Future-proofing your factory with IoT

Keeping up with Industry 4.0 using IIoT

In a nutshell, Industry 4.0 stands for the new era of industrial production that is marked by a high level of digitization and automation. Never-before-seen interconnectivity and efficiency is achieved through technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence, and industrial IoT (IIoT). 

Industrial IoT is a set of techs and practices focused on streamlining the traditional production cycle. Every stage from initial product concept to pilot device to mass production is served by smart systems made up of specialized hardware and software. Apart from revolutionizing the manufacturing process on the shop floor, IIoT-enabled production brings about shifts in staffing, supply chain management, product delivery, and overall business strategy.

As the profits in modern industry get more reliant on fast responses to changing trends, IIoT allows businesses to access real-time insights and incorporate data into critical decision-making. 

Let’s look at four key issues that need to be addressed to make your factory smart.

Upgrading factory connectivity

For a smart factory to deliver maximum value, all the devices and equipment on the network need to have non-stop, perfect connectivity, be it short- or long-range. This way operators can operate the machinery from anywhere in the compound, remotely collaborate on tasks, and be alerted about problems in advance. 

Invest enough time and resources into working out a connectivity solution that serves your technical and commercial needs in terms of network topology, connectivity technology, protocols, and security measures. During the deployment, pay close attention to crucial parameters such as noise immunity, coverage, compatibility, energy efficiency, mobility, connection speed, and cost of maintenance. 

Ensuring consistent quality

The use of multiple sensors makes it possible to closely and continuously monitor product quality on the shop floor and beyond. The stream of data can be uploaded to the cloud in real time and processed into insights available to operators via web and mobile dashboards. 

Industrial IoT systems operate with a great level of autonomy, making their own quality paramount. To avoid implementation issues or even equipment damage in the future, you need to follow adequate quality practices, including quality-driven design, comprehensive QA, risk management, and regular solution testing. Collaborate with proven IoT solution providers and carry out independent audits to make sure your product will comply with leading industry standards.

Prioritizing system reliability

The efficiency of an IoT system is directly tied to the availability and integrity of the data transferred between its components. To make sure the data is delivered quickly and in full, have your team focus on increasing system reliability. Available measures range from fault-tolerant network design to data loss prevention software — or even blockchain-based data management. On a physical level, industrial sensors can be used to maintain the optimal environment conditions (temperature, humidity, vibrations, etc.) for safe and reliable performance of your equipment. 

Strengthening industrial security

One of the unintended consequences of introducing IIoT solutions is the expansion of the attack surface in your system. Besides, the physical devices themselves can attract malicious activity. 

To protect your enterprise in this new era of threats, take time to conduct all-encompassing vulnerability analysis, plan out multi-level security measures (such as devices with built-in security, CV-assisted facility monitoring, enhanced biometric authorization, and more), and promote IoT security awareness among your staff. 

Innovation as a habit

The implementation of IIoT and the subsequent shift to Industry 4.0 can sometimes be hindered by legacy technology and an outdated managerial approach. What businesses need to consider is a holistic approach to IIoT that doesn’t shy away from overhauling entire workflows. 

Another important challenge is turning innovation into an integral part of the production cycle. Doing so can help to avoid lagging behind and keep the enterprise stay competitive in the long term.

About the Author

Irina Demianchuk is a Technology Copywriter at Oxagile, a full-cycle software development company. Oxagile’s IoT expertise underpins value-driven Industry 4.0 solutions that help manufacturers to automate their processes end-to-end, from ordering raw materials to production to shipment.

Featured image: ©Monopoly919