How to get ROI from IIoT for maintenance applications

Enhanced productivity through smart device monitoring technology can help manufacturers realize a return on investment (ROI) with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

By Nick Schiltz June 16, 2021

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is paving the way for a safer and smarter digital workplace. Digital transformation for maintenance has made it easier to plan than ever. When maintenance needs are scheduled out in advance through early insights into their equipment health, technicians are better equipped to prepare for the task at hand. As opposed to reactive maintenance where the pressure is high to get everything back online as quickly as possible.

IIoT can be defined as, “a network of machines, computers, and people enabling intelligent industrial operations using advanced data analytics for transformational business outcomes.” IIoT uses advances in sensing, communications, cloud, and computing technologies to help reduce costly unplanned downtime by providing an early indication of pending failure and digitally capture human experience in a way that makes it easy to transition expertise from one worker to the next.

Going from reactive to preventive maintenance

Organizations can now deploy smart sensors onto critical assets and utilize continuous vibration and/or temperature monitoring to watch trends and trigger alerts when irregular thresholds are met. For example, wireless sensors can be deployed onto motors and rotating equipment to monitor vibration and temperature. The sensors interpret this data and alert maintenance teams when anomalous behavior is detected. This early warning into an impending equipment failure allows maintenance teams to proactively react as opposed to running to a failure that wasn’t predicted.

Reactive maintenance is defined as any sort of maintenance work scheduled less than 20 hours before execution. During this time, a sense of urgency is created, which contributes to higher risk-taking and less planning. Most injuries occur during a fast-paced reactive maintenance scenario over those that are scheduled out, planned for and executed by a well-equipped team.

Unlike the run-to-failure method, preventive and predictive maintenance methods fall under the proactive maintenance category. Though the preventive and predictive methods share a common category, the principles, strategy, and implementation methods are different and in some cases a bit complex for the predictive tools. A robust and reliable maintenance program will include elements of both preventive and predictive maintenance tools.

With a data-driven approach, organizations have a more productive means of integrating future generations of skilled maintenance personnel by equipping them with the complete history of each critical asset they are tasked with maintaining.

However, one of the main drivers for IIoT technology is it can also be used to replace, or potentially augment, hard-to-find skilled maintenance personnel. Many facilities around the globe are seeing maintenance teams retiring with little more than tribal knowledge left in their wake for the next generation.

College graduates who once would line up to fill these skilled maintenance positions are starting to lean more towards innovative fields and are less inclined to take up maintenance positions. As a result, it’s important for technologies to take up the mantle and allow these organizations to replace some of their skilled maintenance personnel with IIoT technologies.

IIoT promises to reduce downtime especially in the 24/7 world of the industrial space. In most industrial verticals, downtime can be incredibly costly; about $20 billion in terms of lost revenue in process industries alone.1 When there’s legacy equipment that could be upwards of 60 years old still running in a facility, there’s often going to be a constant need for maintenance. If IIoT can eliminate the route-based inspections of that legacy equipment and bring about route prioritization it can have a high value proposition for organizations.

Bringing IIoT to the forefront

Underlying technologies for IIoT are ready for prime time right now. Easy to deploy sensors are now affordable and accessible. The wireless and network communication architectures have been built out to be robust in the industrial environment. Cloud hosting has become pervasive, affordable, and really trusted. These three achievements alone can help organizations build robust and reliable IIoT solutions.

Many facilities have issues with downtime, which is costing their organization lost time and money. They don’t have a huge maintenance budget to counteract the losses they’re seeing in equipment degradation or unexpected failure. Some facilities have issues where they have spent so much money on maintenance that they’ve effectively eliminated their downtime problems.

However, this can be a suboptimal deployment of maintenance dollars as well because companies are spending more than they need to optimize downtime requirements. Hopefully, IIoT can even this balance to where companies spend the appropriate or optimal amount of maintenance dollars to reduce downtime to necessary levels.

IIoT technology is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The decisions that go with it are complex and multifaceted. If companies don’t think through the ramifications of the integration with legacy equipment and the ramifications of a new system with your existing workforce, it likely will lead to worse results from an IIoT rollout if companies lay down the groundwork for network integration.

There is a massive potential for ROI in the automation space for IIoT. It can serve to bring value by reducing unexpected downtime, but it can also be used to help augment the widening gap in the skilled maintenance workforce that’s been created as more and more skilled maintenance personnel are retiring. Above all else, the most important aspect we should value is the safety enhanced through IIoT analytics that provide better planning and a proactive approach to maintenance.

Nick Schiltz is a copywriter for Grace Technologies, a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, web content manager, CFE Media and Technology,

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Reducing Unplanned Downtime and Helping Future-proof Automation System Assets, by Craig Resneck, ARC Advisory Group, August 5, 2016

Author Bio: Nick Schiltz is a copywriter for Grace Technologies located in Davenport, Iowa. The company specializes in electrical safety products and predictive maintenance solutions. During his five years at Grace, Schiltz has published more than 250 blog posts ranging in topics from electrical safety best practices to the future impact of the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) in the industrial space.