Most manufacturers have heard of Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) today. But the vast majority of them are still figuring out whether they are worthwhile investments or simply just hype. At the end of the day, manufacturing is still about producing high-quality products faster and at the lowest possible cost.
The Disconnected Reality
Many manufacturing plants in the U.S. are more than 20 years old. Less than 14 percent of the machines on shop floors are “connected.”1 That means they do not have sensors or monitoring that can extract data about how they are operating. These older machines are prone to breaking down, and they account for up to $50 billion (annually) in downtime.2
Hype around Industrial IoT has many manufacturers believing that they must immediately invest in transformational technologies like machine learning, augmented reality, or artificial intelligence to gain any benefits around efficiency. But that’s far from the reality. While manufacturers need to begin building the connected foundation to extract and leverage data, it doesn’t require a massive overhaul overnight. By leveraging a cloud-based platform, many manufacturers are starting by focusing on Industrial IoT business drivers and then building on initial successes.
The Problem with Data in Manufacturing
A major hurdle toward becoming more connected is getting at data in older machines on the shop floor. Many of these machines do not have digital controllers or they require external retrofitting and sensors to pull operational data. This can often be difficult and expensive so a clear return must be identified to undertake the effort. For this reason, companies focus on the most critical equipment that may have been problematic in the past or represents a critical control point that affects delivery.
The next problem is even when data is available, there is uncertainty around what to do with it. Raw data is not of much value unless there is a way to interpret it and make sense of it. Most manufacturers don’t have data scientists on hand to help with this endeavor. The hype around big data is that manufacturers who have access to data will transform how business is done, but the reality is digitization just lays the foundation for understanding what is going on in any particular asset. There needs to be a way to visualize the data to make it actionable.
What’s the Industrial IoT Reality Today?
Going back to the main mission of manufacturing—making high-quality products as cost-effectively as possible—the reality with Industrial IoT is more about leveraging capital they already have than it is about the promise of some far-off future. It’s about uncovering ideas and opportunities for improvement.
Many manufacturers are simply gaining visibility into their existing assets. They are looking at how to improve operational efficiency by knowing what is happening on the shop floor. They are monitoring historical trendlines to learn, diagnose, and improve uptime and performance. They are identifying trends that could disrupt operations or quality performance.
Leading manufacturers today know that Industrial IoT is a strategy they can’t ignore—because there’s a good chance that those manufacturers who do ignore it will be like many consumer companies that missed out on the Internet. They know that it’s important to start putting in the connected foundation that will leverage Industrial IoT now rather than wait.
- Enabling the Connected Enterprise, Rockwell Automation, https://www.controlglobal.com/assets/wp_downloads/pdf/131221-RA-Connected-Enterprise.pdf
- Making Maintenance Smarter: Predictive Maintenance and the Digital Supply Network, Deloitte Insights,https://www2.deloitte.com/insights/us/en/focus/industry-4-0/using-predictive-technologies-for-asset-maintenance.html