IoT is no longer a mere buzzword; it has become a reality and continues to permeate into various business verticals as we speak. Over the past few years, we have been hearing about Enterprise IoT and its influence over certain business verticals ranging from—Retail to Construction,Financial Services, and Information Technology. The use cases are abundant in number—be it a smart thermometer or a washing machine, and IoT without doubt has delivered on its promises more often than not.

What about IoT in manufacturing or the industrial sector?
In fact, manufacturing has been the birth place for automation even before the concept of IoT came through. From the invention of assembly lines to electronic technology to industrial robotics, the manufacturing sector has seen automation like no other sector has. So it should come as no surprise when we hear about the ascending popularity of IoT in manufacturing or in other words Industrial internet of things (IoT).

IoT has no doubt permeated into the manufacturing space like never before, and manufacturing companies are fast leveraging on IoT technology to achieve some major objectives and benefits.

Perspective of The Manufacturing Landscape

Industrial Internet of Things

Is IIoT growing at the same pace as Enterprise IoT?
Well, almost as quick if not as quick. But it has to be understood that deploying IIoT is not done in isolation and many aspects of the existing plant/factory are to be considered before moving ahead with IIoT. Having said that, connected sensors and smart devices are taking their places in plant premises like never before and ensuring some smart changes to the plant operations.

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How is IIoT changing the face of manufacturing?
Let’s understand a few ways IoT has been influencing the manufacturing sector –

Hands-on visibility:
A connected plant by virtue of connected devices and sensors provides hands-on visibility on operations and even brings about better control. Functional heads and supervisors will have immediate access to any device or any section via IIoT which makes their jobs even easier.

Boosting Operational Efficiency:
A well connected plant environment will help managers focus on priorities and increase efficiency at the operational level. Increased efficiencies will usher in greater productivity and boost plant and employee capabilities leading to an increase in production efficiency.

Avoid repairs and delays:
Sensors embedded onto machines in the plant will provide timely notifications on machine quality and health. This helps plant managers either locate and prevent mishaps or locate and repair machines in time to ensure smooth production process. Production delays can have a cascading effect on logistics, distribution and even sales, something manufacturing companies want to avoid.

Data Advantage:
Internet and device connectivity will enable transmission of huge amounts of data which when gathered and analyzed can help companies in many ways. Data can help managers deploy the right methods for the best outcome and thereby bolster operational efficiencies. Data also helps managers and functional heads take the right decisions.

Challenges of IIoT
It goes without saying that IIoT has huge benefits for manufacturing companies but that does not mean that it comes without any obstacles and challenges. Let’s see what some of these challenges are –

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Resistance to change:
Manufacturing companies might undergo the “resistance-to-change’’ phenomenon more so from an operational perspective while waiting to embrace IIoT. Embracing IIoT will necessitate upgrades in current infrastructure and processes which is not an easy thing to comply to.

Human Resources management:
Though IIoT augurs well in the long run; it might create a different impression for employees especially,for those at the plant and floor level. There is also the need to train resources to handle the new processes post IIoT deployment.

Connecting to the internet comes with its own set of problems. Though there is hands-on visibility and control over operations, the Internet makes the system vulnerable to hacks and cyber-crimes of unprecedented nature. The threats and problems are far too many to control.

Costs of IIoT:
Costs will escalate due to up-gradation of infrastructure and processes and training of resources. Companies need to think over their investment plans and risk appetite before embracing IIoT. Another major discouragement can come in the form of security breaches which will not only call for additional efforts but contribute to unnecessary costs.

IIoT revolution has begun, albeit, with lesser noise and fanfare (vis-à-vis Enterprise IoT) but it is here to stay. Manufacturing companies are finding great uses through the deployment of IIoT devices and manufacturing plants are getting better connected and smarter because of the access to data and wiser decision making process.

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Having said that, the challenges that come with embracing IIoT are worth considering before taking it ahead. For without proper validation and consideration, there is a good chance that a manufacturing unit might find itself in more trouble than it is already in.

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The threats need to be assessed and avoided and a back-up security system needs to be in place for a smooth and effective functioning of the connected plant. This way, internet of things manufacturing companies will stand to gain a lot through the deployment of Industrial IoT.