In the last few years, manufacturers and industrial organizations around the world are starting to invest in Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) programs and initiatives to help accelerate the era of IT-optimized smart manufacturing. As IIoT solutions providers better frame, define and create IIoT strategies, many organizations have started to look at what is possible in the age of Industry 4.0 by embracing the Internet of Things and smart manufacturing. In the United States, the number of industrial device-to-device connections is expected to rise to nearly 180 million in 2020 from approximately 50 million in 2014. In China, the rise in machine digitalization is projected to be double that of the U.S. in 2020.
According to Beth Parkinson, market development director for The Connected Enterprise, Rockwell Automation, there are now four key areas that impact IIoT adoption:
Competition – Economic and political factors are putting more competitive pressure on global companies. Business models – including the people, technology and brand proposition – are under close scrutiny to remain relevant for the long term. As industrial organizations converge their IT and OT systems, and build in more flexibility, they can more easily communicate across their enterprises and respond to market changes.
Workforce – Retirement, economic expansion and technology evolution are overwhelming companies’ ability to staff their operations. Tribal knowledge is leaving with the aging workforce, and incoming talent often lacks the necessary technology skills. Companies that take a multifaceted approach – including more intuitive machine designs, IoT-enabling technologies and advanced training – can better prepare their operations and empower employees through the workforce transformations.
Risks – Smart-manufacturing strategies like remote monitoring and BYOD tactics can create security risks. As a result, companies are starting to implement policies to address these concerns, and help maintain and strengthen system security.
Technology – The ability for an organization to collaborate across departments, including design, operation, maintenance and support is becoming more possible through the IIoT. Companies are able to connect many intelligent devices on one standard network, such as Ethernet, which allows them to capture, move and analyze data across an entire enterprise.
Flexibility – With IIoT and web technology software, the ability for organizations to install, configure and control manufacturing applications from a centralized location is finally a reality. Up until recently, only large industrial organizations could accomplish this. Now, every manufacturer, regardless of size or budget, can embrace digitalization.
Scalability – As scalability has applied to machinery, assembly lines, and conveyance, it now applies to manufacturing software. Software applications can be purchased as manufacturers need them and when production demand requires. Across a broader range of industries different configurations are continuing to expand as manufacturers recognize the value proposition. Strategic IIoT demands that organizations take a fresh look at scalable manufacturing and apply it to equipment that hasn’t traditionally been in the industrial automation mix.