improvement by providing companies with the capabilities necessary to solve new problems as they arise – compounding the value of the investment over time.

What the IIoT means for factories

IIoT technologies allow businesses to access and leverage factory-wide data in more meaningful ways compared to digital technologies, but what does that look like in practice? Following are three practical examples of how visibility, predictive analytics and interconnectivity are impacting factories today.

Visibility and remote access increase efficiency

To ensure efficient processes throughout the factory, machine operators must quickly and easily determine the status of machines. The greater the visibility, the easier it is to identify and resolve problems and keep operations running smoothly.

Traditional tower lights provide visibility wherever they can be physically seen. However, tower lights equipped with wireless communication capabilities take visibility to the next level by both displaying a visual indication of an event, and transmitting wireless alerts. This helps ensure that operational problems are identified and addressed immediately, regardless of whether a machine operator is physically present to see the visual indicator.

For example, tower lights with wireless communication allow operators to remotely monitor machine performance without lengthy and expensive cable runs. The lights indicate machine status visually while updates are also transmitted over a secure wireless network to a remote device, triggering an action or prompting a response from an operator at a workstation away from the machine.

An additional benefit of wireless indicators is data logging for use in OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) calculations. Not only can operators respond to alerts quickly, as they occur, but a history of alerts can also be stored and analysed offline. This historical data can be used to track machine uptime, production volume, rejected parts and other key metrics to make more informed decisions over time.

Predictive maintenance increases machine uptime and availability

In addition to real-time status monitoring, IIoT technologies can also be used to help avoid machine failures thanks to predictive maintenance. The traditional approach to machine maintenance is to follow a prescribed regimen of preventive maintenance.

This involves regularly replacing machine components based on the manufacturer’s suggested timeline rather than data from the actual machine. This means that you might be paying too much for unnecessary preventive maintenance plans and replacement parts or you might experience unexpected downtime if something goes wrong between scheduled maintenance visits.

With predictive maintenance, much of the guesswork is removed because maintenance decisions can be made based on the historical and real-time data from the machine itself. For example, wireless vibration and temperature sensors can detect signs of misaligned, loose or worn parts on a machine. The wireless sensors then transmit that information to a wireless controller that makes data available immediately (via text or email alerts) for long-term analysis.

By monitoring machine components in real-time for increases in vibration and temperature, problems can be detected and resolved before they become too severe and cause additional damage or result in unplanned downtime. Over time, the historical data creates a valuable machine performance log that can be used to make more informed maintenance decisions down the line.

Interconnectivity streamlines factory communications

IIoT technologies are not just useful for optimising machines. In fact, wireless technologies enable seamless interaction among human workers as well, and can have a significant impact on the efficiency of manual production lines. For example, instead of requiring machine operators to walk over to the manager area for assistance with a technical issue, a wireless system utilising connected pushbuttons or switches and tower lights can be used to alert managers when assistance is needed on the line.

For example, a notification system might be set up so that an operator pushes a button or flips a switch to alert the manager or technician that they are needed on the production line. A tower light connected to the gateway’s outputs would then indicate which production line needs a manager’s attention, and colours could be assigned to indicate the need for a technician (red) or manager (yellow). Wireless pushbuttons equipped with LED status lights can also facilitate two-way communication by configuring the LED to change colour when the manager or technician indicates that they are on their way.

Using a wireless tower light notification system reduces the need for technicians and managers to constantly check each production line and for workers to leave their workstations when they need assistance. By utilising a wireless network of connected devices to streamline communications, managers, technicians and line workers are able to use their time more efficiently and productively.

IIoT made easy with Snap Signal

Turck Banner’s Snap Signal family of plug-and-play products represents a new way to unlock your machine’s valuable data. Snap Signal is an easily deployable, complete portfolio of modular IIoT hardware and software that delivers actionable machine data from across your factory.

More than just another flavour of IIoT, Snap Signal is an overlay network that can capture data signals from virtually any source. It converts these sources seamlessly to a single industry-standard protocol, then distributes the data for quick and easy consumption. Snap Signal offers you the flexibility to monitor key equipment within one area or monitor your whole facility.

Snap Signal converters are the first step in the journey towards total data integration and provide you with the building blocks to create a more interconnected smart factory, allowing the ability to link both new and hertiage equipment to the IIOT ecosystem.

Is your business IIoT-ready?

From keeping machines running smoothly to enabling seamless communication between machines, components and people, the benefits of IIoT technologies are tangible. However, it can be challenging knowing where to start and how to use these technologies to their fullest advantage.

Below are three questions to help manufacturers prepare for a move from digital to IIoT:

• What are the inefficiencies in your operations?

• What kind of data would help you overcome these inefficiencies?

• What communication processes need to be in place to utilise data in a meaningful way?

Answering these questions can help manufacturing facilities identify the best technologies to meet their immediate business needs and start taking advantage of the long-term benefits of IIoT.


Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page

Further reading:

Bringing brownfield plants back to life
Schneider Electric South Africa IT in Manufacturing
Today’s brownfield plants are typically characterised by outdated equipment and processes, and face challenges ranging from inefficient operations to safety hazards. However, all is not lost, as these plants stand to gain a lot from digitalisation and automation.

Condition monitoring to go
Turck Banner Southern Africa Fieldbus & Industrial Networking
Anyone who wants to efficiently monitor the climate in control cabinets will find a comprehensive range of control cabinet monitors for the DIN rail in Turck Banner’s cabinet condition monitoring family.

Control architecture leads to faster, easier product development for refrigeration
Opto Africa Automation Editor's Choice IT in Manufacturing
What’s the secret to providing superior service and staying competitive in a changing market? You might learn something from ALTA Refrigeration’s experience. Over ten years, it transformed itself from a custom engineering services company into a scalable industrial equipment manufacturer, using an edge-oriented control architecture to manage a growing installed base.

Step into the visual factory
Turck Banner Southern Africa Editor's Choice Electrical Power & Protection
At Banner, the visual factory comprises three key applications for lighting and indication in industrial settings. These applications include the ability to help machines and workstations quickly communicate their status to people nearby, to use light to guide workers to perform certain tasks such as part picking, and to provide illumination for work areas and tasks.

Comprehensive protection of the network against attacks
Phoenix Contact IT in Manufacturing
In recent years, the generation of data to create ever better transparency and control of production has become a decisive competitive factor. IIoT has also contributed to more manufacturing systems being connected to IT or cloud systems. This places higher demands on access security, which Phoenix Contact meets with the Secure Edge Box.

Embracing security as a core component of your technology
IT in Manufacturing
ABI Research recently undertook a comprehensive study to learn more about the product security assurance landscape from the perspective of enterprise customers, surveying 302 enterprise customers, and conducting in-depth interviews to complement the qualitative survey.

Turck Banner welcomes Ivan De Waal as new managing director
Turck Banner Southern Africa News
Turck Banner Southern Africa is pleased to announce the appointment of Ivan De Waal as its new managing director.

AI in manufacturing: a process engineer’s perspective
Editor's Choice IT in Manufacturing
The expert will tell you what to do, the philosopher will tell you why to do it, and the engineer will get on and actually do it. As the hype around AI intensifies, the number of ‘experts’ is increasing exponentially. In contrast, the number of engineers who actually know how to implement AI technology remains small.

Generative AI for immersive real-time visualisation
Siemens South Africa IT in Manufacturing
Siemens will deepen its collaboration with NVIDIA to help build the industrial metaverse.

Monitoring the voltage drop in cables
Turck Banner Southern Africa Electrical Power & Protection
With its new M12Plus connectors, Turck Banner is directly shifting the condition monitoring of cables subject to severe stress to the connection technology. The connectors, which come with voltage and current monitoring and a Bluetooth chip, enable measured voltage and current values to be sent wirelessly to a controller.