Manufacturing’s new arrival: What to expect

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is poised to change manufacturing and there are several things manufacturers should expect to happen.


The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will spark a plant floor revolution. Here's how to get ready for it. Courtesy: CFE MediaWhen you first tell people you're going to be a parent, everyone is immediately excited for you. The mere fact that you've decided to tell people means you've gotten over the initial shock yourself, and are now ready to share that excitement.

As you share the news, the first question people ask you is, "What are you having?" and the second question is, "What are you going to name it?"

Well, manufacturing is expecting a revolution. Our only problem now is what to name it. Seriously, that seems to be the biggest stumbling block to moving forward with what I will call the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Others like the term Industrie 4.0—most of those people are German. Still others prefer Smart Manufacturing or Digital Factory. It seems as if it has to be something catchy yet global while still fully conveying the idea of how we will connect and manage the flood of data pouring out of our plant floor machines. Some forward-thinking manufacturing experts are already considering industry standards for IIoT, even though we can't even standardize the name.

As Greg Gorbach of ARC Advisory Group notes in this month's issue, "These concepts are clearly moving past the hype stage to the point where real solutions are emerging backed by strong associated business cases. The other thing we notice is that none of these terms is particularly good."

The name is not the revolution, of course. The revolution is in how we think about what actually happens on our plant floor. Fueled by better data, and driven by better management of that data, the manufacturing revolution deserves your attention, your understanding, and your investment.

It's not just an investment of dollars, although that will inevitably be a part of the process. We will have to invest time, and we will have to invest in our people. The biggest issue with IIoT is not our ability to capture data or synthesize data in new ways. It's all really just slicing up a database in new ways. The real key to IIoT is what people will do with that synthesized data.

One question I've already received is whether IIoT is real, or just some marketing hype. They noted we've had Internet connectivity for a long time, and wireless connectivity followed. "What we've needed was already there," a reader said.

True enough. Think of all of that connectivity as a car. IIoT provides you with GPS for that car to give you a roadmap of where's you're going, and how to get precisely where you want to go faster and safer. It doesn't build you a new road; it just makes the road you're traveling easier to navigate.

Some of us are better drivers than others, but all of us can benefit from better information. We want to know when the car is overheating, when the tire pressure is low, and when we're running low on fuel. We need to know this information before it becomes a problem. That's what IIoT will deliver.

We have miles to go on this journey, though. Plant Engineering will spend the next 18 months building articles, videos, and multimedia content around IIoT—what it is, what it does, what it can do, and what the benefits can be. It begins with this issue and will continue throughout our coverage in the coming months. We've launched a series of webcasts to help explain IIoT and educate readers on its potential. It will be part of our presentations at Hannover Messe in April 2016 and at the Industrial Automation North America (IANA) event at IMTS in Chicago in September 2016.

We'll be looking beyond the theory of IIoT to those manufacturers who are implementing IIoT in some way today. We'll be on the front lines of IIoT implementations around the country and around the world to examine this revolution and how it can improve manufacturing.

Bob Vavra, content manager, Plant EngineeringThat's the goal, after all. What has people excited about the Industrial Internet of Things, and what is compelling about this Fourth Industrial Revolution is not just the change, but how that change will make manufacturing more productive, more efficient, and more responsive at a time when all parts of our world are accelerating. In an age of single-lot manufacturing and drone delivery, the pressure will grow on manufacturers to be not just better, but faster as well. IIoT is a wonderful thing, but it will complicate your life. Just like any new arrival, though, you don't focus on the complications; you focus on the possibilities and the future.

When you first tell people that you're expecting a baby, they ask you what you're having and what the name will be. No one asks, "How will this make your life better?" They just know it will. But that's an individual discovery.

- See additional stories about the IIoT and Industry 4.0 linked below.

Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
October 2018
Tools vs. sensors, functional safety, compressor rental, an operational network of maintenance and safety
September 2018
2018 Engineering Leaders under 40, Women in Engineering, Six ways to reduce waste in manufacturing, and Four robot implementation challenges.
GAMS preview, 2018 Mid-Year Report, EAM and Safety
October 2018
2018 Product of the Year; Subsurface data methodologies; Digital twins; Well lifecycle data
August 2018
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, programming cavity pumps
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
October 2018
Complex upgrades for system integrators; Process control safety and compliance
September 2018
Effective process analytics; Four reasons why LTE networks are not IIoT ready

Annual Salary Survey

After two years of economic concerns, manufacturing leaders once again have homed in on the single biggest issue facing their operations:

It's the workers—or more specifically, the lack of workers.

The 2017 Plant Engineering Salary Survey looks at not just what plant managers make, but what they think. As they look across their plants today, plant managers say they don’t have the operational depth to take on the new technologies and new challenges of global manufacturing.

Read more: 2017 Salary Survey

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
Research Analyst Blog
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Material Handling
This digital report explains how everything from conveyors and robots to automatic picking systems and digital orders have evolved to keep pace with the speed of change in the supply chain.
Electrical Safety Update
This digital report explains how plant engineers need to take greater care when it comes to electrical safety incidents on the plant floor.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
Design of Safe and Reliable Hydraulic Systems for Subsea Applications
This eGuide explains how the operation of hydraulic systems for subsea applications requires the user to consider additional aspects because of the unique conditions that apply to the setting
click me