The manufacturing world has transformed from the first industrial revolution in the 18th century to the ongoing IoT based 4th industrial revolution in this 21st century. The term industrial in industrial IoT is a misnomer. This term is not only restricted to manufacturing alone but can also be applied to all industries such as health care, agriculture, retail, commercial building, transport, and the energy sector.
IIoT can be a game-changer to address prevailing global challenges such as planetary boundaries, climate change, and now the public health crisis such as COVID-19 pandemic. In a new world order which is based on the circular economy business model, where creating wealth without crossing the planetary boundary is a new parameter, the industry needs technology that can consume less energy and less natural resources. Finally, the ongoing COVID pandemic has created new norms such as social distancing, work from home, and human-less contact.
Previously, ROI (Return On Investment) was the prime mover for the adoption of any new technology in any industry, but in this changed milieu, deployment of IIoT technology not only enhance efficiency in the operation but also achieve higher ROI by addressing the above-mentioned challenges.
Any technology that enhances productivity, optimise resource utilisation and reduce energy ultimately reduce the consumption of energy and natural resources in that sense IoT can directly contribute to addressing above mentioned challenges.
In synergy with cloud computing and data analytics, IIoT can streamline the entire manufacturing process, identify hidden process inefficiency hitherto, impart real-time visibility, provide predictive maintenance, reduce downtime, reduce overall maintenance cost, and enhance productivity and enhance safety for a machine operator. Implementation of IIoT prevents loss of material from rain, humidity, or temperature and maintains an optimum inventory level at the production site. The adoption of smart lighting solutions in plants and factories ensures optimum utilisation of electricity in the plant. IIoT can be a boon for workers working in a hazardous industry such as mining and construction. Using wearable and smart helmet ensures workers’ safety and monitors workers’ compliance with safety standards, providing more productive and safe worksites. IIoT is handy for protecting the temperature and humidity sensitive products in the pharmaceuticals and food processing industry. Thanks to remote monitoring of the machine from anywhere, IIoT obviates on-site visits for third-party maintenance personnel. In the chemical industry, IIoT can use to monitor toxic gases, indoor air quality, and environmental conditions. IIoT can be utilised to locate inventory and supplies and ensure optimum utilisation of the asset. IIoT brings much-needed efficiency to logistic management.
Automation in the manufacturing process brings much-needed efficiency as well as reduce human drudgery and human errors. Automation in logistic management not only reduces human role but also reduces accidents and improve the safety and security of workers. By applying data analytics on data gathered from the machines can be handy to gain new insight into the machine operations and enable companies to create new policies and applications to further improve the process and reduce accidents and enhance productivity in the operation.
But having relevant technology is one thing and getting the desired output from that technology is altogether a different ball game. Many times the improper implementation of technology becomes counterproductive. IIoT can produce the desired result only if appropriately implemented and integrated into the existing industrial process flow. Adopting IIoT in manufacturing is a technological challenge as well as an organisational challenge, which requires reskilling the current workforce to implement this technology. IIoT can be retrofitted into older plants’ existing machinery ecosystem without disturbing existing industrial control networks (MODBUS & PROFIBUS). By deploying reliable front end devices (sensors), suitable connectivity technology, Industrial IoT platforms, and data analytics, it can achieve the desired outcome. Depending upon the specific need of data size, data transfer rate and energy consumption, suitable connectivity technology such as wireless technology (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth) or mesh network technology(Zig-Bee and Z-Wave) or Cellular network technology (LTE-M and NB-IoT) or LPWAN technology (LoRaWAN, Symphony Link, and SIGFOX) can be deployed.
Many Indian companies, such as System-level Solution, have taken initiatives to provide the integrated system-level IIoT solution for the manufacturing sector. In this regard, SLS’s Nebulae IoT platform is one of the most innovative holistic solutions to various industries.