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IIoT Applications Boost Bottom-Line Productivity

Key Takeaways

  • Defining the Industrial Internet of Things.

  • How IIoT fits into business models and enhances productivity.

  • Examples of IIoT as a value to businesses.

IIoT applications

IIoT applications touch every industry imaginable

At the heart of industrialization is automation; the more tasks that can be transferred from human to machine labor, the easier it is to scale production in a quick and cost-effective manner. Although all industries have seen tremendous growth where precise equipment with high throughput forms the bulk or total of production, operators must often oversee these processes and track key performance indicators. This classic paradigm has been a standard of the industry for hundreds of years, with these so-called “dumb” machines able to perform incredibly complex tasks under human supervision.

With the burgeoning IoT field looking to improve performance by revealing underlying data trends in user-dominated settings, perhaps it is no surprise that designers want to extend this benefit to manufacturing. Industrial IoT, or IIoT, boosts bottom-line productivity by enabling systems to make informed decisions using the wealth of untapped information from sensors. IIoT applications have near unlimited suitability, and by empowering system designers to expand the communication network of their processes, immeasurable optimization benefits can be realized.

Defining and Evaluating IIoT

IIoT is a subset of IoT that employs much of the same structure (though adaptations to leverage industry-specific tools, paradigms, etc. exist) of the universal network structure. While IoT’s goal for automation tends more towards the convenience of the end-user, IIoT is concerned with cost-saving measures; the faster sensors can poll, communicate with some processing center, and actuate in response, the more efficient system processes can become. 

Challenges of IIoT

One relative challenge of IIoT in comparison to standard IoT is business integration. IoT uses vertical markets, which are more generic than the horizontal markets encompassed by IIoT. Whereas communicating between IoT should be straightforward due to the non-specificity of the markets involved, IIoT must navigate system protocols that are much more strictly defined and provide translation between them.

Advantages of IIoT

Regardless of the precise structure of the network, IIoT aims to improve operational processes and performance that may be otherwise neglected. Traditionally, these are metrics that would be analyzed post hoc, such as maintenance and failure modes. The benefit of IIoT is that engaging with this data in real-time allows for a more rapid response through real-time monitoring:

  • Enterprise resource planning (ERP) - Process data between different levels and stages of manufacturing tend to be heavily compartmentalized; data gleaned from IIoT can be used to form an end-to-end roadmap incorporating the impact of every input, variable, etc. indirectly associated with production. These secondary and tertiary contributions to the production, while often overlooked, act as key support to the mainline system. 
  • Product lifecycle management (PLM) - Devices involved in manufacturing may be subject to extreme environments for the duration of their useful life cycle. Many components will feature maintenance guidelines, but these are estimates and projections rather than any true appraisal of the condition of the part. Moreover, information relating to care and upkeep may be difficult to aggregate due to pertinent datasheets being split between multiple entities in the supply chain. Having a product contain all relevant data not only makes sense from a logistics standpoint but also provides the most immediate course of action for diagnosis and repair.

IIoT serves as the go-between for ERP and PLM, increasing the efficiency of operations, services, and goods by improving the lifetime performance of equipment (and vice versa). Business models can tend to sequester information by the nature of a hierarchical model, but a successful IIoT implementation can break down interdepartmental boundaries and deliver system information where it is of the greatest organizational value. 

IIoT Applications Improve Processes 

The benefits of IIoT are as numerous as they are ubiquitous: industries can better serve their products, workers, and profitability in one fell swoop. There are a wealth of potential deployments for IIoT in any business, but some of the major advantages include:

  • Predictive maintenance - Businesses suffer huge losses when unplanned maintenance disrupts manufacturing lines. However, unnecessary scheduled downtime also threatens productivity. Threading the needle can be an extremely difficult task based only on projected age and wear from operational conditions. IoT’s solution is to have machines and systems inform operators when they detect signs of irregularity that indicate the initial stages of part degradation. By constantly monitoring conditions and collecting these into some central storage, systems can evaluate rolling averages against historic values to perceive even minute changes over time.
  • Enhanced operator integration - Operators have typically interacted with machinery in a superficial manner, but not through any fault of their own. Systems with limited control options can only be manipulated in so many ways, and businesses may opt for a general optimized configuration as a default. With IIoT, operators and their devices are more highly incorporated and responsive to shifting needs as they arise. Moreover, IIoT grants greater safety protection to operators from hazardous processes and equipment by allowing remote access and control.
  • Performance tracking and control - Most industrial businesses have granular control over processes throughout production, and these can be reinforced with sensor data that operates at the same level of fine detail. Increasing the sensitivity and overall flexibility of production processes means operators can better tweak manufacturing performance based on fluctuations in material price, availability, or a variety of other inputs. IIoT serves to enhance quality assurance/control systems already in place, detecting fluctuations in process variables and features earlier in manufacturing to save costs and provide feedback.

Delivering on the Promise of IIoT With PCB Design

IIoT applications offer systems performance gains that don’t rely on new equipment or processes, but a refinement of existing systems featuring formerly unutilized data streams. The advantage of this system is that the adoption or integration of IIoT should not significantly disrupt current structures, although the potential to remove or replace unoptimized processes with data-guided insight exists. Therefore, IIoT presents itself as a low-risk, high-reward option for businesses looking to eke out even greater production from tightly-honed systems.

Support for IIoT applications in development requires toolsets that are general in scope, but precise in application. High network speeds enable near-instantaneous communication protocols and designers need robust performance for simulation and testing. Luckily, Cadence’s PCB design and analysis software provides an all-inclusive package for board development, offering teams a wealth of features geared for testing as well as production. With OrCAD PCB designer, designers have a full suite of sophisticated functionality to aid in meeting the demands of today’s cutting-edge IIoT technology.

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