Operational efficiency is key to the success of any small business, and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) essentially helps you achieve that by turning your offline processes to online through a connected environment. Instead of your local SCADA system that collects performance data offline, IIoT gives you more flexibility, connecting your machines to the internet, making it easier to access critical performance data in real-time from anywhere, on any device. With a more modular infrastructure, the opportunity for modbus support, and modularity with analog sensors provides a better alternative for connectivity in a wider range of applications.
In this article we’ll cover:
- Best practices to successfully implement IIoT
- How to Make a smooth transition
- Understanding your requirements and selecting vendors
1. Best practices to successfully implement IIoT
If you're planning to bank on the benefits offered by an IIoT setup, follow these best practices so that a connected environment helps you achieve more with the data you really need. Establishing clear completion criteria for your implementation will also improve success by avoiding “data overload,” and setting realistic response time expectations with stake holders.
- Going overboard with data:
Data remains at the core of the small business IIoT setup. When starting, you might get tempted to collect every bit of data to create a comprehensive database. However, too much data and a high frequency of data collection can have a negative effect, and you'll be left with a massive database with a ton of irrelevant data. You'll eventually find it challenging to analyze and interpret such volumes of data, leading to delays in decision-making.
The best way to approach data gathering is to collect only the information that is relevant to your process and measurement. For example, there is no point in sending temperature reading every minute if there is no significant change in the value.
- Expecting instant response:
When designing and implementing the IIoT application, you must understand the limitation of the platform and have realistic expectations out of it. The real-time data update is certainly possible, but it is nowhere instant. The response time depends on the edge computing capabilities in place.
The IIoT setup must be capable to not only collect data from the new sensors added after the implementation but also remain compatible with the existing equipment.
- Data management:
As already discussed, the sensors you employ are going to generate data, and the more devices you have, the more will be the data inflow. Hence, data management should be the top priority for an IIoT application. With tight control over data, your IIoT setup remains effective as well as efficient.
- Data traceability:
The data collected must also be traceable. In other words, you must have a clear idea of when the data was recorded, which device it came from, and additional relevant information that allows you to pinpoint the data source accurately.
- Data integrity:
Data loss is a real challenge in IIoT due to the harsh environments the sensors have to work in. For data integrity, it is essential to set up a robust infrastructure in the first place. Take the necessary steps to set up data recovery options so that lost data can be retrieved.
2. Making a smooth transition is key
Going from a traditional offline setup to an online one where you can monitor different processes through sensors involves many dependencies. And, based on the business size, the transformation process can become even more challenging and complex.
The suggested way to transition to an IIoT-enabled environment is to create three implementation phases. The first being the Requirements phase, this should be for understanding the data points. Next, the deployment phase, and the last phase is for optimization: learning from your insights and making improvements.
Run a proof-of-concept first to identify processes that you can optimize with IIoT and measure the outcome. A validated concept will not only help you establish a roadmap for full-scale implementation but will also provide a better understanding of the timeline and cost.
3. Understanding your requirements and selecting vendors
Make sure you do your research before finalizing the vendor for your IIoT equipment. Here are some of the points you should consider when selecting the vendor.
- Ease of integration: Integration can become a headache if there are many instructions to follow. Look for vendors that offer plug and play sensors that are easy to integrate.
- Data assurance and security: Make sure to verify that the devices you purchase have all the security measures to ensure proper data capturing, relaying, and processing. Also, find out how good the devices are when it comes to data traceability and recovery.
- Support and training: Look for a vendor that offers reliable support and training materials to help you through the integration process.
- Long term viability: A connected environment will likely require scaling over time as you install new equipment or implement new processes. Selecting a vendor that offers solutions for the breadth and depth of IoT applications will ensure peace of mind as you look forward to gaining more out of your IIoT setup.
When can I see the results?
Expecting positive results once you implement IIoT for your small business is dependent on several variables. However, you should start seeing the benefits of switching from a manual mode of data collection to an automated one within a few months. Although, more complex results such as predictive analysis and AI monitoring across multiple data sets for process improvement need more time.
However, these results only matter if you are clear on the business goals you want to achieve with the IIoT implementation. IIoT is not just an efficient way to collect data; the real value lies in the potential of doing more with that data. An IIoT setup lets you understand the data trends, allows you to control your processes and introduces invaluable insights to identify performance bottlenecks.
As such, when implementing an IIoT setup for your small business, you must first understand 'WHY' you need to collect the data and build a business case around it to see the results that matter the most for your business.