The Internet of Things (IoT) is a buzzword that has been discussed at length in recent years. IoT refers to technology designed to connect devices using the internet. This technology’s primary use is to increase productivity and work practices across all industries. One industry in particular that has taken hold of the idea of IoT is manufacturing. This sector has embraced the idea of IoT and the emerging technology so much that IIoT, or the Industrial Internet of Things, has emerged, which we will discuss in today’s blog post.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is designed to combine human flexibility and decision-making with robot precision and consistency to create a future where the intersections of people, data, and intelligent machines will have far-fetching impacts on the productivity, efficiency, and operations of the manufacturing industry.
How exactly can the Internet of Things help change the manufacturing industry?
Here are just a few ways this technology may change industrial work in the next 10~ years:
- Improving operational efficiency
- Finding opportunities for growth
- Boosting revenue by increasing productivity
- Creating hybrid business models
- Exploiting intelligent technologies to fuel innovation
- Creating potential for quality control
- Changing sustainability and green practices
- Supply chain traceability
- Supply chain efficiency
The IoT refers to using technology to create the changes above in the workplace but what specific types of technology are being used in these processes?
Machine learning – providing computers with the ability to learn without being programmed
Big data – structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data that can be mined for information
Sensor Data – signals that are converted to human readability at a sensor location
Machine-to-Machine Communication & Automation – enabling devices to exchange information and perform actions without humans
What types of advancements are being made with this technology?
- Wearable displays i.e. smart glasses
- Order fulfillment using robots (workers & robots work side-by-side in warehouses to fill orders. Studies show work is completed 70% faster than in non-automated warehouses)
- Wearable sensors – safety devices for workers
- Connected factories
- Hybrid industries/New jobs
One of the major advancements of this technology is creating a connected warehouse. A warehouse that uses workers and machines to increase productivity and work practices and combines different technologies to work safer and smarter in the warehouse environment.
Connected factories/warehouses mean that there is no need for employees to be on the shop floor to oversee the machines. Instead, engineers can receive notifications to their smartphone/tablet and make the required modifications from their location, away from the warehouse. This means that blue-collar jobs involving monitoring the machinery are no longer required and those jobs can be transformed into knowledge-based roles which are appealing to millennials.
This also means that individuals that were once working unsafe jobs within the factory can be utilized in safer jobs overseeing the machines. Additionally, new jobs may be created for individuals entering into the workforce. Positions such as Medical Robot Designer or Modernization Manager are just a few of the new jobs that may emerge with the creation of connected factories.
As is with any change, these technologies are met with hesitation from many in the industry. The World Economic Forum surveyed businesses on the major challenges/risk they feel are associated with IIoT.
These were their top concerns:
- Lack of interoperability
- Security measures (particularly vulnerability to cyberattacks)
- Uncertain ROI
- Legacy equipment (no connectivity or embedded sensors)
- Technology immaturity
- Privacy concerns
- Lack of vision/leadership
- Heavy upfront capital investment
- Business process changes
- Job displacement due to increased automation
Technologies within the manufacturing industry are evolving and increasing every day. These technologies lead to advancements within the industry including improving operational efficiency, finding opportunities for growth, and boosting revenue by increasing productivity. With this advancing technology comes hesitation from businesses to enact these changes.
This technological revolution will continue to change the way the manufacturing industry operates and soon we will see a new world in which workers and machines work together to increase productivity, safety, and growth within the industry.