Although intangible assets of a business such as brand and know-how make up the majority of a business’s value, physical assets, can collectively add up to a huge proportion of a business’s capital investment. As such, it makes commercial sense to try and maximise the return on investment (ROI) of your assets – from basic sensors right the way through to highly complicated manufacturing equipment.
First, let’s consider what ‘maximising ROI’ really means. It covers a number of different areas. It includes making sure that each asset is operating to the highest level of performance possible. It includes ensuring that each asset remains operational for as long as possible before it needs to be repaired or replaced. And it involves making those repair and replacement processes as efficient as possible, so that the time and money spent on them is minimised.
With the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), all of these assets collect data and analyse it locally or transmit it, via Internet like capabilities, to a centralised engine for analysis. The IIoT therefore has an integral role to play in maximising the value of your assets and here’s how.
The IIoT can enable individual assets to perform at the highest possible level by identifying trends in supply, demand and performance and then making automated adjustments off the back of that intelligence. For example, you might learn to predict a particular period of heavy activity, and be able to turn on a machine ahead of time, ensuring that it is warmed up and ready to perform at maximum capacity from when its needed.
In industrial settings, no physical asset sits in isolation. They are linked together in complex webs and process flows, particularly in manufacturing businesses. The IIoT can help ensure that all of these interactions are structured in the most efficient way possible. For example, it can help you identify common process bottlenecks and mitigate them, or it can ensure that when one asset fails, you can quickly identify the most effective way of working around the issue.
By learning more about the dependency relationships between your physical assets, you can make more strategic decisions about where to place new assets, or where to move existing ones, alleviating the pressure on your most hardworking machinery.
Everyday tasks like measuring temperature or levels of consumables like oil and water are essential to keep physical assets running smoothly. However, they are time-consuming to carry out manually and mistakes will always be made. The IIoT can automate this everyday maintenance, and ensure that tiny problems are identified and fixed before they become bigger.
On the rare occasion that a serious problem does occur and a physical asset needs to be taken offline for a repair or even a replacement, the IIoT has several roles to play. First, it can help maintenance engineers to rapidly identify and isolate where on the network the problem is occurring – this is particularly useful in remote or geographically dispersed organisations, such as in smart grids. Second, the data the IIoT generates in terms of day-to-day operations and performance trends can help managers to choose the most appropriate time of day or even week or month to take the asset offline, and how to re-route processes in the least disruptive way possible.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is one of the most transformative trends of recent years. By integrating and blending the physical and the digital, it fundamentally alters the spatiality of manufacturing environments. Monitoring and management of physical assets can take place centrally and remotely. Physically disparate machines and equipment can nevertheless be bound closely together, through intricate webs of information sharing. The IIoT can make organisations smarter, more strategic and more efficient.
All this sounds wonderful – but it can also sound like hype. The IIoT is transformative, yes – but that also means that it has been discussed in more breathless terms than most other forms of business technology. It is a hugely dynamic field, yes – but that also means that it can be difficult to differentiate between concrete reality and hyperbole.
And yet making these differentiations is crucial for organisations who suspect that the IIoT may be of benefit to them – but what do you need to build a solid business case for investing in such technology? How do you build a compelling business case for the IIoT?