The latest trends in Industrial Internet of Things and how they will shape operational performance for manufacturing

In all businesses, it is important to strategically change and adapt with technology. What at first will delight your customers will soon become the baseline expectation.

Remaining stagnant is one of the easiest ways to find your organisation falling behind. Time alone turns an innovative idea like online banking into a service we simply assume is par for the course.

The Industry Internet of Things (IIoT) is becoming a reality for businesses worldwide. We’ve taken a look at the top 3 trends and how they will impact operational performance.

1. Classical machine learning and modern machine learning

IoTHub categorises classical machine learning, as where “data drives the selection of the algorithm. It allows us to use the data with different techniques, separate the data into validation, training and test data to figure out if the model we’ve trained works well with unseen data.”

This kind of learning still has a place in manufacturing operations because it allows programmers a level of control, as the machine provides data and analytics according to the parameters set.

However, there is also an exciting new development in this technology, known as modern machine learning. This is where the technology organically learns from the processes.

Oliver Schabenberger the executive VP of SAS’s research and development division and recently appointed CTO, told IoT Hub how excited he is by this technology:

“What really interests me is ‘modern machine learning’, where algorithms are not explicitly programmed to do anything. The algorithms actually acquire skills and learn tasks when the algorithm is exposed to data. It also promises automation. You can do things without deep domain knowledge, such as develop a fraud model without requiring people that have studied credit card fraud or debit card fraud, for example.”

Forbes notes that if manufacturers can leverage the full benefit of this technology, the impact on the bottom line could be revolutionary, “[this technology] has the potential to improve yield rates at the machine, production cell, and plant levels.”

2. The evolving customer and the smart warehouse

SolomoIT report that the client-business relationship is evolving and IIoT will be more important over the coming years to ensuring a superior customer experience.

As technology becomes more sophisticated, customer needs change and as such, it is imperative that businesses ensure they are harnessing technology to provide a level of service that aligns with the demands of the market.

To provide customers with a quicker, more agile or cheaper service, businesses must be looking at how they can improve costs, while maintaining product quality and consistency of service – not an easy feat.

Amazon’s smart warehouse

A company that is leading the field in this area is Amazon. Not only are they collating data from their customers, their processes and products, but they are fanatical about leveraging that data to keep pushing to make sure their customer service is of the highest quality.

In fact, customer experience is so entrenched in their business model, that the New York Times reports that when new employees start work at Amazon they are told to forget everything they’ve ever learnt about customer service. In their 14 point company mission, number one is: “relentlessly striving to please [our] customers.”’

Amazon have harnessed IIoT interconnectivity to create a smart warehouse “with the world’s most nimble infrastructure.” Amazon uses robotics, self-driving vehicles and drones to ensure that their products get to their customers with speed and accuracy. (With drones they are hoping to get delivery times down to only a few hours).

Another example of how Amazon use technology to encourage optimisation are their robotic shelves. The shelves ensure the space is used as efficiently as possible. The technology also allow human warehouse workers to conserve their energy.

Before implementation, human workers would walk the equivalent of several miles each day stacking and picking. Now the robotic shelves move on their own accord. The picking speed has risen 2-3 times faster as a result of the robotic shelves.

Even though Amazon is a giant, harnessing IIoT technology to transform user experience is not exclusive to billion dollar companies. Given that the technology is starting to become more accessible and widespread, manufacturing operations of all sizes are seeing the benefits of strategically adopting technology, even incremental implementations can have a transformative effect on your ROI.

Australia and IIoT

In Australia there are a number of big organizations leading the way in the IIoT space. Among them is a major soft-drink manufacturing company who wanted to streamline their batch scanning process and reduce costs without sacrificing functionality.

Before approaching Nukon, the soft-drink company spent $80,000 on barcode scanners, working out to be $5,000 per scanner. In addition to the scanners, there was also the cost of maintaining a PLC to communicate with the SAP and confirm via the network whether the scanned item was on the bill of materials.

After Nukon helped streamlined processes with their current technology, the soft-drink company asked what they could do to bring bring down the cost of scanning batches of product.

After consultation, Nukon suggested trialling a prototype design, which relies on the third trend of IIoT - System on a chip.

3. System on a chip

System on a chip (SOC) is an exciting new development that leverages highly adaptable hardware which has condensed basic computer components onto a small chip. It’s costs, compared to previous technology, is much cheaper. Each scanner is $500, without the need for additional PLCs or other networking devices, so given the cost had been $5000 per scanner, the potential of this technology is very exciting.

Nukon Principal Consultant Damian Jolley said “This type of technology is just starting to take off in Australia, so the key components will depend on leveraging cheaper hardware and thinking outside the box. Which we are doing.”

The soft-drink company immediately saw possibilities of the innovation and decided to onboard it.

Nukon also implemented the standard SOC interface which includes USB ports, an attachable camera and also includes network capabilities to trial run a more intuitive, intelligent barcode scanner.

Although this technology is still nascent, the soft-drink company are excited by how it could transform their operations. Given its potential to reduce costs, while increasing utility and functionality, the question that begs to be asked is, what other systems could be streamlined through SOC technology?

The Industrial Internet of Things is already here and businesses of all sizes can take advantage of the technology to overhaul their processes and products.

Nukon has been working with manufacturing businesses to embrace IIoT, connect their systems or help their connected systems talk to each other better. The possibilities are very exciting and the best thing? We’re only at the beginning of the IIoT revolution.

Would you like to know how your team can harness the potential of IIoT technology to create better products and processes? Speak to our team to see if Nukon can help you improve operational performance in your business.

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Topics: Manufacturing