by Kiyan Klocker, Ectobox

photo of internet of things (IOT)Industrial IoT has been around for a while now. It has proven time and time again to be very valuable to the manufacturers who take advantage of it. Decreasing downtime, improving lead times, machine learning, better awareness across the plant floor. These are just a few benefits you receive when you properly implement and utilize an IIoT system. The goal behind implementing an IIoT system is to become a data-driven manufacturer; use more and better real-time data to drive decision making.

IIoT is growing in popularity, and for good reason. Still though, a great number of manufacturers are choosing to ignore IIoT and Industry 4.0. The majority of these manufacturers are the ones who have been using the same methods for capturing data and making improvements for decades. Not to say that having someone walk around the plant floor recording data with pen and paper does not work, but it is outdated when you take into account the technology and tools available to us today.

The bottom line is that it’s not efficient. New and old competition will be adapting and changing their ways. In business, there is no room to tread water, if you aren’t moving forward, you’re moving backward. There is always someone ready to do your job better, cheaper, and faster than you.

You don’t want to be in that group, but you also aren’t looking to make a huge investment just yet. So where do you start with your first IIoT project?

Start with a Pilot Project

Becoming a data-driven company, and implementing an IIoT solution does not have to be a huge project especially when it’s your first one. In fact, at Ectobox we recommend that you start small with a pilot project. Start the implementation with just 1 or 2 machines and go from there. This way you are keeping it simple, and you can determine how valuable it would be for you to expand the project.

The Goal of the Pilot Project

There are two main goals for the pilot project, and they go hand-in-hand.

  1. Prove the technology
  2. Prove the business challenge, prove that the IIoT solution can help you improve operational efficiency

You can prove the technology by actually connecting to the machines, and pulling out real-time contextualized data. The point of this is really just to prove that the system works, and that it does exactly what you were told it was going to do. Once this is complete, you can move on to the next step and prove the business challenge.

Prove the business challenge. Prove that you can improve operational efficiency with real-time data directly from the machines on your plant floor. You already proved that the technology works, that the IIoT system is providing you with the real-time data as promised. Now you need to be proactive, and use this data to make improvements. Part of accomplishing this step is becoming a data-driven company.

Becoming a Data-Driven Company

IIoT and Industry 4.0 is a lot more than just the hardware and software. The concept involves and requires a certain mindset for everything to work together as efficiently as possible. IIoT provides you with real-time contextualized data that is available for everybody, no matter where they are located.

This has a lot of value because the information is not passing through from somebody walking around the plant floor gathering basic, hopefully accurate data. And then on top of that, letting the decision makers run around for half the day just trying to find that data from last week.

IIoT eliminates this. You will have the ability to get the right data, to the right people, at the right time, to make the right decision. Consequently, your mindset has to reflect this. You need to be proactive. Use the data, make adjustments, and then you will start to reap the benefits.

Conclusion

IIoT and Industry 4.0 technology is not just available for the top companies with massive amounts of capital to make the investment. The technology and platforms have become widely available for any sized company. This brings a great opportunity for you and your company, but also brings just as good of an opportunity to your competitors. Making it even more important to adapt and change with the way the manufacturing industry is headed.

The manufacturing sector gets more competitive every day. Taking action to increase your plant efficiency, reduce downtime, and benefit from things such as predictive maintenance on the plant floor is more important than ever before.

Pair your IIoT system with a data-driven, continuous improvement mindset and you will be on your way to running the most efficient factory possible. You will also benefit from being more aware of everything happening on the plant floor. Over time, you will develop a greater understanding of everything happening inside your machines so that you can make correct, data-driven decisions. No more guesswork and wondering what’s happening on the plant floor or why your machine isn’t producing the way it should be.

Remember, there is no need to make a large investment right off the bat. Start small with a pilot project. Go from there, and scale the project.