Tuesday, 14 February 2017 08:30

Smart manufacturing – the rise of IIoT

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In a world dominated by the industrial Internet of things (IIoT), data would be collected from the machines and analysed to improve production and efficiency, and subsequently, reduce costs, according to  Andrew Timms, sales director, APAC with Paessler AG.

He told iTWire that ultimately, logistics would become more automated and optimised, with production much more intelligent and flexible, thus creating great potential for sustainable manufacturing practices with greater quality control.

"An assembly line powered by IIoT might never have to deal with downtime thanks to machinery that can anticipate when it needs to order new parts and can self-repair, said Timms.

"As a peripheral benefit, the health and safety industry could also see substantial gains as wearable technology becomes more prominent in the B2B world. Imagine a technology that can measure variables such as temperature and noise exposure and alert employees before their working environment becomes unsafe."

Paessler AG are the developers of PRTG network monitoring software.

"You could say that I have been unable to cut the cord (networking joke) as I have been around networking and monitoring for most of this century," said Timms.

"I did the nerdy things like getting many of the Microsoft server, security, and network certifications, completed a BSc (Honours) in Computing and IT, dabbled in eBusiness and Artificial Intelligence but I keep coming back to digital transformation (yes, another buzzword) and how we are going to use IIoT, cloud, virtualised networking and more to get to the next step."

Praessler Andrew TimsQ. What are some of the challenges in implementing IIoT in manufacturing?

In the B2B space, in particular, IIoT encounters a number of unique challenges, given the sheer complexity of many workplaces. Consider an IoT-enabled factory for instance, where there could be any number of connected industrial machines and equipment all able to talk to one another and self-diagnose.

Q. So, what is the shift to smart manufacturing?

The migration to smart manufacturing often referred to as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), is a hot topic in the industry right now. The goal of IIoT is to create a context in which machines will be able to communicate with each other without the need for human mediation. In an IIoT world, data would be collected from the machines and analysed to improve production and efficiency, and subsequently, reduce costs. Ultimately, logistics would become more automated and optimised, with production much more intelligent and flexible, thus creating great potential for sustainable manufacturing practices with greater quality control.

An assembly line powered by IoT might never have to deal with downtime thanks to machinery that can anticipate when it needs to order new parts and can self-repair. As a peripheral benefit, the health and safety industry could also see substantial gains as wearable technology becomes more prominent in the B2B world. Imagine a technology that can measure variables such as temperature and noise exposure and alert employees before their working environment becomes unsafe.

There is no denying the advantages of IIoT. GE’s Jeff Immelt recently called it “beautiful, desirable and investable” and believes that even a 1% improvement in industrial productivity could potentially add $10-$15 trillion to worldwide GDP over the next 15 years.

Q. What are the barriers to an IIoT infrastructure?

There are several obstacles that stand in the way of IIoT living up to its promise. Not least, it will throw up many issues for IT departments, from the complexity of switching to a new system to the sheer number of devices that will need to be connected and kept in check.

The most effective way to tackle these potential threats is through the implementation of an IT monitoring solution [like Paessler’s] that provides a single, integrated view of a company’s entire IT and machine data. But before implementing network monitoring, it is important to consider the specific requirements of IIoT which include:

  • Support of common standards for IT monitoring
  • Documented interfaces for integration of the various production systems
  • Efficient, user-friendly representation of monitoring data via dashboards and notifications
  • Extensive alarm and reporting features

Q. Aren’t distributed networks notoriously difficult to monitor and manage?

Yes, they can. Another key consideration when choosing an IT monitoring solution for an IIoT-enabled factory is the ability to monitor across a multi-site network, given that many large factories will be spread out across several different locations.

IT monitoring can be a mission-critical resource for IT teams when it comes to major internal transformations such as a shift to IIoT. Companies often struggle to deliver high returns on IT investment with limited teams, but giving IT staff a control panel through which they have an overarching view of the network can help ensure success.

Q. What is the potential of IIoT?

The potential for IoT to change the face of industrial manufacturing is clearly huge. However, its ultimate success hinges on the delivery of a dependable and fully-functioning network that can ensure its smooth running. The prospective benefits of IIoT are obvious, but more thought needs to go towards how it can be made to happen, as opposed to simply what it can deliver.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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