Advances in Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Industry 4.0 are transforming the industrial automation world in a big way. Significant increases in data collection and big data analytics are happening at the edge—whether on the factory floor or more remote sites—often far away from data centers and specialized IT staff. With real-time feedback, local operators can make small adjustments to help production lines run faster and more efficiently and prevent failures.

These topics were explored in depth during a recent webinar, “How to Jump-Start your Industrie 4.0 and IIoT Strategy,” hosted by Automation World and John Fryer, senior director of industry solutions for Stratus Technologies. Here are some highlights from the webinar that may answer some of your questions about smart manufacturing and IIoT:

1) Why should I modernize now? No longer simply a vision, smart manufacturing is starting to deliver considerable gains to businesses across a wide range of industries. IIoT is basically an extension of time-honored industrial automation principles that focus on improving production quality, consistency, efficiency, and reliability. In fact, one of our customers, a gas pipeline company, saved $10 million by eliminating downtime with predictive maintenance.

2) I’m ready to dip my toe into IIoT, but do I need a major rip and replace? Definitely no. The flexibility of cloud and virtualization will help you phase in IIoT one step at a time and allow you to capture measurable improvements before moving to the next stage. In fact, we recommend starting with an IIoT pilot to help define the benefits, skillsets, and time frames for future phases.

Once you’ve identified where you want to apply IIoT first and identified expected KPIs, then you need to plan and deploy an IT solution for your control infrastructure. We recommend these technologies and best practices to ensure you’re getting the biggest bang for your budget dollars:

1) Embrace a solution with built-in virtualization. It will make everything so much simpler and more cost effective to manage, deploy, protect and scale your data and applications. It also will streamline the ability to connect to the cloud for sharing data across the enterprise.

2) Choose a solution that prevents downtime while providing fast recovery and protection against data loss. That means integrated redundancy, automated services, and remote monitoring so that data streaming from your sensors, PLCs, or other devices will be available always.

3) For optimal TCO, look for a solution that integrates easily with your existing environment. Critical to IIoT is communication and interoperability between your automation and IT systems, and the ability for applications to scale easily across both environments.

4) Operational simplicity is a must. Systems should be pre-configured, so operational technology teams can get them up and running in an hour. IT administrative tasks should be automated and happen in the background.

Intrigued?