The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has been evolving since it was coined several years ago, but its core meaning remains unchanged. Manufacturing and industrial processes are improved by using general Internet and intranet software, as well as smart sensors, actuators, and localized embedded controllers (also known as Edge Gateways). These technologies provide information beyond the control process itself, historically managed by embedded controllers like PLCs.
Also known as the industrial Internet, IIoT leverages advanced device and data technologies to create “smart machines.” These machines are capable of near real-time analytics, generating enhanced data that traditional “dumb machines” (which only have basic control functionality and feedback) cannot produce on their own or have not typically been generated. Smart sensors provide a means to communicate information beyond simple functionality, such as discrete detection or single-purpose “analog” values like object detection, distance, or temperature, for example. They include “smart” features like internal or even surface temperature, inclination, humidity, and even multi-axis vibration detection all in a single device. These sensors include photoelectric, proximity, digital position, and measurement indicators, radio frequency identification (RFID) systems, and even multi-functional condition monitoring sensors that can combine vibration with several other detection functions, such as temperature and humidity.
IIoT offers many new data gathering and analytics that perform in real-time or near real-time and can allow for the addition of the following to typical older automation:
- Condition monitoring
- Predictive maintenance
- Remote monitoring and control feedback
- Inventory management and supply chain management
- Energy management
With condition monitoring, operators can strategically place sensors around non-control locations, such as feed, conveyor, and pump motors, to constantly monitor motor and drive trains (couplers, motor mounts, etc.) for performance information. Adding pressure to oil, coolant, and air feed lines to monitor pressure and flow, will enhance monitoring capabilities, and placing temperature sensors around all critical areas of equipment and processes can allow for monitoring operational temperature levels. This information can be monitored and analyzed without encumbering or interfering with critical machine control or process functionality and can provide the information to develop predictive maintenance analytics to develop and provide more reliable and cost-effective maintenance programs.
Remote monitoring and control feedback
Remote monitoring and control feedback using these same discussed principles can be combined with condition monitoring and predictive maintenance to provide feedback from remote locations, such as pumps and motors and non-controlled devices, for performance feedback to machine controls. For example, if the condition monitoring detects excessive motor vibration, the machine controller can use the information to manage performance, minimize machine damage, and prevent catastrophic failure.
This information can be monitored and analyzed without encumbering or interfering with critical machine control or process functionality and can provide the information to develop predictive maintenance analytics to develop and provide more reliable and cost-effective maintenance programs.
Inventory and supply chain management
For inventory and supply chain management, smart sensors can collect and report inventory and logistics information using sensor-based feedback and cloud-based software. This information can be accessed securely in a shared format across multiple locations, facilitating efficient inventory and supply chain management processes. It also provides a simple and easy-to-digest format for quick information gathering and analytics of predictive inventory management and supply chain status compared to spreadsheet-like or text-based data graphical user interfaces, for example.
For energy management, IIoT can optimize energy usage by monitoring and controlling energy-consuming processes and reducing costs and environmental impact. Smart sensors and process or condition monitoring systems make it possible to manage energy usage by tracking the process cycle and machine usage. This allows for automated control of energy distribution based on whether the equipment is in use, idle, or during off-shift times, leading to improved energy efficiency and cost control.
So as touched upon here, IIoT coupled with smart sensing technology can provide many new and innovative ways to monitor the manufacturing process and its critical support systems in many advantageous ways. IIoT can be deployed from the manufacturing process through to the logistics and even energy usage aspects to improve overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), reliability, and efficiency. Look at what your needs are and see what the newest IIoT innovations can do for your business today.