At the beginning of 2020, industrial IoT companies were strategizing on how to tackle the aftermath of Brexit, the challenges of automotive industry and the slowing demand in China. But the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic threw the global economy and entire operations in a crisis. Governments, healthcare authorities, and business leaders focused on preserving lives and containing the spread of pandemic.
Industries shut down their production networks, resulting in the breakdown of entire value chains. Lessened supply and demand significantly decreased production volumes or stopped operations entirely. Businesses had to quickly adopt digital transformation and technological innovation to ensure business continuity.
With one month into 2021, the pandemic seems to continue well into this year as well. To navigate this current crisis and reach the next normal, companies need to figure out the answer to the following three questions:
- How can we ensure business continuity now?
- How can we return to business and increase our flexibility to thrive in the “new normal”?
- How can we improve our business over the long term, in a world changed by the pandemic, and emerge even stronger?
This is where Industrial IoT (IIoT) comes in.
Role of Industrial IoT in the New Normal:
Industrial IoT, a major element of the Industry 4.0, can enable businesses to successfully embark on their digital journey in the future of remote work. Especially if organizations haven’t yet explored the functionalities and advantages of IIoT, it is critical improvement lever in times of crisis.
Industrial IoT is expected to disrupt tons of industries due to the increased adoption of cloud and 5G.
Some of the many benefits of moving to a new form of managing industrial operations include reduction in costs and time required and more productive and efficient ways of doing business altogether.
But instilling IIoT in the routine operations is challenging.
While some companies may have been avoiding the shift to industrial internet of things due to the challenges and fears surrounding it, there are a lot of reasons to get in the game now.
Lets delve into a few reasons how the growth of IIoT is changing the future of manufacturing work, ultimately improving operational efficiency, customer experience and better pipeline visibility.
IoT & Automated Maintenance:
The most important way IIoT helps manufacturing companies is through automated and digitized preventative maintenance. This improves productivity and ensure more efficient operations.
But how does this work?
By collecting tons of data – way more than humans could possibly process – it can be predicted when machine issues might occur and prevent them before they even happen. Some of the leading enterprise software companies have built solutions to tackle predictive maintenance.
Infrastructure companies have also been actively building hardware to enable greater connectivity between the operational data and IT systems.
For organizations and businesses, it can be overwhelming to wrap their head around the vast amounts of data that has to be collected. Companies can start by tracking smaller things like production count, sensor malfunctions, machine state changes, energy status, average time of stagnation, etc.
These simple statistics can help show valuable patterns like – when machines are least productive, when high amount of energy is being wasted or when machines are experiencing failure.
Improving Employee Safety:
The pandemic has revolutionized workforces and the new normal requires businesses and companies to put their employees’ safety first. IoT trends can provide valuable data in keeping the employees safe.
In 2018 workplace injury costs more than $170 billion. This was before the increased need to take proactive measures to keep employees safe from the pandemic.
How can IIoT keep employees safe?
Using the data collected from IIoT, companies are better equipped to keep their workplace safe. This is done by finding areas where teammate training is lacking, where most injuries occur and where machines normally malfunction. Wearable devices are becoming extremely common and this is also a way to determine if the employees are over exerting themselves or suffering from extreme heat, etc.
Although it can be a little challenging and difficult to get employees to adapt technology-driven ways towards safety, it has never been easier to take positive and proactive steps to keep employees safe.
IoT As Digital Twins:
Digital twin is one of the most valuable thing to create from the Industrial IoT. So what exactly is it? Digital twin is a digital representation of any number of things from a production line to a new product, or the performance of a product over time.
By collecting data and using that data, companies can save millions of dollar as it eliminates the cost of having to create full-size, real-life prototypes. Similarly, huge amount of valuable and productive time is also saved because employees wont have to rush towards those prototypes in real-time to see the long-term effects.
By simply running algorithms, performance can be determined over the time, given the data is collected.
The development in cloud, cutting-edge embedded systems technology, cybersecurity associated with the Industrial IoT is getting increasingly strong with the connectivity getting more reliable. IIoT has a huge impact on how the new normal will look like once the pandemic is over.
IoT Solutions in Remote Training:
Employee training is a vital part of any industry or manufacturing unit. Its imperative to teach employees about the safety rules and regulations and all the necessary precaution. Previously, a truly interactive training session could only be done in person.
Now, due to the IoT technology,
Businesses are enabled to deliver educational content and skill-based training to remote workforces
Through the use of IoT, leadership and management can enhance the skills of employees during work from home. During the onboarding process of new employees and the technical orientation, the adoption of IoT results in a seamless experience for both the employees and the company.
Companies can ensure a rich experience by simulating their industries and workforces and teaching the necessary precautions to the employees.
Many manufacturing industries were already using new IIoT technologies to deploy predictive maintenance, real-time shipment visibility, equipment-as-a-service and other IIoT application to fundamentally change their business. The pandemic has led to the a drastic adoption of IIoT technologies to truly create smarter factories, cities and supply chains but its still relatively slow.
The reason being IIoT is complex and requires the operational technology to be connected to the IT systems. This requires expertise in IoT hardware, wireless connectivity, back-end cloud software, IoT protocols, IoT cybersecurity and much more.
Most industries do not have these skills and aren’t in any position to obtain this expertise.
However, new tech is helping to bridge this gap in expertise and industries. More specifically, IoT-focused cloud platforms, edge-to-cloud IIoT solutions and API-based SaaS offerings can lessen the complexity involving IIoT applications.
With these solutions, companies can quickly deploy and easily manage these IIoT applications, resulting in improved business outcomes.