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LEAD Innovation Blog

Read our latest articles on innovation management and innovation in a wide range of industries.

Date: 03-Mar-2020
Posted by: Tanja ESCHBERGER

The Industrial Internet of Things and its Role in the Manufacturing Industry


The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) opens up a wide range of opportunities for the manufacturing industry in particular. Comprehensive networking is no longer a vision of the future, and the 5G mobile communications standard will presumably increase the dynamic from 2020. You can read an overview of IIoT technology and its application in production in this article.

What is the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)?

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) refers to the use of IoT concepts in industrial production. In the German-speaking world, the Industrial Internet of Things is often referred to as Industry 4.0. Compared to the Internet of Things in the private sphere (IoT), the focus in the industrial sector is on the networking of machines (machine-to-machine) and seamless process chains. The key concept of the IIoT is thus to integrate machine learning and big data technologies and thus considerably increase the effectiveness of companies. However, complexity and requirements are much higher in IIoT than in IoT.

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IIoT- Architecture: Edge – Network – Cloud

Essential requirements for a IIoT architecture are scalability, real-time capability, interoperability as well as data protection and security. Sensors, actuators and intelligent devices that collect data (edge computing) and send it to servers (network) play a central role. At the cloud computing level, they are further processed into action-relevant "smart data" using smart algorithms. These then form the basis for automated processes. Major cloud providers such as Microsoft, Amazon Web Services and Google now provide IoT platforms that facilitate the development and administration of IIoT applications. Such solutions are ideal for the entry level in particular.


Graph: IIoT Architecture, The Future of Industrial Automation, Paul McLaughlin, Rohan McAdam, CC-BY-SA-4.0


Manufacturing industry is leading in IIoT applications

As an important aspect of digital transformation, the use of IoT technology is becoming increasingly important in the manufacturing industry. According to the market study "The State of Industrial Internet of Things 2019" by the technology group PTC, IIoT technology is currently being used primarily in production plants.


Graph: IIoT fields of application, © PTC

The market study makes it clear that optimizing operational efficiency and increasing productivity across the internal value chain are the main reasons for using IIoT technologies. The most important findings from the study are as follows:


1. IIoT technology spreading steadily

The Internet of Things is becoming increasingly popular in industrial environments and is increasingly used for applications in industrial factories, automotive plants, pharmaceutical plants, electronics and high-tech plants as well as in oil refineries and food and beverage supply chains.


2. IIoT interfaces increase efficiency

Enterprises gain by placing people at the center of their digitization strategies and implementing IIoT interfaces across the entire organizational hierarchy. The benefits of the technology are then available to many employees and have a positive effect on the implementation of projects.


3. Complex solutions are required

The solution environment, the implemented use cases and the technologies used in the entire IIoT stack are still different. Therefore, the success of users increasingly requires seamless integrations, different technology portfolios and expertise in the field.


4. Global companies increasingly use ready-made IIoT solutions

Industrial companies under global pressure are turning to more integrated, prefabricated IIoT solutions with greater technological breadth and partner ecosystems to move fast. 89 percent of respondents expect use cases to be converted to production within a year of purchasing the IIoT solution. In many cases, the ready-made IIoT solutions lead to a shortening of the provision times to a few months. In addition, some companies have noted a payback period of a few weeks.


What possibilities does IIoT create in the manufacturing industry?

In the IIoT, the combination of sensors and analytics allows real-time access to data that was previously unavailable. The findings from this data are fed into the processes along the entire supply chain without delay. This makes it possible, for example:

  • Optimization of processes (e.g. through remote monitoring)
  • Greater flexibility of production processes
  • Increasing degree of automation
  • Increased operational efficiency and lower failure rates
  • Faster detection of productivity weaknesses and problems
  • More accurate predictions of machine condition and more efficient maintenance
  • Cost savings by avoiding unnecessary repairs
  • Better availability and fewer machine failures
  • Improved quality control and reduction of the error rate
  • Improved transparency through worldwide access to machine data
  • Improved technical customer service
  • Development of trend-setting business areas and models (e.g. supplementary services such as remote troubleshooting or predictive maintenance)

One example of how IIoT can be implemented is the ski producer Blizzard. The manufacturing of the skis is controlled by an internal IIoT production management system, which uses manufacturing process sensors to analyze real-time operating and machine data (BDE/MDE) and their correlation. The analysis data indicates which production parameters need to be changed if necessary to avoid downtime, delays or defects.


IIoT platforms at the heart of IoT solutions

Powerful IoT platforms analyze the collected data from the devices, make it available to the users and send instructions back to the devices. They thus provide the basic functions to leverage potential in areas such as smart maintenance and operations management and to drive improvements in the sense of digital transformation. Many companies rely on Microsoft Azure, but also on solutions from other manufacturers such as Amazon, IBM, Oracle, PTC, SAP and Hitachi.


Graph: Components of a IIoT-Platform, Sujata Tilak, CC-BY-SA-4.0


The US manufacturer Woodward, for example, achieves operational efficiency increases by establishing a more comprehensive manufacturing information system (MIS). The company aggregates its product-centric software (CAD, PLM) and manufacturing systems (MES, MOM, FMS) with its floor systems and equipment (presses, etc.).

This is made possible by device connectivity and an IIoT platform that connects these system and software applications through a robust and interactive view. By merging the data feeds, the IIoT touchpoints were also increased as employees now have easy access to work instructions and operational data. Woodward also improved the tracking of employee training to evaluate augmented reality applications.


IIoT and 5G

For 5G applications in production, not only the achievable higher bandwidths are decisive, but also the minimum latency times required for mobile applications with real-time requirements. Industrial applications benefit from 5G primarily through extremely high reliability, real-time capability, more data throughput, low latency, much tighter networking and greater mobility and IT security. The 5G standard would therefore be suitable for mobile areas such as mobile robots and tools or autonomous transport systems. Another field of application could be Augmented Reality, which will become increasingly important for industry 4.0.


Graph: Screenshot out of „How will 5G transform IIoT“, Qualcomm Technologies


Conclusio: IIoT in the manufacturing industry

IIoT projects offer manufacturers better insights into their company's processes and the functioning of their production lines. As sensors become smaller and cheaper, and the 5G network in particular becomes more widespread, interest in the IIoT is likely to continue to grow. However, the IIoT is currently still largely in the testing and pilot phase. An exception are a few large manufacturers who have the necessary resources at their disposal. The comprehensive digital transformation of a conventional manufacturing operation into a digital factory will therefore probably only be open to large players in the near future. However, SMEs should not write off IoT under any circumstances. Companies of all sizes can benefit from the Internet of Things.

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Image Source Title Picture: https://pixabay.com/de/illustrations/platine-schaltkreis-schaltzentrale-410099/


Born in Lower Austria. At LEAD Innovation she works as Head of Innovation and focuses on agile innovation management via SCRUM.

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