IoT in an Industrial Environment

The Internet of Things (IoT) is all around us and ranges from reality to concept. Consumers find smart technology embedded in wearable gadgets that track information related to health and fitness. They may include motion sensors, take photos, and sync with mobile devices. Internet connectivity aides this information sharing – whether information is uploaded to a computer before being sent through the internet, or is transmitted wirelessly using Wi-Fi. The goal is for these devices to share important information efficiently that will help people make smarter decisions about their lives – what they eat, when they go to bed, how often and for how long they should exercise, etc.

Imagine the power of IoT, conceptually, and how it may affect daily lives and the many devices we take for granted. For example, your alarm clock goes off, it wakes you, but it also starts your coffee maker. Or your refrigerator ‘notices’ you are running low on milk, eggs, and salsa. It places an order for these goods while taking into consideration your favorite markets, where to find the best weekly specials, and places the order to capitalize on the best savings options.


Background/Defining IIOT

IoT is also making its way into industrial manufacturing. The Industrial Internet of things (IIoT) uses IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) technologies in manufacturing, which is referred to as the 4th Industrial Revolution – the convergence of digital, human, and physical domains. It uses technology standards, some old and some new, such as MQTT, NFC, OPC US, ZigBee), and many others. IIoT incorporates machine learning and big data technology, and harnesses sensor data, M2M communication, and automation technologies that have existed in industrial settings for years.


Making a Case for IIoT

Unplanned downtime and scheduled downtime are two scenarios in an industrial manufacturing environment where IoT shines.

From cradle to grave, when encountering an unplanned repair, specific events unfold. With greater visibility into the maintenance management continuum, plant management, and engineers can avoid loss of time due to the unknowns that slow a system during unplanned down time. The events might include:

  • Observation of the downed or degraded asset or equipment
  • Creation of a work order that includes information collected at the time of observation
  • Review and evaluation of the work order to determine needed skills and supplies
  • Assignment of the work order
  • Recognition and documentation of safety processes
  • Completion of repair work, including verification of cause of failure; documentation of repair task, knowledge transfer and issued parts; and notification to appropriate personnel
  • Inspection and QA check of work; return of tools and unused parts
  • Bringing assets back on line; notification to appropriate personnel

When dealing with long-term planned work schedules associated with scheduled downtime, IoT remains a powerful source of information and visibility that streamlines operational efficiencies and reduces costs associated with lost production time. Like unplanned downtime events, scheduled downtimes also follow a timeline of cradle to grave events related to creating and executing planned work schedules.

  • Identification of asset(s) requiring periodic maintenance, inspection, or calibration
  • Determination and establishment of recurring trigger rules and intervals of notification
  • Consideration of work order routing
  • Establishment and staging of best practice procedures and instructions as part of trigger action
  • Establishment and staging of best practice materials and tooling as part of trigger action
  • Determination and staging of skill sets, labor groups, etc. as part of trigger action
  • Documentation and notification staging of required safety processes
  • Creation of work order
  • Completion of recognized and documented safety processes
  • Completion of repair work conducted; verification of cause-of-failure; documentation of repair task, knowledge, and issued parts; notification of appropriate personnel
  • Inspection and QA assessment of completed work; return of tools and unused parts
  • Bringing assets back on line; notification to appropriate personnel

Industrial IoT offers a number of benefits to plant operations. In addition to shortening or reducing machine down times, IIoT improves logistics and communications, and optimized efficiencies. Proactive maintenance management aided by IoT, has a profound impact on the bottom line. In terms of saving time and money, IoT can ensure smart maintenance – the right maintenance, at the right time, for the right reason.

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