What does the Shop Floor of the Future look like? The term “Industrial Internet of Things” (IIoT) is used to describe the technologies that enhance manufacturing and industrial processes with the help of machine learning and big data to analyze sensor data and machine-to-machine (M2M) communication. Although IIoT has many perks, it is still in its early stages and can sometimes be seen as a utopia. Is it a necessity to implement IIoT technologies now? What can we do in order to bridge current manufacturing processes and full automation and IIoT?
Manufacturing companies face several challenges in the age of Digital Transformation. Although digitalization in most cases is a necessity, full implementation of IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) might still feel like a utopia due to technical shortcomings such as lacking connectivity, differing manufacturing standards, security issues and so-called “single point of failures” in the connectivity chain. Of course, we’re also going to discuss the human side of things in the form of human-machine communication and the changing workforce.
- Fast and stable Internet connection = a must for a working IIoT network.
- Remote locations and thick concrete walls = lacking connectivity.
- Single Point of Failure = if one machine isn’t connected to the IIoT network or there are problems with power outages, service or cloud storage, the whole M2M communication chain is broken and valuable data can be lost.
Differing manufacturing standards.
- Industrial Internet is scattered = not connected to each other because machine manufacturers (components, sensors, machines, and software) don’t communicate with each other and don’t understand each other = focus on own functionalities and not whole value chain = many different standards = difficult to align internal processes.
- Several different internal databases = data not always sorted in the same way and can lead to unnecessary manual work. Lacking connectivity can lead to problems when data is being processed across databases.
- Custom-made IIoT solutions = due to differing standards custom-made IIoT solutions can be extremely expensive and due to change shortly. This has lead to the fact that many especially small and medium-sized manufacturers prefer to wait with implementing IIoT technologies in their plants altogether.
Security and data.
- Real-time access to operational data in industrial control systems (ICS) = smart analytics, predictive maintenance, and remote monitoring.
- Cybersecurity = crucial part of IIoT. If there is a data breach in the system, there can be major consequences of malware attacks, hacking, and employee sabotage not only in terms of worker security and privacy but also in terms of production efficiency and cost, patents and machine condition.
The human factor.
- Ageing workforce = employees are not a permanent component of your manufacturing process. If crucial knowledge exists only via word of mouth and is not recorded, it has the potential to disappear forever.
- Tribal knowledge = information is distributed from individual to individual with no standardized process for instruction or distribution.
- Human-machine interaction = the more you automate, the less likely people are to think themselves since “they’re only there to push a button” and machines do most of the work anyways.
- Meters of “yellow books” with instructions and technical machine documentation are now PDF’s = equally user-hostile.
- Operators don’t want to read instructions, they just want to get their work done. If they don’t know how to operate machines = safety problems and delays.
Man-machine communication is bridging manual work and full automation.
One of the biggest challenges in digital transformation is having information available for all employees according to standards so that processes don’t go wrong and so processes can be tracked. Machines are central in IIoT, but if the man-to-machine communication isn’t properly implemented (especially before and during processes are automated) the manufacturing efficiency will be suffering.
With the right information available for operators whenever they need it saves both time and money by improving changeovers and maintenance procedures while achieving a higher degree of safety and combating tribal knowledge.
SwipeGuide enables every worker to do a better job by providing them with digital instructions at the moment of need. Instructions can be accessed on any mobile or wearable device by scanning a QR code sticker on the machine. The usage of the instructions is being tracked for insights and continuous improvement for a successful digital transformation of manufacturing procedures.