See IIoT in Action With Critical Use Case Examples

Explore the value of a well-automated IIoT control system

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is the vast network of devices, machines, software, and hardware that facilitates a seamless connection across industrial operations to boost productivity and reduce waste. Industry experts suggest that this emerging technology sector will provide unprecedented opportunities for virtually every industry and enterprise. A critical factor in a successful IIoT deployment is the control of all of its elements. This is our second of six articles showcasing the value of a well-automated IIoT control system.  

ICA Engineering develops and implements industrial automation systems that are customized to meet their customers’ exact specifications. A well-designed and installed IIoT automated control system allows those customers to come closer to achieving their overarching operational goals, including reducing waste and unnecessary expenses, improving efficiencies, and boosting productivity. It also helps them attain organization-specific objectives, such as streamlining supply chains, enhancing logistics, and speeding up product deliveries.  

The examples below demonstrate just three of the many pivotal use cases for a well-orchestrated IIoT automated control system. 

Systems Monitoring

It’s easier (and less expensive) to prevent system failures than to repair and recover from them. IIoT devices offer unmatched and precise alerting capacities to ensure that your organization is never surprised by system or component breakdowns. 

IIoT sensors embedded into machines can perform many functions that humans can’t do themselves, such as monitoring how a system and its components are functioning. Developers design sensors to track and record the effectiveness and efficiency of both device and system operations. The resulting reports provide a real-time account of the appliance’s activities and outputs. Further, because sensors are often tiny, they can be placed where humans can’t reach and record actions that humans can’t see or touch. Within the collective IIoT configuration, information collected and shared by sensors is transmitted in a continuous, coordinated stream of data, keeping human overseers updated on industrial endeavors, including when components are at risk of failing or have already failed. 

When the sensor detects that a system element is faltering or reaching the end of its serviceable life, it will send an SMS text or other type of notification to appropriately designated technicians, alerting them to the concern as it occurs. The worker can then intervene to address the challenge before it becomes more significant and damaging. These alerts are issued in real-time and facilitate remote work, so the nearest responder always receives the first alert. IIoT programming will maintain an active alert status throughout the responder chain until someone indicates the matter is managed.     

Regulation Compliance 

A fully implemented IIoT strategy can also help companies comply with industry regulations. ICA Engineering develops its industrial automation systems to record and report the details specifically called for by sector rules, so users can both assert their compliance with those rules and also produce the documentation needed to prove it.  

The process is accomplished through a combination of both ethernet and wireless connectivity. Where necessary, hard cabling (ethernet connections) connect sensors to automated programming. Wireless sensors are installed in machinery to monitor activities and then transmit that data back to the control panel. For example, ICA Engineering can easily retrofit a tank farm terminal with an automated IIoT sensor system using these connections. Previously, such a process would have been expensive and required hardwiring to all control panels and all sensors. The upgraded wireless system monitors the tank farm infrastructure’s safety while significantly reducing electricity costs. Overseeing technicians can track both function and compliance factors through the automated control panel.

Enhanced Efficiencies

Many companies are evolving or have already developed their infrastructure to embrace the benefits of IIoT and its automated system controls. Global heavy machinery industry leader Caterpillar sets an excellent example of how sensors, machines, and programming have revolutionized the performance and profitability of its 1.2 million deployed connected assets (~25% of its global volume of Catt® products). As an added bonus, the heavy-duty construction and transport company is also enhancing the satisfaction of its millions of customers worldwide.

Data Collection

Caterpillar maintains three primary components in its data collection system. 

  • Function detectors collect information regarding the functioning and relative health of the Cat® asset (truck, appliance, or other types of Caterpillar construction machinery). The technology tracks GPS locations, fuel usage, engine temperatures, and more as the machine performs its work in the field.

  • The data streams wirelessly into local computer servers and processors, which then clean and integrate it in preparation for analysis.

  • Wireless transmission channels and networks then send the field intelligence to the users who need it, programmed to respond to a person’s unique role, whether as the construction foreman on site or the finance office tracking expenditures.      

In the field, Caterpillar sorts its equipment information into two database buckets. One database tracks the functioning of each machine and alerts when something is awry (low tire pressure or some form of engine trouble, for example). The other records the readout of the day’s productivity — how well the machine and the machine’s systems are performing their work.     

Business Intelligence

The head office uses its data for other purposes. It relies on the field-based data to better understand how its fleet functions and to send an alert when challenges appear. Issues arising in one machine may also indicate a problem with that particular system in other devices. The aggregated data across sectors can reveal trends that suggest more than just one machine might be failing. Outreach about a problem to potentially affected customers allows them to make repairs before they experience any damage or loss. Caterpillar sees its connected fleet as its most valuable asset and will continue investing in these emerging technologies to maintain that consistently high quality.    

The ultimate goal of the IIoT and its automated industrial controls is to scale down the necessity of human intervention in production and manufacturing processes. In pursuit of that objective, it also reduces costs and improves both quality and performance values. ICA Engineering experts can help you understand how this cutting-edge technology can enhance your organization’s productivity. Give them a call today.

Keep an eye on this blog: in our next article, we will explain the difference between IT and OT and how they work in conjunction with the IIoT.  

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