Many argue that the internet of things in industrial settings has been around for decades in the form of industrial...
control systems technologies, such as supervisory control and data acquisition, programmable logic controllers and machine-to-machine communications. However, the true potential of industrial IoT only shone after the introduction of data-driven analytics.
Increasingly, IIoT analytics is providing a number of opportunities to manufacturing and industrial organizations alike -- from helping them better understand business processes to reducing unplanned downtime to increasing profitability and efficiency.
"There are more and more cases where you're actually seeing good benefits from IIoT and companies being able to implement it in an intelligent fashion," said Seth Lippincott, an analyst at Nucleus Research in Boston. "It's getting to the point where you can do much more of the [predictive] maintenance side of things."
For example, a service company that provides refrigerators to supermarkets could add smart sensors to the systems that would provide real-time temperature information as well as other metrics, including how the motor is running. Then -- if the refrigerator isn't functioning the way it should, given the time of day or the location, for example -- the service company can send a technician out to the supermarket to take a look, Lippincott said.
"But the most interesting step these service companies are taking is being able to send a push notification or email to one of the supermarket employees on site, who can then run the necessary troubleshooting procedure without even requiring a service call to begin with," he said. "Then, only if the troubleshooting didn't work, the company would send a technician."
Predictive maintenance, a top IIoT benefit
From a value perspective, predictive maintenance is one of the greatest benefits of IIoT analytics, Lippincott said. "If you can get your customers to service the [equipment] rather than your technicians, you're saving a ton in their time as well as on the equipment," he said.
It will eventually get to the point where a company won't even need to proactively contact the customer to run the troubleshooting, Lippincott added. Instead, the customer will get an automated message about what devices need troubleshooting or services. "And they could do that without even having to coordinate with the service company's technicians," he said.
Track your assets better with IIoT
IIoT analytics is also beneficial in terms of asset tracking, said Sam Tawfik, IoT program director at Northeastern University Silicon Valley in San Jose, Calif. Companies can tag their assets, such as trucks and cargo, to track location and ensure schedules are met, he said.
"Are they where they're supposed to be for the next shift? Did something happen? Are they being delayed? Do I need to reroute some assets [to cover that delay]?" Tawfik said. "IIoT helps gain complete visibility across the supply chain to keep it moving."
Another one of the major benefits of IIoT analytics is that they allow firms to use embedded or add-on trackers on assets, products and shipments to determine their locations and context, said Frank Gillett, an analyst at Forrester Research, in Cambridge, Mass. This allows companies to analyze that data and offer transparent service levels, as well as track compliance with certain requirements, such as refrigeration temperature.
Richard Soley, chairman and CEO at Object Management Group Inc. in Needham, Mass., said IIoT analytics is having a major effect on existing business models. By giving manufacturers the ability to keep connectivity long term with the products they build, IIoT helps them provide better service and therefore can create a better experience for end users. Many companies, he said, are now shifting their business model toward providing their manufactured goods as a service, rather than just as products.
For instance, General Electric, which makes jet engines, has switched from a capital sales model to a lease model, leasing its jet engines on a propulsion-as-a-service basis, Soley said. And GE can take advantage of its vast amount of historical performance data to keep the engine running in excellent condition.
"The new GE business model is 'let's keep connection to the device that we build long term and put sensors on the device that I'm going to be attached to forever -- over the internet. Then we lease it to the customer, so the customer doesn't own it and -- more importantly -- so I have connection to it for long term,'" Soley said.
The vendor, GE in this case, will make more money selling propulsion as a service in the long run than it would by selling the jet engine. And the service, in turn, will ensure better customer satisfaction.
"Airlines don't want jet engines; they want propulsion," Soley said. "So sell them what they want."