The Industrial Internet of Things, or IIoT, is a common buzz-term in manufacturing today. But for many companies, the images of vast, automated factories that it suggests can be as confusing and alienating as they are intriguing. As such, despite the unignorable benefits it offers them, many small-to-medium-sized businesses are still put off by the idea of the IIoT.
We spoke to one (fictional) IIoT sceptic to address his concerns and explain why the IIoT is here to stay, and how it is set to revolutionise all kinds of manufacturing – including his smaller business.
All right. Go on then. What is it?
The IIoT is an extension of the Internet of Things (IoT), which is basically the connection of various real-life objects via the internet to make our lives easier. You may already have this in your house, with things like your heating, lighting, or camera systems being controllable via your smartphone.
That’s right. But how does this apply to my business?
The IIoT is no different, only it’s specifically designed to support a manufacturing environment. It refers to a network of intelligent devices such as factory machines that collects their data in a central Cloud system, analyses it, and puts it to use in ways that can help people like you improve their businesses.
Coding and marking solutions, which are often the most intelligent part of the production line, are the ideal entry point for this revolution.
Fine. But what does this IIoT actually do?
A lot of things. With the latest IIoT systems, production managers or technicians can carry out a variety of tasks at the touch of a button, using smartphones, tablets, laptops, or display screens.
They can check to see if the line is running correctly, view the number of products printed, receive warning notifications, view logs of usage, back-up and restore critical information, connect remotely to setup print jobs or fix problems, and gain a greater insight into factory processes.
They can also benefit from remote monitoring by their printer’s support team, which can tell them what is happening and, in the case of a problem with the printer, provide alerts, diagnoses, and advice, as well as connecting to the printer remotely to help with message set-up and other issues.
I suppose you get bombarded with all sorts of technical info, do you?
Not necessarily. While traditionally, some IIoT systems may have delivered a wealth of technical data to the largescale operations they were designed for, there are now systems available that provide you with only the simple, easy-to-digest information that you need to run your business. This is also presented in a way that your operators can understand intuitively – for example, with traffic-light colour coding or flags that indicate you are behind in your schedule.
Coding and marking, though… that’s only one small part of our factory. Would there be any benefit to the entire production?
Yes: while it’s nice to be able to monitor and control your coding and marking solution, what would be really useful is the ability to gauge the status of the broader production environment. Thankfully, this is possible. When the printer is fine but not printing, you will know that the problem is elsewhere and consequently be able to identify and fix it more quickly than would have been possible before. As such, your printer acts as your gateway to full connectivity.
OK. So what are the actual benefits for my business?
The benefits of being able to monitor your printer through the IIoT include more uptime, which means more production; better planning, enabling greater efficiency; and, because they no longer have to walk the line to check for faults, more free time for your production managers to focus their energies elsewhere.
The ability to remotely monitor the health of your printer reduces the chance of making a costly mistake and allows for much better daily planning and maintenance scheduling.
Interesting. I run a smaller-sized business and consequently am often short of resources. Can it help with that?
Yes. For example, an IIoT system would enable your production manager to monitor all lines via a remote screen – effectively meaning he can be in several places at once. Similarly, if you have a two-shift pattern, any problem with the line during the late shift can be dealt with remotely by the production manager from home.
Right. Customer deadlines are extremely important to us. Is there any way it helps with that?
Again, yes. Aside from the obvious improvements in the service you provide, the IIoT will allow you to know about problems on the line immediately. This enables you to start corrective action or notify your customers earlier – a major benefit that increases your ability to manage expectations and minimises the risk of you letting your customers down.
Well, that sounds great… Be honest though – this is really for larger companies, isn’t it?
Once, that may have been the case – but it isn’t anymore. Today there are some excellent IIoT services available that have been specifically designed to work for smaller businesses.
I see. But I bet there’s a huge installation process involved, isn’t there?
Again, this is a common assumption that just isn’t true anymore. Some IIoT solutions available do not require a fully wired factory in order to function, and can be installed with a simple wireless access point that is connected to the office broadband.
OK… but I suppose once you’ve got it, it quickly goes out of date and needs to be reinstalled, right?
Wrong. The best IIoT systems today offer remote software updates, meaning the new software is downloaded remotely with no need for an engineer to visit. Whether you decide to run the new software or not is entirely up to you – but the option to have the latest printer and security features is always there.
Any other concerns?
Just one. This all sounds very impressive, but can I afford it, realistically?
IIoT systems are often thought of as expensive, but you may be surprised by how affordable one is. This is due partly to the rapid development of technology and partly to the fact that most of what you need is readily available in your factory: your internet connectivity and your printer.
Most importantly, many companies find that the cost of the system is easily recouped through the upturn in efficiencies it causes.
Do you know what? You’ve convinced me. Where can I get an IIoT system for my business?
Just follow the link to our website and speak to one of our friendly staff about our Linx Printernet and what it can do for you.
And for more information on the IIoT and the opportunities it can offer, read our white paper.