The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) holds huge rewards for manufacturing companies from consumer goods makers to petrochemical firms to utilities. Companies, large and small, already are crediting IIoT with hard cost savings and advances in operational efficiency and product quality. This blog will answer frequent questions about IIoT we get from our industrial customers that you also might have.

What Is IIoT Anyway?

Sensor data, machine-to-machine communication, and automation systems have existed in industrial environments for years. IIoT builds on these technologies and bakes smart devices, machine learning, big data, and analytics into the mix.

With additional data sources and better intelligence and analytics embedded into the supply chain, you can adjust your industrial processes in real time. From there, you can expect tangible progress toward improved operational efficiency, return on assets, and profitability. That is the heart and soul of IIoT.

My Production Line Is Working Fine. Why Would I Change Things?

One of the biggest drags on inventory and order flow is unplanned downtime. For example, one hour of downtime for a large turbine powering a production line can cost a company up to $10,000 an hour. To avoid outages, manufacturers take production systems offline for periodic maintenance—needed or not. Not only does this get costly but even planned downtime is disruptive.

Alternatively, some manufacturers are using IIoT for predictive maintenance of factory line equipment. In these situations, a smart sensor attached to an assembly line motor monitors performance and reports on changes, such as temperature or vibration, which may signal failing parts. A proactive repair of the motor could avoid a complete failure and potentially weeks of downtime, costing millions of dollars in lost revenue. Or, it could shave seconds from the assembly line process and help the business fulfill orders and recognize revenue faster.

Such improvements translate into a compelling competitive advantage since the firms embracing IIoT turn out products faster and at a lower cost. That alone is a viable reason to embrace IIoT.

I’m Ready. How Do I Get Started?

Before getting started you need to ask yourself if your infrastructure is ready for IIoT.

Our recommended first step is to look at virtualization technologies to reduce your infrastructure and maintenance costs. The work effort involved in securing virtualized environments is less intensive than existing approaches and they are far easier to update and scale.

The good news is that by virtualizing you can continue running your existing automation systems to minimize your upfront investment. To ensure uninterrupted uptime, a fault-tolerant server that will keep other connected virtual servers running in the presence of a hardware problem is essential. Unlike clustered solutions, fault-tolerant systems are easier to manage and not subject to downtime when failover occurs.

Once you have your IIoT infrastructure in place, you can begin to enjoy the rewards of manufacturing processes that run faster, more cost-efficiently, and reliably than ever before.