IIoT Manufacturing, Reliability and Condition Monitoring

October 04, 2016

The interest in Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things is continuing to rise but remains very difficult for many to get their arms around. The source of confusion is the various definitions, business processes, value chain and evolving business models. Manufacturing, however, holds some of the most exciting developments in the Internet of Things and most economic benefit in terms of cost savings, new revenue streams and efficiencies. The near term focus should be broader visibility of critical machine health through connectivity and reporting. 

Bruce Sinclair's The IoT Inc Business Show podcast has a great interview in his Episode 64: IIoT Manufacturing From the Shop Floor to the Top Floor with Tanja Rueckert of SAP.  An IoT enabled solution in connected manufacturing includes connectivity, intelligence, pattern analysis and ultimately, predictability. Predictive maintenance should be seen as predictive algorithms to extend the life of the machine akin to a doctor-patient relationship and lifetime extension. In assessing a patient, a doctor has to maintain a holistic view of health just as one would with IIoT. The true value will lie in an integrated end-to-end organization and each connected component is important and has an incremental IoT value. IIoT or connected manufacturing is literally "connecting" Operational Technology (OT) and Informational Technology (IT), meaning production and core business processes have end-to-end connectivity or what is known as visibility from the shop floor to the top floor. Tanja also sites machine learning algorithms and mapping back to core ERP systems to have a truly integrated value chain.  Mass customization or individualized products with speed of production and delivery through automation and the integrated manufacturing system is another opportunity for differentiation.  One can definitely see the value of SAP's core competencies being of significant value to larger manufacturing organizations and it was a fascinating discussion. 

It verifies what I see and the business discussions I am having. The focus has been primarily on the first aspect, that is, connectivity and merging the operational technology with informational technology and analyzing the business processes in between. Predictive maintenance, condition monitoring and reliability are not new, but what is new is the connectivity and disseminating the information to a broader audience. The goal is to look for costly bad actors and systemic problems and then employ IIoT to improve efficiencies. The connectivity, or as Tanja calls it, from shop floor to top floor is hitting the nail on the head -- having the operator's visibility extended to maintenance professionals where usage patterns and trends are analyzed to head off issues before they become costly problems or extending the life of the machine. For example, the sophisticated analysis on vibration of pump is reading thousands of readings per second now can be exported and shared with the right people. Incidences of the "operator just shuts off the machine" with potential machine errors times so many dollars per hour of downtime is not necessarily the right protocol as the operator is not a maintenance technician (often another company). The issue is compounded when the maintenance technician adds issues in a time-stamped queue instead of ranking things in a scale of importance. 

IIoT has the power to sift through this big data and identify trends for even more effective reliability than ever before. It is very encouraging and exciting to hear about the developments in the "Fourth Industrial Revolution". 

Dan Yarmoluk

AssetScan -- www.assetscan.com