The Internet of Things (IoT) is a fast-developing technology that has made its way into every sector. The ecosystem of interconnected devices provides numerous advantages and opportunities to businesses of any size. Experts predict a very bright future for the Internet of Things, with market volume growing to $33 billion by 2027. However, when it comes to manufacturing, IoT becomes an absolute must. Handling heavy and dangerous machinery, assembling complex aircraft, and keeping track of millions of components is significantly easier with industrial IoT applications. Performing inventory management in a large-scale factory is not only tedious and time-consuming but also conducive to accidents. Nowadays, companies across the world invest in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to enhance employee safety, increase efficiency, and gain access to valuable business insights. In this article, we will dive into the world of IIoT, discuss its benefits and applications, and explore a few prominent examples.
IIoT refers to a network of interconnected devices and sensors used in an industrial setting. The main objective of such devices is to continuously collect, share, and analyze crucial information. These insights can be extremely helpful in later decision-making. Industries using IoT are vast and include a variety of disciplines:
The benefits of utilizing IIoT solutions are immense: from solving issues sooner and cheaper to providing better quality control and implementing green practices. Traditional industrial systems require a team of workers to track and record data, while smart machines are capable of doing this autonomously. This level of automation not only allows employees to focus on business goals but also reduces human error and makes the processes cheaper and safer.
Each IIoT system comprises interconnected devices that capture and store information, data communication infrastructures, data storage, and analytics solutions. An ecosystem of smart devices, IIoT solutions track, process, exchange, and analyze vast amounts of information to help companies distill meaningful insights. Access to real-time data offers employees and executives the most accurate and up-to-date information to make data-driven decisions. For example, in manufacturing, IIoT applications include barcode scanners, web cameras, signal lights, and sensors that measure temperature, humidity, and vibration. In other words, it’s a collaboration of systems, machines, and people empowering each other to deliver continuous business growth.
IoT systems offer access to an unprecedented amount of information. By tracking each piece of equipment, companies can leverage crucial findings to make their operations more efficient, transparent, and safe. In this part, we will cover the most significant advantages of employing IIoT solutions in your business.
Data collection automation relieves employees from performing manual activities associated with capturing and storing information. Paper-based methods of data gathering are bound to lead to human mistakes and inconsistencies. On top of that, it’s highly difficult to enforce a unified format when dealing with manual labor. Automated real-time data collection increases overall accuracy and generates valuable insights.
The ability to forecast when a certain piece of equipment might experience issues is useful for businesses across industries. Utilizing data analytics, companies can plan necessary maintenance and repair to avoid larger bills. Especially on a production line, the cost of machine failure can be devastating and lead to downtime and associated expenses. Dealing with maintenance issues proactively improves predictability and transparency.
Asset management can become increasingly complex when the company grows and introduces new products. Tracing each item down the supply chain pipeline is highly difficult with a certain level of automation. Industrial IoT applications can monitor the location, status, and condition of goods and send out alerts in case some item is jeopardized. If something goes wrong during delivery, you can immediately salvage the situation to avoid customer complaints and additional expenses.
Automation eliminates errors and oversights that can be missed by a human. Furthermore, through industrial IoT applications, organizations can adopt best practices and unlock additional insights that can make the business more efficient. As a result, your production suffers from fewer defects and drops in quality.
Increased productivity, lack of product defects, and predictive maintenance are benefits that will also reduce manufacturing costs. Knowing real-time data regarding machine health and asset management also aid in predictability. Having a predictable business can be extremely lucrative and eliminate unnecessary concerns, actions, and expenses.
The safety and well-being of employees make a huge difference in the company’s operations. Investing in modern equipment enables organizations to safeguard factories, plants, and warehouses to minimize potential workplace accidents. IIoT sensors within the workplace provide real-time data regarding air quality, toxic gas leaks, and other environmental aspects. You can also place sensors on employees to monitor their vitals and prevent them from overworking and developing health issues.
Having access to time-sensitive data aids companies in improving their operational efficiency. By automating workflows, delivering high-quality products, and investing in predictability, businesses can establish higher productivity across the organization. Creating a physically and mentally safe work environment for your employees also aids in boosting the overall effectiveness of the processes.
Finally, your customers will also gain from IIoT adoption. While enhanced quality control ensures the best products reach the shelves, they will also benefit from optimized delivery times. Furthermore, IIoT systems help managers identify potential ways to improve customer experience by analyzing user data.
The applications of industrial IoT are numerous and vast, ranging from automation to quality control and predictive maintenance. In this section, we will explore the top 10 most vital industrial IoT applications in the manufacturing sector.
While up to 40% of workers spend a large portion of their time on repetitive and routine tasks, automation can remove this burden. Industrial IoT applications include automation to reduce overhead costs, increase productivity, and improve employee satisfaction. Automated processes can also eliminate chances for human error, which will drastically enhance the quality of your products. On top of that, you can significantly decrease the number of work-related accidents and create a much safer work environment for your employees.
By collecting and processing vast amounts of information, companies can unlock endless opportunities for optimization. An IIoT application covers spotting potential obstacles in the manufacturing process and offer solutions to avoid issues. Advanced analytics can present priceless insights into the entire organization and allow managers to improve every aspect of the business.
Even in the post-industrial era, a big portion of quality control is performed manually. Workers are tasked with checking each item for defects to make sure products meet the required standards. The issue with this system is obvious: humans make mistakes. Industrial IoT applications lie in overseeing the entirety of the supply chain process, from raw materials to the end product. Moreover, such solutions can identify imperfections, including the amount of emitted waste and how to bring it down.
Undetected defects in production can significantly damage your company’s reputation and decrease customer satisfaction. Purchasing even one faulty or broken item can discourage people from buying your products again. Not to mention the costs associated with recalling an entire batch and replacing it with new items.
Downtime is a real issue that disrupts operations and runs up costs but can be mitigated with increased predictability. 82% of companies experienced downtime over the last three years that averaged four hours in duration and $2 million in costs per outage. These instances lead to devastating reputational and monetary losses that can be hard to come back from. Utilizing predictive maintenance allows businesses to avoid such crises and establish an optimized workflow. Instead of dealing with downtime after it has already occurred, organizations can leverage industrial IoT applications and systems to predict equipment failure.
IIoT sensors are placed on machines to collect vital data regarding their performance, output, condition, etc. This information is stored in the cloud and can be accessed by the company’s experts to analyze it and extract valuable findings. At the same time, sensors can report any changes or inconsistencies, including even slight drops in performance. As a result, technicians have ample time to investigate the issue and fix it before it jeopardizes the production process.
The larger your organization grows, the more assets you need to keep track of. Manually looking for equipment is time-consuming and extremely inefficient. Luckily, GPS-powered industrial IoT applications can be used to monitor each item, at the facility and on route. Sensors can be installed on products, boxes, packaging, vehicles, or other places depending on your needs. Not only can you overlook the location of the goods, but also monitor their condition, temperature, light exposure, and other vital aspects.
IIoT applications include minimizing waste and protecting your raw materials. For example, such systems can swiftly identify the product that is the closest to the expiration date to avoid unnecessary waste. Applying special tags like radio-frequency identification (RFID) or Bluetooth-enabled tags allows warehouse workers to prioritize the materials and reduce misuse.
Operating heavy machinery can lead to workplace accidents and put your employees in serious danger. The information shared by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reveals that musculoskeletal disorders are among the most frequent workplace injuries. These can be prevented with the adoption of industrial IoT applications. Sensors can be placed on the workers to assess their perspiration, working technique, heart rate, temperature, and other metrics. Whenever a certain KPI goes outside the norm, managers will be automatically alerted to avoid hazards.
IoT-powered systems can also assist in keeping the plant itself safe and productive. Sensors located in the plant can collect data related to air quality, temperature, humidity, worker health, equipment, and more. The application stores this information and calculates the probability of accidents, waste, and malfunctions to help managers improve overall safety and efficiency.
Most factories and plants are located outside of cities, which forces managers to travel long distances to check up on the business. Industrial IoT applications include remote monitoring and control features that enable settings change and equipment operation. For example, if your system detects a gas leak, you can instantly initiate shutdown protocols and prevent a dangerous situation. Besides keeping accidents from happening, remote control can save huge costs since sending a technician to a remote location is costly.
On a larger scale, remote monitoring features allow managers to oversee and control several plants at the same time. Instead of assigning each area to a team of experts, companies can cut HR and operational costs. Having a consolidated overview of the entire business can also be beneficial in business decision-making.
Industrial Internet of Things applications are helpful in inventory management and tracking. Manually monitoring and counting thousands if not millions of goods is a menial and mundane job that leads to errors. Also, optimizing storage space without any software may not result in the best outcome. IIoT-powered solutions can transmit inventory status in real time as well as keep track of expiration dates. Moreover, you can place smart sensors in the warehouse to ensure the most appropriate temperature, humidity, and other metrics.
Leveraging IIoT applications also allows companies to automatically refill stock whenever it gets below a certain threshold. The statistics show that 24% of small businesses use a paper-based tracking system. IoT implementation can save your employees hours of work and effort that they can direct toward more analytical and challenging tasks.
Supply chain management is a highly complex process that overlooks the entire lifecycle of a product, from raw materials to its final state. Application of IIoT provides much-needed transparency, control, and automation. Such solutions allow employees to track goods in real time, monitor storage conditions, optimize routes, and locate goods within storage. Whenever a delay occurs, managers will be immediately informed to mitigate the situation. Additionally, IoT systems can predict traffic jams and deliver an optimal route to avoid any roadblocks.
To reduce your energy bill, you can attach IoT sensors to your infrastructure to keep track of the systems that consume energy. For example, such sensors can turn off the lights after a certain hour or once the building is empty. A robust IoT HVAC monitoring system includes managing energy consumption associated with heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Such systems require a lot of energy to operate and tend to inflate companies’ expenses. The Internet of Things for industrial applications can collect and analyze data to identify optimal usage and performance.
Numerous companies across the world have successfully implemented IoT systems and are now enjoying the results. Let’s take a look at the global leaders in manufacturing to identify how IIoT solutions make their business better.
Fanuc is a robotics manufacturer that applied predictive analytics to reduce downtime across its facilities. The adoption of IIoT sensors allows them to forecast when a certain piece of equipment will fail or malfunction. As a result, Fanuc has been recognized with the Supplier of the Year Innovation Award for its rigorous zero-downtime approach.
Airbus is a leading manufacturer of aircraft and a pioneer of innovation. Assembling millions of components without making a single mistake is a tough undertaking, especially considering the cost of such a mistake. In pursuit of minimizing errors and optimizing the assembly process, the company launched what they call the Factory of the Future. They installed sensors in the machines and workers’ uniforms to increase safety and reduce errors. For example, Airbus offers smart glasses that allow employees to decipher complex blueprints and convert measurements from imperial into metric.
Maersk is a world-renowned shipping company that operates in over 100 countries. Keeping track of shipping containers and calculating optimal routes without IIoT systems is exceedingly difficult. The technology allows the company to monitor their shipments, minimize fuel consumption, and identify the best possible routes. Especially in the high seas, weather conditions tend to swiftly change. Using IIoT solutions, Maersk can foresee such changes and identify the optimal routes. The company also employs advanced software to ensure the most suitable conditions inside the container to keep the product safe and unspoiled.
Komatsu is another manufacturer of heavy equipment with a focus on construction, mining, forestry, and military machinery. The company has leveraged industrial IoT applications to enable remote monitoring of its factories and warehouses. By connecting all of their robots to the internet, Komatsu managers can oversee the entirety of their operations. Managing multiple factories across the world would be significantly harder without a consolidated system. As a result, decision-makers can control the systems from one device to prevent accidents, improve productivity, and ensure safety.
Bosch is an engineering and technology company that uses industrial IoT applications to optimize their workflows One of the most notable innovations is the Track and Trace program which helps workers locate tools. Employees spend hours of man-hours looking for various tools and equipment which reduces productivity across the organization. By adding sensors to Bosch’s tools, the company has optimized inventory management and increased employee morale.
John Deere is a manufacturer of various heavy equipment, including agricultural machinery, diesel engines, lawn care equipment, and more. The company is known for implementing self-driving tractors across its facilities. On top of that, the company utilizes cutting-edge GPS systems with an accuracy of two centimeters. These innovations allow John Deere to maintain a high level of safety, avoid human-made errors, and increase efficiency.
North Star BlueScope Steel is a leading supplier in the steel industry that uses wearables to increase the safety of its staff. For example, the company launched specialized helmets and wristbands to help managers keep track of employee safety and detect potentially dangerous scenarios. The wristbands are equipped with vital tracking features to inform executives of the health conditions of their personnel. Whenever a worker’s stats go outside of a certain threshold, supervisors can give them a break. Sensors in factories also inform managers about radiation levels, toxic gasses, and other hazardous environmental factors.
All in all, the Internet of Things for industrial applications can unlock vast opportunities for your business. If you are considering adopting this technology, get in touch with our experts at NIX. Our portfolio of IoT success stories and decades of experience makes us a trustworthy partner. Contact our team to discuss your project and adopt IIoT solutions and practices.
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