The power of data
By gathering real-time data from every machine, production space and warehouse alongside design, research and quality assurance data, management teams get a clear look into the exact process phases and bottlenecks that the product goes through – from design to shipment. But this is just one side of the cyber physical network, most of this optimization happens completely autonomously and without any intervention.
This is done by the smart use of edge and fog computing networks which connect hundreds of sensors and modules. The data is processed at the edge level and important information is sent to the cloud or central network for monitoring. Most tasks can be performed autonomously at the fog or edge level close to the machines or modules it connects to (for more on edge computing see here).
Industrial IoT however, does much more than that. Besides optimizing the product manufacturing process, the cyber physical network controls the energy used throughout production, by controlling the exact amount of energy needed for each process and recycling access energy.
Another important advantage offered by 4IR is a further stage in distancing physical human interaction from the production line. Workers can take another step back, moving the focus of human intervention to quality control, management and technical support. A fully implemented cyber physical system allows for a much safer environment for company employees, and drastically cuts back on the possibility for human error.
II. Infrastructure & Harsh Conditions
As Industry 4.0 is a wide concept, so too are the elements encompassed by it. Optimizing production lines is great, but what about other industries such as logging, oil, logistics, transport or infrastructure? Turns out Industrial IoT has endless solutions up its sleeve providing a safer and more efficient working environment.
For example a few months ago I came across a company designing an AR headset for service engineers working on electrical infrastructure, construction sites or oil rigs. These dangerous and unpredictable environments are real safety hazards for even the most experienced workers. The AR solutions offered the engineers a simple way to optimize their work, allowing them to easily communicate with expert teams on the ground, and making their work faster, more secure and much more precise – so cutting back on the time they needed to be in the harmful environment.
This is just one example for a wide variety of solutions that incorporate an automated aspect and connect to a network for management and monitoring. Other examples could include incorporating drones for surveillance, automated climate control for harsh environments, smart safety and security modules, and so on.
III. Real-Time Usage Data (perfecting UX/UI)
The last piece of the puzzle is only applicable for a number of industries and markets, and it’s a real game changer. This is access to usage data in real-time accessible by UI/UX and management teams at the company, so bottlenecks can also be optimized at the user level. For example, if the lifespan of all parts in a car is statistically 15 years, but a chip in the A/C system has a statistical lifespan of 40 years, then it makes sense to install a cheaper chip – thus cutting back on the car price without harming its usability or general lifespan.
Another example could be a dish washer marketed to a country with a unique water chemical composition, under those specific conditions the temperature affects the components in a different way so adjustments must be made to accommodate a scenario that would have been hard to test in advance.