IIoT and smart maintenance: are you ready?

When devices communicate with other devices, and they all communicate with the production line, which in turn communicates with other lines, then it won't be long before an entire production chain can become autonomous. Welcome to the Industrial Internet of Things. Are your production facilities ready for this transformation? Take a look at our Industrial Internet of Things quick check, now available for download, and find out how ready your company is for the Industrial Internet of Things and smart maintenance.

As futuristic as it may sound, there are production environments that are comprised of intelligent devices, capable of functioning autonomously, already in existence today. Smart factories are closer than you might think. Indeed, according to the Study German Industry 4.0 Index 2017 published by Staufen AG, 41% of the companies that they interviewed indicated that they had already begun to implement operational IoT pilot projects. Advances in information and communications technologies has made it all possible. Sensors, for example, are now more affordable and more powerful than they were just a few years ago. Different components are now interconnected thanks to wireless internet coverage.


Industrial Internet of Things – why now is the right time to invest in the IIoT

Devices communicate with their production line and notify when they are in need of maintenance. Customers and vendors can work with the system as easily as staff members if required and when authorized. This opens an array of new opportunities along the value creation chain. Furthermore, parts of production can be automated, thus increasing the efficiency of production processes. According to the Industrial Internet of Things Index, this transformative increase in efficiency (in addition to reduced costs and increased transparency) is the main reason why the automotive industry aims to digitalize their production.

A critical shift in the way the world approaches maintenance

It goes without saying that no matter where this far-reaching and transformative change takes place, it will also need to be accompanied by careful consideration when it comes to implementing it. One of the biggest challenges facing companies today is the challenge of how to encourage and promote the shift towards a digitalized working world bearing in mind today's changing work demographics. To be successful, the digital shift requires a qualified workforce who are open to working alongside these new technologies. Only then can the requirements of the new digital age be met. This is the ideal. The reality, however, is very different. According to a study carried out by PwC entitled "Industrie 4.0" , 30% of those interviewed deemed a lack of skilled labor to be the greatest challenge impeding the Industrial Internet of Things.


The new world of today's maintenance  

The more advanced the technology in a production facility, the more difficult it becomes to understand and master that technology. It should come as no surprise that this also affects maintenance. Indeed, over the last few years, the term smart maintenance, has gained a footing throughout this line of work. Advances in facility maintenance, especially in the area of predictive maintenance, hold tremendous potential when it comes to reducing downtime and costs. According to the Industrial Internet of Things Index, two-thirds of those interviewed have established some form of smart maintenance in their production facilities. This transition from traditional maintenance (condition monitoring based) to smart maintenance is underway, however, not everyone is entirely happy about it. It is interesting to note that only 6% of those interviewed said that they were truly content with the current smart maintenance solutions on offer.

Regardless of this, today's maintenance staff are the best people to make the changes necessary to satisfy the higher expectations of the Industrial Internet of Things. This is because, at the end of the day, they are the ones who know how their production facilities work and what their technical capabilities are better than anyone else.


Challenges facing maintenance

Another important factor is the technology behind the scenes. Efficient and smart maintenance requires a large quantity of data, much of it collected by sensors. This data not only needs to be stored, it also needs to be analyzed in real time. An efficient and reliable IT infrastructure is an absolute must. In addition to this, there needs to be a uniform standard for exchanging data. If numerous systems are going to communicate with each other, they will have to "speak the same language". And all the people involved—whether staff members or external personnel—need to be on the same page. Uniform conditions need to be created with regard to technologies used and expertise required.

When it comes to the crunch, everyone needs to know what they need to do. From a technical perspective, this means that device data needs to be managed from a central location, where, in the case of emergencies, normal operations can be quickly restored using a previous error-free version. Reliable data management is therefore the key to good maintenance. So there is still quite a lot to do on the road to smart maintenance and the Industrial Internet of Things.

How does your company compare when it comes to the Industrial Internet of Things? Is your maintenance department ready for the advent of smart maintenance? Why not have a quick look at our Industrial Internet of Things quick check and find out!

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