Industrial IoT, transforming the way modern warehouses operate

Date: October 4, 2019

Author: Ipshita Biswas

Over the years, much has been discussed about the Internet of Things (IoT) whether it be about its emerging technologies, its impact being felt in every sector, or its ever-increasing number of members (read: connected things). While a significant chunk of this discussion has been about the IoT in the consumer segment, a gradual shift of power is being seen. A nearly equal value is now being assigned to a powerhouse which calls itself Industrial IoT. The IoT market revenue worldwide of $212 billion includes a significant role for the IIoT.

Even though the underlying concept, pertaining to its usage remains the same, there does exist certain points of distinction between a consumer-oriented IoT application and an Industrial IoT application. This article will shed light on some of the key differences, before moving on to the main section of exploring the leading companies utilising IIoT.

IIoT - PathPartner

Figure 1: IIoT - PathPartner

How does Industrial IoT differ from Consumer IoT?

As the standard explanation goes, IoT in general denotes the consumer IoT and IIoT denotes the IoT applications which cater to manufacturing, supply chain management, factory automation, machine safety, etc. For the purpose of being successfully deployed in different environments, applications used in industry have a set of requirements which varies from consumer-based applications. Some of them are as follows:

1. Power Requirements
The primary Industrial IoT application involves some kind of automation aimed at keeping human intervention to a minimum. For this reason, deployment of technicians and field visits are not supposed to be common sights, and that necessitates the use of batteries with the maximum possible durability. Herein comes the use of industrial-grade batteries.
IIoT’s demand for low-power, low-bandwidth operations have given new life to several IoT standards and protocols; like CoAP, LPWAN etc., which have been specifically designed to keep IoT obligations in consideration.
2. Cyber Security Standards
The Internet of Things hasn’t remained immune to cyber vulnerabilities. In the light of Hewlett Packard’s research, which highlights the presence of vulnerabilities in 70% of devices, it becomes all the more important to tighten up the security of IIoT applications. Along with being connected to critical infrastructure, IIoT also involves assimilation of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) systems. This further elevates the need for cybersecurity best practices.
3. Time to market
More often than not, IIoT solutions have to be integrated with an existing system, which might be an old one. This complicates the process, and thus a compete IIoT solution generally requires a longer time to implement than consumer-based solutions. This point will be clearer when we discuss the real-world IIoT applications in the next section.
4. The need to have industrial strength

Certain manufacturing units in factories are known to generate an extreme atmosphere which might not provide a favourable habitat for most of the commonly found devices. That necessitates the crafting of special devices with industrial strength.

By 2020, Discrete Manufacturing, Transportation & Logistics, and Utilities industries are projected to spend $40B each on IoT platforms, systems, and services.

Industrial 4.0 - PathPartner

Figure 2: Industry 4.0 - PathPartner

One important point of distinction between a consumer IoT and an Industrial IoT application is the time it takes to make an impact. The impact of a wearable or smart home appliance is hard to ignore from the moment you start using it. But the same cannot be said of an IIoT application. In fact, the initial period following the fresh deployment of an IIoT device might have a rough, insecure start. But once the full-fledged operation begins, the impact will be reflected in improved efficiency, faster anomaly detection and correction, overall cost reduction, and a lot more.

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A number of leading industries have already adopted IIoT in their respective businesses. The following are some examples:

Airbus, creating a factory of the future

One of the most preferred commercial jetliner makers doesn’t really ever have an easy day in their manufacturing unit. An idea of its gigantic production line can be illustrated by the statement that if Airbus decided to stop taking new orders, it would still take ten years for the company to finish its existing orders. Thus, alongside the humungous task of finishing its orders in time, Airbus is also required to constantly reinvent its manufacturing processes.

Considering the fact that an aircraft’s lifecycle can stretch up to thirty years, bringing in intelligent automation in the industry is like a big ship trying to turn around, it would take a while. Nonetheless, there has to be a starting point. With a plan to create a factory of the future, Airbus has launched a digital manufacturing initiative. To begin with, Airbus has equipped all its workers with wearables, with including industrial-grade smart glasses, and integrated the shop floor tools and machines with sensors. The purpose of this setup is to minimise human error and foster safety within the workplace.

As per reports, this new initiative has already started showing results. In one particular course of action known as cabin-seat marking, the use of wearables has led to a 500% productivity enhancement, and at the same time reducing errors.

Amazon, operating a smart warehouse

One of the top e-commerce giants has warehouses across the world, some of the busiest ship about 40,000 items in a typical day. The holiday season shopping spree pushes this number up to one million a day. This number clearly shows how badly Amazon needs to utilize some kind of automation if they are to keep their operations running smoothly. Luckily, Amazon realised it much sooner and is a frontrunner in running a sophisticated supply chain. Amazon’s purchase of Kiva Systems in 2012 is a proof of the same. Kiva Systems develops automated warehouse robots. These robots are connected via the internet and move around the warehouse to pick up the ordered items, thus replacing human labour.

As of today, Amazon uses around 45,000 robots in 20 of its busiest warehouses, cutting the operational costs by 20%. Amazon is further planning to extend this fleet to its other warehouses. As per estimates, Amazon is expected to save $22 million for each automated warehouse.

Boeing, driving manufacturing efficiency

Tapestry Solutions, a subsidiary of Boeing, has secured a deal to supply its technology agnostic IoT platform to BAE Systems’ manufacturing units. This deal is a part of BAE’s extensive project of automating its entire manufacturing process. Tapestry’s IoT platform is deployed on factory floors, supply chains, and other industrial enterprises to form connections among people, processes, and data. Its technology agnostic nature enables the inclusion of any number of sensors, devices in the system which can be used to monitor and manage assets and workflows.

Boeing has deployed the same IoT platform in at least 50 of its manufacturing sites, going by the name ‘automated identification technology’. As per Tapestry Solutions, this saved Boeing around $100 million in the first year of the deployment5. The assembly time decreased, asset receipt and payment were automated, inventory management was enhanced, and overall quality and safety were improved.

Industrial Automation - PathPartner

Figure 3: Industrial Automation - PathPartner

Hyundai Wui, leading smart factory innovations

The Korean auto parts maker has come up with a manufacturing machine called HW-MNS, which is software designed to monitor the operation status of machines in factories. The primary functions of the software involve real-time monitoring of machine operation status, history and statistics of machine operation, history and statistics of alarm occurrence, history and statistics of work count and remote diagnosis.

Ford, the data-driven factory

Ford’s goal is to use data analytics to improve vehicles and how they are made. In the year 2018, Ford Motor Co. unveiled the interior of its new Advanced Manufacturing Centre. This complex includes 3D printers, collaborative robots (or cohorts), VR and AR simulators, all aimed at improving manufacturing. The AR and VR simulators are meant to enable employees from all over the world to work together in designing production lines and work stations. The cohorts at the manufacturing units are made by Kuka, Universal Robots, and FANUC.

Stanley Black & Decker, enhancing efficiency in a smart way

This American manufacturer of industrial tools and household hardware deployed IoT solutions in one of its largest manufacturing units in Reynosa, Mexico. The purpose is to increase visibility and decrease complexity in the manufacturing processes inside this facility. This vertically integrated production arrangement creates everything from hammer drills to planters.

In order to track every important piece of material effortlessly, Black & Decker deployed a Wi-Fi RFID based RTLS RTLS.

Conclusion

Industrial IoT is much more than what is covered above. Manufacturing is currently the largest IIoT market, and the driving philosophy behind it is that machines fare better than humans when it comes to accurately and consistently acquiring and transferring real-time data. IIoT has become the key component of certain industrial settings like Predictive Maintenance (Pdm), Enhanced Field Service, Energy Management and Asset Tracking.

The industrial internet of things (IIoT) market is predicted to reach $124B in 2021

Reference Sources

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