With so much discussion around the IIoT and digital transformation, it can be hard to break through all the marketing hype out there. Where do you even get started with implementing digital transformation? First, it’s very helpful to center your thought process around business goals. Instead of focusing on the technical aspect, consider the business as a whole – is your goal to increase yield? Improve quality? Or boost regulatory compliance? Or something else entirely?
Once you’ve established your business goals, there’s another thought exercise I find valuable. Think about how you can use the IIoT to extend existing equipment, rather than replace it. This allows you to think about using the IIoT to build on current investments, rather than needing to remove 20, 30, 40 or 50 years of equipment. While this may seem like a small step in theory, in practice it’s very powerful. Most of us don’t have the luxury of working in greenfield sites, so it’s important to consider how to best use our existing assets. With that in mind, here are three of the most common ways to extend value with the IIoT.
To start seeing the benefits of the IIoT today, try our cloud IIoT platform Insight powered by Wonderware Online for free!
1. Shadow sensing
One of the simplest use cases is adding additional instrumentation. As the cost of sensing continues to fall, companies are exploring the possibility of placing more sensors on existing assets. They may want to capture additional process data, or to measure moisture, temperature, humidity or something else to see a more comprehensive picture.
While this additional data is valuable, it’s not necessarily worth the expense of rewiring PLCs and reworking existing systems. However, IIoT “shadow sensors” can capture data directly from the asset and send it into the software stack. This augments the old equipment with new capabilities without extensive rework. For instance, you can outfit an existing control system with more high-fidelity vibration data, feed that into a production historian, and then run predictive maintenance on it to catch failures before they occur.
2. Expand to semi-automated areas
As you explore the wider world of manufacturing, it’s striking how much of the global market is not fully digital. Many facilities operate manually or with semi-automated processes. Cost and complexity have been a formidable barrier to entry. These facilities do not have the resources or expertise to set up and support a network of servers.
Now, with IIoT devices, data can be captured directly from assets and sent straight to the cloud. This bypasses the complex middleware layers. As a result, it becomes possible to expand advanced applications such as performance monitoring and predictive asset analytics to areas where that would previously have been impossible.
3. Connect distributed systems
Finally, the IIoT allows companies to connect distributed systems for increased operational visibility across the entire value chain. By consolidating systems and bridging the OT/IT gap, the IIoT can break down silos and open new avenues of collaboration.
For instance, we worked with WaterForce to develop an IIoT solution that connects our existing SCADA and automation technology (variable speed drives, radios, etc) to the cloud – with the help of Microsoft’s Azure IoT. This allowed farmers to monitor and control their irrigation pivots directly from their mobile devices for improved decision making and operational visibility. One farmer reported energy savings of 50% in a single season.
By following these approaches, companies can use the IIoT to get the most out of their existing investments. To start seeing the benefits the IIoT offers today, check out our cloud IIoT solution Insight powered by Wonderware Online FREE today!
How could you extend value with the IIoT in your facility? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!