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9 Industrial IoT Applications That Bring Together AI and the Internet of Things

The benefits of industrial IoT applications are manifold, from a boost in productivity and operational efficiency to cost optimization. They tap into new revenue streams and enhance customer experience. So it is no wonder that more and more companies are looking into this expanding market, turning IIoT into their competitive advantage. In what follows, we look into the major application areas for IIoT and delve into how companies can make machine data work in their favour.

Industrial IoT is the mesh of interconnected machines, sensors, and edge devices streaming valuable data that leads to process optimization and beyond. Keeping equipment running, ensuring safety, and providing insight into productivity improvements is where IIoT technology comes into play. Processes that were previously manual and required significant human resources to execute are now managed remotely over the air. Costs are sinking, and novel ways to improve efficiency are revolutionising the way we see industrial equipment. 

At the same time, it is often the case that organizations lack the in-house IoT know-how and the unique set of experts needed to execute IoT projects and build IoT infrastructures. In response to this challenge, industrial IoT platforms have established themselves as the go-to places for companies seeking to speed up the process from PoC to massive scale-out deployments. The mix of a ready-made IoT infrastructure for device orchestration and the low entry barrier make industrial IoT applications easier to implement than ever before. 

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Below, we take a closer look at the specific benefits of industrial IoT applications. We also delve into how industrial IoT is transforming processes within industrial companies: 

  • Asset Tracking
  • Condition Monitoring
  • Production Flow & Quality Control
  • Facility Management
  • Inventory Management 
  • Power Management 
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Plant Safety & Security
  • Operator Efficiency

The  Benefits of Industrial IoT Applications

So what are the ultimate benefits of industrial IoT and where exactly do we see these on the shop floor?

Better Machine Utilization

In the world of connected machines, organizations are able to monitor and control industrial assets at all times and glean insights from pre-set KPIs. Tracking important metrics guides companies through the challenges of improving overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and overall process effectiveness (OPE). Further still, full transparency on the shop floor and beyond taps into matters of predictive maintenance. This way, organizations get a timely response to unforeseen hurdles such as downtime and operational hiccups. For most companies, making the most of machine data means reducing maintenance costs by 40% and leads to downtime reduction in the 50% range. 

Faster Improvement Cycles

IIoT is especially beneficial in process engineering and quality assurance. It significantly alleviates the effort of manually collecting, pre-processing, and analyzing machine data. IIoT applications allow companies to automate all these tasks. As a result, engineers can dedicate their time to actually improving processes and implementing these enhancements. This is also a factor in boosting the speed of innovation and means shorter implementation cycles for business intelligence initiatives. All these translate into gaining a strategic advantage as an organization and securing a spot at the frontline of innovative development.

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Streamlined Quality Management Systems

Quality management systems are costly to implement and keep in order. One of the benefits of industrial IoT is that many process control tasks can be fully or partially automated. The relevant variables are constantly checked in the background, which frees the time and resources needed for other operation-critical initiatives. This way, in-person quality inspections are slowly becoming a thing of the past in a world IoT where sensors and connected devices do the work. 

Improved Production Quality 

Continuous condition monitoring is essential to quality management. Critical parameters are monitored at all times. IIoT makes it possible to send out alerts and notifications every time that certain thresholds are exceeded. Further, stakeholders are notified every time when quality parameters are beginning to fluctuate. Connected devices and IoT-enabled equipment help companies remain constantly in the loop when it comes to production quality. 

Enhanced Operator Productivity

It is not only processes and machine states but also human performance that can be enhanced with IIoT. Production line workers and operators can be equipped with wearables. Also, they can use various IoT-enabled semi-automated tools to help them streamline workflows and ensure quality. This confluence of human and machine work leads to significantly reduced cycle times.

And now let’s turn to the industry applications:

Asset Tracking

Predictive maintenance is one of those overarching industrial IoT applications. The term is rather vast but ultimately, it can be broken down into manageable blocks. And these include IIoT capabilities such as asset tracking and condition monitoring. Asset tracking comes in a variety of shapes. But the ultimate benefit of such monitoring solutions remains the same: cost reduction, increased transparency, and the possibility to proactively intercept any potential breakdown. 

The possibilities opened up by remotely monitored and controlled connected devices and over-the-air updates have made it feasible for companies to keep track of their industrial devices in the field in real-time. The unprecedented levels of visibility delivered by IoT data allow companies to improve just about any aspect of asset maintenance, from logistics to after-sale support. 

Automated equipment management and monitoring for remote devices are revolutionizing more than one aspect of industrial operations, however. With industrial IoT platforms, the gleaned real-time insights can be stored at a centralized location. This data is compared with historical data and then used across the organization to improve seemingly unrelated processes. Further still, remote IoT device management makes it possible to monitor & control industrial equipment at several locations at once and across geographies.

Condition Monitoring

Continuity, transparency, and efficiency are the primary concerns in industrial, asset-intensive environments. Platforms safeguard these by providing full visibility on the shop floor, access to historical data, and the possibility to proactively change machine behaviour when outliers are detected. In the context of industrial processes, a single malfunctioning piece of equipment can lead to unprecedented disruptions. This can have far-reaching repercussions across the entire value chain. 

And where human inspection used to be the usual way of dealing with machine performance issues, industrial IoT is offering custom solutions that reduce human error, retain an overview of all machine states, and cut costs along the way. 

Industrial IoT technology helps organizations better understand the contexts that lead to machine disruption. Connected devices can be programmed to transmit notifications every time an outlier is discovered within their field of operation. The outcome is improved production processes, cost savings in maintenance, and more efficient handling of resources.

Production Flow & Quality Control

Whole production lines can be monitored and controlled in real-time with the help of recent advances in industrial IoT. This means that operational costs will be reduced and managed better than before. Any unnecessary processes will be removed and the production flow will be tightly controlled, eliminating waste and redundant work. 

Another industrial IoT application is the capacity to monitor the quality of manufactured products across all production stages. Connected devices make it possible to monitor the conditions under which raw materials are processed. Also, they oversee the assembly stage, look into transportation conditions, and manage end-user sentiment upon receipt of the finished product.  This level of visibility helps companies stop issues in the production chain right away. They can implement quality control best practices to ensure product safety, manage risk, and safeguard adherence to standards. 

Combining IoT & AI, organizations can identify hidden opportunities to improve operations and find the root cause of issues that are disrupting processes.

Essentially, the information provided by connected devices can be used to identify the root cause of production failures or quality issues. Advances in AI make it possible to learn from these errors and consistently enhance production flow over time. 

Facility Management

As the majority of machine tools are essential to operational efficiency, it is also important to make sure they are functioning properly in their designated environments and within their predefined parameters. IoT-enabled manufacturing equipment makes it possible to trigger maintenance alerts and send out status notifications, among other predictive maintenance tasks. 

Needless to say, by successfully monitoring the conditions in which machines operate and ensuring quick response times, facility management gets a boost on all fronts. Factory operational costs decrease, space and resources are utilized in the best way, and environmental variables are kept in check. 

Inventory Management

When you have IoT endpoints across the entire supply chain, it gets easier to monitor critical events and manage inventories on a global scale. Again, the high levels of transparency delivered by connected devices provide deep visibility across geographies and help companies get insight into availability, material shortages, estimated product readiness, and delivery timelines. 

This way, inventory management becomes a flexible and responsive process that not simply allows organizations to trace assets in real-time but sets the foundation for truly smart logistics. With sensor data streamed to the cloud and stored in the form of long-term data histories, companies ensure high traceability and a solid audit trail. 

Supply chain logistics software is already tapping into the powers of IoT & artificial intelligence. And once these operations are transferred to an IoT platform, organizations can focus not only on isolated issues such as inventory management but can oversee the big picture of what happens with their assets across departments and manufacturing plants. Industrial IoT systems then truly pave the way towards maximally transparent, fully automated operations that maintain continually optimized workflows.

Supply Chain Management

Industrial IoT applications are already changing supply-chain management as we know it. The results are more traceability and maximum transparency. Here, connected devices help organizations identify blind spots, define the root cause of inefficiencies, manage customer satisfaction, and anticipate losses.  

With the rise of edge computing, the edge data streamed into IoT platforms is now pre-processed, and analyzed in real-time. This guarantees quicker reaction times and better future readiness in the face of unforeseen events. Event reporting and various automated functions enable better responsivity and more flexibility, which leads to increased supply chain resilience. This is especially vital in the case of larger and more complex supply chains where multiple stakeholders and involved and potential disruptions lurk behind every corner. 

Ultimately, IoT-enabled supply chain operations come with better timelines, are better equipped to tackle unforeseen availability issues, manage the flow of materials, and deliver more realistic progress estimates. 

Combining AI with industrial IoT data, organizations can track equipment use, improve workflows, streamline logistics, increase occupational safety, manage entire supply chains, and achieve higher overall efficiency across just about any aspect of current operations. 

Power Management

The levels of automation delivered by industrial IoT platforms help lower energy costs. Further, they alleviate the burden that energy consumption places on operating expenses. IoT-enabled management systems for the manufacturing plant can also tap into reducing energy waste. Equipped with the right kind of IoT app, the connected sensors, actuators, microcontrollers, and industrial equipment make it possible to get a closer look into where and how to save energy, reduce the need for lighting, and even manage utility bills. 

Plant Safety and Security

Combining IoT and AI can improve worker safety and overall plant security. Imagine an IoT platform that continually monitors key parameters related to environment, health, and safety hazards. This way, companies will have a global bird-eye overview of occupational safety hazards across manufacturing plants, the number of injuries over a reporting period, vehicle accidents, or reports of employee sickness rates. Further, companies will be able to detect bottlenecks in health & safety management and improve faster, basing their case on real data. 

Operator Efficiency

IoT-enabled tools can help eliminate human error and guide operators through streamlined workflows. This way, tasks will be accomplished at a greater speed. Operators will be able to focus on more complex assignments. From IoT apps that improve the locatability of tools to whole solutions for connected tooling and workflow management, the combination of IoT and AI can become a game-changer for operator productivity.

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