Is the Internet of Things the Next Industrial Revolution?

By Francois Estellon, VP-IT, Gardner Denver

Francois Estellon, VP-IT, Gardner Denver

Like many major technology trends (Service based solutions, mobility, etc), the Internet of Things (IoT) is, in its infancy, slowly getting more interest in Industrial Companies. For years, sensors and data capture capabilities have been designed, built and embedded into production lines, finished goods, warehouses and supply chains. Very little has been done so far with this capability, falling short of what could be done with it: most initiatives have been very narrow in scope, application and value generation. Now there is an opportunity to interconnect all of these data collection points and tying together valuable data into actionable information. Gartner predicts nearly 20 billion devices connected to IoT by 2020 and a large majority of them will come from the industrial sector.

However, as with any technology driven trend, the challenge lies in the application and monetization (what does this mean?) of the technology. With such a large range of opportunities, it is difficult to focus on the right use case and understand ROI on a significant technology investment. Understanding IT and technology budgets in the industrial world are tight and other strategic initiatives will compete with IoT. Thus the need for a clear strategy and solid business cases –technology for technology can be a huge distraction and a money pit!

So, where to start? Any good business case relies on three basics (or combination thereof): reduce costs, increase sales by generating higher volumes/new revenue streams or increase sales margins. Let’s look at a couple of use cases for each of these.

“Understanding IT and technology budgets in the industrial world are tight and other strategic initiatives will compete with IoT”

Machines and automation on production lines have been equipped with sensors and intelligence since the mid-70’s, but data collection was rarely leveraged to make decisions due to closed, hard-wired manufacturing environments. Collecting production line information through IP based sensors, wireless devices and Big Data systems, manufacturers will be able to monitor the “health” of production in real time, accelerating proven toolsets like Statistical Process Control, providing faster input in Manufacturing Execution Systems and MRP or detailed planning systems. For example, in energy consumption intensive industries, sensors are able to monitor electricity consumption of each machine at idle or production status and based on an expert system, provide information to shop Like many major technology trends (Service based solutions, mobility, etc), the Internet of Things (IoT) is, in its infancy, slowly getting more interest in Industrial Companies. For years, sensors and data capture capabilities have been designed, built and embedded into production lines, finished goods, warehouses and supply chains. Very little has been done so far with this capability, falling short of what could be done with it: most initiatives have been very narrow in scope, application and value generation. Now there is an opportunity to interconnect all of these data collection points and tying together valuable data into actionable information. Gartner predicts nearly 20 billion devices connected to IoT by 2020 and a large majority of them will come from the industrial sector.

However, as with any technology driven trend, the challenge lies in the application and monetization (what does this mean?) of the technology. With such a large range of opportunities, it is difficult to focus on the right use case and understand ROI on a significant technology investment. Understanding IT and technology budgets in the industrial world are tight and other strategic initiatives will compete with IoT. Thus the need for a clear strategy and solid business cases –technology for technology can be a huge distraction and a money pit!

So, where to start? Any good business case relies on three basics (or combination thereof): reduce costs, increase sales by generating higher volumes/new revenue streams or increase sales margins. Let’s look at a couple of use cases for each of these.

Machines and automation on production lines have been equipped with sensors and intelligence since the mid-70’s, but data collection was rarely leveraged to make decisions due to closed, hard-wired manufacturing environments. Collecting production line information through IP based sensors, wireless devices and Big Data systems, manufacturers will be able to monitor the “health” of production in real time, accelerating proven toolsets like Statistical Process Control, providing faster input in Manufacturing Execution Systems and MRP or detailed planning systems. For example, in energy consumption intensive industries, sensors are able to monitor electricity consumption of each machine at idle or production status and based on an expert system, provide information to shop.

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