Changing consumer preferences and increased customization, volatile markets, shorter shelf spans and product lifecycles, and hyper-convergence of marketplaces are placing immense pressure on manufacturing companies.
As manufacturers embrace digitalization in the hope of curbing rising costs and improving ROI, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) promises new process efficiencies and cutting-edge technological advancements that will increase profitability and shop floor productivity. This paper explores some of the challenges manufacturers face in implementing IoT, and highlights how 5G networks can help them overcome these limitations to reap the benefits of automation, artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR) and IoT.
Five impediments to the adoption of Industrial IoT
According to statistics, the industrial IoT market is expected to grow to USD 105.4 billion by 2025. While manufacturing has the maximum potential for IoT, adoption is currently limited due to various constraints. Startups and smaller firms are nimble and robust and can embrace IoT faster as compared to established manufacturing firms. Larger organizations are more complex and diverse with geographically dispersed units, and need more time and effort in bringing it all together with IoT.
Let us understand better the various challenges limiting the adoption of IoT in the manufacturing segment.
1. Overcoming hardware incompatibility
Most large-scale production units have legacy systems and equipment that are not easily compatible with new age networking technology. A typical manufacturing set up will have physically separated wired networks for Operations Technology (OT), Information Technology (IT) and Security. While the usage of wireless technologies has gone up significantly for IT systems inside the plant, only a small percentage of the manufacturing plants have partially adopted wireless technologies and converged networks for OT and security systems.
IT is more evolved and has well-established frameworks and guidelines for network while OT is still under evolution looking at converged networks inside plants. Information convergence and data sharing across these individual set-ups is an issue as they are not easily interoperable. According to the IoT Nexus survey, 77% of IoT professionals stated interoperability as the biggest challenge in the Industrial Internet. Operational costs of equipment maintenance and IT refresh costs are extremely high, prohibiting manufacturers from easily embracing IoT. The normal infrastructure refresh cycle in production plants is an average of 7 to 9 years and plant owners typically need to wait for the next infrastructure refresh to overhaul their systems and technology. Adding to the refresh complexity is the fact that the vendors for each of these networks are also selling varied and different solutions, making integration challenging.
2. Installing IoT sensors
In most manufacturing setups, equipment including motors, sensors, pumps etc., are governed by SCADA, MES, PLM systems, which determine how the machines are configured onto the network. These systems also govern the sharing of information and data captured by individual machines. While the machinery and equipment in a manufacturing unit have an average lifespan of 30 years, the intelligence associated with the technology has evolved significantly over a few years and can be put to good use. However, collecting the data and intelligence will require installation of additional IoT sensors and the cost of installation and connectivity is a major issue. Without these IoT sensors, data, analytics, AI, preventive and cognitive analysis that is possible with IoT, isn’t available to the business.
3. Conquering traditional mindsets
Traditional manufacturers are still hesitant to embrace new technology and upgradations to existing processes. As they remain extremely focused on managing routine business operations at their plants, many of these manufacturers lack complete understanding of the benefits of embracing IoT technology, and the difference it can make to their business. Most manufacturers look for upfront proof of value on what IoT can deliver for their business, before they take the leap of faith and implement IoT, as the barriers to implementation are high. Those who do realize the benefits, lack the budgets or technical expertise to integrate IoT into their business operations.
4. Solving connectivity issues
Ensuring the right IoT connectivity protocol is critical to successful IoT implementation in manufacturing. Modern production units frequently use Wi-Fi technology to enable IoT connectivity. However, it remains an area of concern as Wi-Fi networks need reliable and stable power connection, and consume lots of electricity. Range, data rate, bandwidth, scalability are all impacted with Wi-Fi usage for Industrial IoT and therefore, it is not a feasible long-term solution for manufacturers looking to digitize and automate their operations. Bluetooth and RFID have even smaller ranges, but are viable alternatives for select use cases only and need backhaul for wider coverage. Other wireless technologies like 2G/3G/LTE also have high battery consumption and Quality of Service issues, while LPWAN technologies like LORA/SIGFOX have good range and low power requirement but latency, reliability and Quality of service issues remain.
5. Ensuring data security and privacy
The manufacturing industry, including automotive, electronics and pharmaceuticals, is the second most hacked industry according to IBM’s 2016 Cyber Security Intelligence Index. While these businesses hold precious and path-breaking consumer data, they have not concentrated enough on cybersecurity to protect their intelligence and data. Increasingly, with the adoption of IoT, manufacturers are now seeking secure networks and technology that will safeguard their business intelligence from data theft and cyber-attacks.
Industrial 5G: The wireless network of the future
Industry 4.0 marks the shift from legacy systems to connected technologies, ushering in smart factories of the future. Leveraging IoT-enabled connected devices, sensors, edge computing, self-healing networks, robotics and automation will help these futuristic factories make more informed, decentralized decisions, improving overall equipment and process efficiency. However, connectivity is the bedrock of Industry 4.0. Industrial networks will need a stable, secure and fast connection to capture and process data in real-time for plant and equipment monitoring and maintenance.
5G is expected to provide last-mile connectivity by providing the speed, reliability, capacity and mobility that manufacturers require for successful IoT implementation.
Use cases of 5G-powered IoT in manufacturing
5G’s high capacity, wireless flexibility and low-latency performance heralds a new era for the manufacturing segment. It promises to mitigate many of the challenges listed in the article, enabling high speed connectivity without the cost and complexity of fiber optic cables, making it a natural choice for high precision manufacturing environments.
Industrial 5G: The wireless network of the future
- IIoT ready
- Supports trendsetting applications
- Private local wireless network
- Ultra-high reliability
- Very low latency
- Machine type communication
- Millimeter wave support for higher frequency range
Here are five use case families that represent a different subset of stringent requirements along manufacturing and supply chain
- Factory automation – Motion control, control to control, mobile robots etc.
- Process automation – Streamline production process with low energy and improved safety
- Human-Machine Interface (HMI)
- Logistics and warehouse
- Monitoring and maintenance
Each of these use case categories include multiple use cases (Refer Figure 1), and further get classified based on criticality of specific functions:
- Time-critical process optimizations – Leveraging the integration of massive sensing technologies including 3D scanning technologies, adoption of wearables, and collaborative robots in closed-loop control systems will help promote zero-defect manufacturing, increased efficiencies, worker satisfaction and safety.
- Non time-critical optimizations - Given the highly metalized and harsh industrial environments, indoor coverage and high availability are key requirements to increase flexibility, eco-sustainability and operational efficiency.
- Remote maintenance and control - Integration of 3D virtual reality will help optimize cost of operation while increasing uptime. This, however, requires increased capacity to facilitate video-supported remote maintenance.
- Seamless communication - Monitoring of assets distributed in larger areas needs flexible, reliable, and seamless connectivity across different access technologies, as well as support for mobility.
- Connected goods - There is a need for ultra-low-power (high autonomy), and ultra-low-cost communication platforms to drive the creation of new value-added services, and optimization driven by real-time data, collected during the complete lifetime of a product.