Initiatives like smart manufacturing and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) are moving forward in many companies. The question is, will they move forward together or separately? I believe they will advance together, but I can understand those who see them as separate.
Before we get too far into the topic, let me first define the terms, since there is plenty of debate even about that.
Smart manufacturing: The intelligent, real time orchestration and optimization of business, physical and digital processes within factories and across the entire value chain. Resources and processes are automated, integrated, monitored and continuously evaluated based on all available information (MESA International).
IIoT: The network of physical objects (“things”) used in industry (i.e., subassemblies, products, product carriers and equipment) embedded with electronics, software, sensors and network connectivity that enables these objects to collect and exchange data with control systems, business processes and analytics using Internet Protocol (IP) (modified from Wikipedia on IoT).
Now back to our central question: Are these initiatives destined to evolve and advance together or separately? Clearly, the jury’s still out. Here is some background on each of these views.
Together: The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) says, “By automating communication between industrial equipment and systems, IIoT enhances efficiencies throughout the factory, making it smarter.” I agree. I believe that IIoT is an enabling technology for smart manufacturing. In that way, its progress will drive the progress of smart manufacturing. Similarly, as smart manufacturing moves beyond concept and into projects that companies are executing, manufacturers and their solution providers will improve the IIoT technologies that enable those projects. These two will likely advance together.