IIoT holds key to smart manufacturing

IIoT holds key to smart manufacturing
Amid fierce competition in the manufacturing sector, factory operators are striving to increase productivity and keep downtime to a minimum. Traditionally, these efforts require manpower and human labor, which costs money and is prone to errors and mistakes. Now, thanks to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), operators can leverage data generated by connected sensors and devices to smarten up the production floor.
 
Throughout history, manufacturers have seen several revolutions taking place, each upending the way manufacturing was done. The Industrial Revolution of the 18th century saw a replacement of human labor with machines. The second revolution came during the early 20th century when the concept of production line was introduced. Then, the rise of computers, networks and robotics further transformed manufacturing. Now, IIoT, also known as Industry 4.0, and the data devices generate have sparked another industrial revolution, whereby connected devices and sensors generate real-time data to enable further automation and help operators gain better oversight of the production facility.

"Sensors can be used to generate machine health, process health, cleaning in place (CIP), security and production planning and asset tracking. Consequently, it can help in moving towards a proactive approach in the operations and improving productivity. From a quality perspective, additional sensors are being deployed to enable better process quality control," said Keshab Panda, CEO and Managing Director of L&T Technology Services.
 
“Sensors measure numerous applications in a factory, but their use is dependent on what the business considers to be the most critical applications, for example, environmental (temperature, humidity, pressure). Others are going to look at safety/security, so you may see proximity or optical sensors that will monitor an area. There are also sensors that measure production/machine health such as acceleration and vibration,” said Eric Ehlers, Vertical Marketing Manager at Cisco. “Ultimately, this data provides visibility – driving better operational efficiency, improving automation processes, safety/security, monitoring, an optimizing asset utilization. This information can also be used to drive better supply chain utilization and prototyping of new products.”
 
In fact, the market potential for IIoT is not to be ignored. According to a market research report by MarketsandMarkets, the IIoT market is expected to grow from US$113.71 billion in 2015 to reach $195.47 billion by 2022, at a compound annual growth rate of 7.89 percent between 2016 and 2022. “The manufacturing vertical is witnessing a transformation through the implementation of the smart factory concept and factory automation technologies. Government initiatives such as Industrie 4.0 in Germany and Plan Industriel in France are expected to promote the implementation of the IIoT solutions in Europe,” the report said. “Moreover, leading countries in the manufacturing vertical such as U.S., China, and India are expected to further expand their manufacturing industries and deploy smart manufacturing technologies to increase this the contribution of this vertical to their national GDPs.”
 

How security equipment fits in

 
Besides industrial sensors and devices, factory operators can also benefit from security equipment such as video surveillance and access control, whose primary function is still to main the safety and security of the production facility.
 
“Cameras are often deployed first as a physical security step across the factory but also to help support improved safety in a facility. Sensors, combined with cameras, can be used to ensure the right access for the right people,” said Ehlers. “Data from access control systems can ultimately help refine the rules and requirements of ever-changing business requirements. This will ultimately define policy and provide visibility that can support better compliance, as well as help mitigate future threats that could impact production.”
 
More and more, video in factories performs other tasks as well. One example is machine vision, whereby video taken by cameras is used to detect defects or direct driverless vehicles in the factory. In another report by MarketsandMarkets, the market research firm forecasted that the overall machine vision market will be valued at $14.43 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of 8.15 percent between 2016 and 2022. “The major factors driving the growth of the machine vision market are the increasing need for quality inspection and automation across industry verticals, surge in demand for vision-guided robotic systems in automotive, pharmaceutical, food and packaging, and industrial sectors, and growing demand for application-specific machine vision systems,” the report said.
 
Meanwhile, cameras are also used to drive better insight into process, Ehlers said. “For example, sensors that detect motion can also be aligned with cameras to view movement and create heat maps of a factory setting to understand traffic flows. Sensors can also be used to monitor the process and then trigger alerts in hard-to-reach areas within a factory setting. They also support better remote troubleshooting and help reduce product loss. Some are used to monitor product quality, looking for deviations from a reference part,” he said.


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