It’s difficult to go anywhere or read anything these days without hearing about Industry 4.0. We also hear the term “Internet of Things,” or IoT. Most people use these terms interchangeably but they are not really the same. How do they differ and what does it mean for manufacturing companies?
Let’s start with simple definitions. “IoT” is the interconnectivity of machines and devices so that they can communicate with each other in real time, in factories and on the shop floor. Computers, mechanical and digital machines, mobile devices, vehicles and more are embedded with software and sensors and connected via a network that enables all the objects to collect and exchange data.
On the other hand, Industry 4.0 is the trend of manufacturing companies to implement and adopt IoT in their day to day operations and manufacturing processes, resulting in a change to the way things are made. This trend toward ‘smart factories’ is what will bring about the 4th industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0.
Many manufacturing companies are still trying to determine what it all means for their business. What impact will the implementation of IoT have on their productivity, or on their workforce? What benefit will a smart factory have, and how much will it cost to implement it? These are still questions to be answered, but one thing is certain: to remain competitive, and succeed in the future, IoT must be a priority and an important part of the overall business strategy for manufacturing companies.
Best practices for implementing IoT
For the best results, IoT would be integrated enterprise-wide, and all machines, devices and other objects would be completely connected. However, depending on the size and complexity of the business, and the financial resources necessary to make the shift, this is not feasible for most companies.
Successful implementation requires a significant amount of pre-planning. The following should be considered:
- Above all, what needs to be done to ensure that every piece of data that exists or will be collected is protected? What controls need to be put in place to eliminate the risk of cyberattack? Data security is top priority.
- What is the business trying to achieve overall? Does the integration of IoT complement the company’s overall business strategy, and if not, how can the integration be adapted to support the company’s overall goals?
- What infrastructure is needed prior to implementation? Are there internal changes to processes or department structures that need to be made before new technologies can be introduced?
- What skillsets are required for each role in the organization? Does the existing workforce have these skillsets? If not, time might be needed to hire new people and to re-train existing employees on the new technologies that will be implemented.
- Are there any small or less time or financially intensive changes that can be implemented right away? Sometimes, changing only one or two parts of production can have enough of an impact that might reduce the complexity of IoT integration in the future.
Indeed, the shift to IoT represents a challenge for many companies. At the same time, it is an era of historic significance. We look forward to participating in, and watching Industry 4.0 unfold. How about you? What are your thoughts on the next industrial revolution? Please share your comments below.
Thanks for reading!
To learn more:
This report by the Consumer Technology Association has some great data and insights about IoT, along with impacts to specific industries such as manufacturing, marine, food, energy and aerospace.
The “Industrial Internet of Things” report by pwc discusses the operational blueprint and pace needed to implement IoT.
To learn what Bonfiglioli is doing, you can read about the new Bonfiglioli ‘smart factory’ project, currently underway in Italy.