The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a buzzword we hear all the time. (If you’re still looking for a straight answer on what exactly IIoT is, I recommend the excellent article The IIoT in a Nutshell by my colleague, Kagan Pittman.) But for many manufacturers, the question isn’t “What is IIoT?” but rather, “How do we use it?”
“We all know we can get data out of machine controls. We have done this in automotive since the eighties,” says Karl Rapp, Applications Engineering Manager, Automotive and Machine Tool at Bosch Rexroth. “I think that in the future, every company will have a data scientist. If we know what the data means, and where it’s coming from, then we can improve the process, whether it’s a machine, maintenance or anything else.”
In large multinationals, especially in process manufacturing industries like petrochemical, it clearly appears beneficial to have each facility, each boiler, and even each pressure sensor connected to a powerful central data processor so that management can maintain control. But what about smaller companies? What about parts suppliers and contract manufacturers? Is IIoT and machine data monitoring technology worthwhile for small to medium sized enterprises?
I spoke with several IIoT industry experts to find the truth about this question, and the only thing they did agree on was that yes, there are achievable, measurable benefits to be gained by collecting and analyzing machine data, no matter the size of the operation. What they didn’t agree on was the best way to go about it.
Manufacturing execution systems (MES) act as a bridge between your enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and machine data. Memex Inc., the company of one of the experts featured in this article, specializes in MES software. MES is all about sharing information into the corporate network. This can enable tools like dashboards, summary information, reporting, email alerts and other network-related tasks.