Manufacturing Internet of Things (MIoT)

  • November 04, 2013
  • Feature

By Bill Lydon, Editor

The time has come for a new acronym. The new high level of communications and computing at end devices is opening the possibilities for holistic and adaptive automation with the goal of increasing efficiency. This is a logical evolution in step with the “Internet of Things” trend and will lead to more responsive and efficient production. The leveraging of Internet and computer technology to improve manufacturing performance is leading to the Manufacturing Internet of Things (MIoT). The term Manufacturing Internet of Things (MIoT) refers to applying Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to manufacturing and includes features unique to industrial applications. The application of the MIoT concept will ultimately improve manufacturing performance and enable better integration with business systems. The concept of all devices connected with IP has been growing over the last number of years and has been described by “Internet of Things” or “Internet of Everything” with roots in Machine to Machine (M2M).

IP to the Edge

The goal of the MIoT is to provide frictionless communications and interaction from manufacturing field I/O (inputs/outputs) including sensors, actuators, analyzers, drives, vision, video, and robotics to achieve increased manufacturing performance and flexibly. This revolution will drive intelligence to the edge with the ultimate goal of all industrial devices supporting IP including field I/O. Wireless IP devices are already being used in manufacturing including smartphones and tablets. The wireless sensor I/O open standards - WirelessHART, ISA100 and WIA-PA - are all IP devices supporting the latest IPv6 standards which leverage larger address spaces and improved cyber security standards.

Manufacturing Integration

Companies have been grappling with the integration of manufacturing and business systems to increase efficiency for a number of years. Enterprise IT has been evolving for years from Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Material Requirements Planning (MRP), Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRPII) and Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) to integrated suites encompassing business functions, supply chain management, asset management, production scheduling and optimization. These systems are becoming real-time, aided by the growing availability and adoption of IP based technologies, making it practical to improve manufacturing performance and return on assets. The task of manufacturing and IT people is to orchestrate the application of new technologies to achieve performance goals.

Architectural Change

The Internet of Things (IoT) and the Manufacturing Internet of Things (MIoT) that leverages this technology can be used to streamline, collapse, and create systems architectures that are more cost effective, responsive, and effective. Consider how smartphones and tablets have shifted applications out to the edge and leveraged cloud-based functions to collapse the system architecture in the middle, making personal computers less relevant. IDC estimates that total PC shipments accounted for 28.7 percent of the smart connected device market in 2012 while tablets accounted for 11.8 percent and smartphones for 59.5 percent. By 2017, total PCs are expected to drop to 13 percent, while tablets and smartphones will contribute 16.5 percent and 70.5 percent, respectively to the overall market. Click here for the full report from IDC.

Likewise, the IP enabled manufacturing automation architecture will distribute more functions into new breeds of powerful industrial controllers eliminating the need for middle level software that is cumbersome, expensive and difficult to maintain. Databases will be distributed and accessible using IP technology and open source software such as Hadoop.  We will see fundamentally new ways of storing and processing data that take advantage of distributed parallel processing. Another piece of this puzzle is smart sensors, actuators, and output devices that perform control themselves. The Fieldbus Foundation’s Control in the Field is the only open standards-based technology for this purpose today but it does not operate on IP based networks. It is not altogether clear if the connection of all field I/O devices using IP technology is the most desirable end point connection method.

Competitive Risk

As these architectures evolve, users have two big risks. The first risk is adopting these technologies before they are proven and suffering through growing pains. The second risk is not adopting them when they are stable and before competitors use them to outperform them in the marketplace. An old, instructive example is how Federal Express, as a startup,  leveraged computing technology including mobile devices, wireless, and bar coding to take business away from established suppliers. They adopted new technology and changed processes to improve performance and flexibility. When transformational changes occur, the companies that embrace the shift will outpace their competition and thrive.

Worldwide Innovation

My view is that the creative and innovative application of automation is essential for manufacturing companies to survive. Low labor cost is not a long term winning manufacturing strategy.

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