Google “big data” and you’ll get well over 18 million hits. After all, it’s become a popular buzz term in manufacturing circles as it will be the key basis of competition and business growth when Industry 4.0 takes complete hold.
Manufacturing tends to generate the highest percentage of data of any industry, and most of us are accustomed to having large amounts of data flowing through our facilities. Historically, it's been difficult to analyze and process this information, causing us to be data rich, but information poor. Today, however, it’s becoming a much different story.
With the rise of smart technologies, advanced software analytics and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), it's easier to turn big data sets into real-time actionable intelligence, from measuring compliance and traceability at the machine level to having a complete understanding of overall factory performance. Several manufacturers are using data collected from embedded product sensors to create new customer support offerings such as proactive maintenance.
While our industry is producing more information than ever before, we will continue to amass more and more data as we move toward the next Industrial Revolution, where every machine, every sensor, every scanner and every employee will connect to a network and stream data at unprecedented rates— everything IIoT represents.
From a competitive standpoint, shops must take big data and IIoT seriously. Existing competition will use data-driven strategies to innovate and grow, and new entrants will join the mix as the playing field widens once information goes digital.
Consider the Apple® Healthkit, a framework that lets health and fitness applications work together for centralized data storage of personal medical information. Healthkit allows Apple to enter the healthcare data ecosystem that’s traditionally been occupied by caregivers, insurers and pharmaceutical companies.
Still in the very early stages of adoption, IIoT is expected to gain industry-wide implementation in an evolutionary fashion, giving manufacturers time to plan for and implement it in phases. However, they must be quick on the uptake because the risks of moving too slow are real.
Researchers expect IIoT to steadily gain traction in four phases: operational efficiency, new products and services, outcome economy, and finally an autonomous pull-based economy that relies on real-time demand sensing and end-to-end automation.
IIoT requires manufacturers to develop new business models that support data-driven strategies. Because in addition to providing actionable intelligence, digitally connected environments help fuel product innovation and inspire new revenue opportunities. Everything from forecasting to risk management to predictive modeling will be influenced by IIoT. Therefore, successful IIoT adoption must be strategic and well thought out.
In preparing for IIoT, it’s best to start small, but plan big. Everyone inside a company must buy into the concept and feel comfortable with its implementation. IIoT also requires having the right infrastructure to support it. Both the physical and digital aspects of a facility must align to minimize disruptions as the number of connected devices increase over time.
Manufacturers that have already embraced IIoT are using well-developed open communication protocols such as MTConnect® to improve their operational efficiencies and reduce production costs. These protocols connect machine tools and other related equipment to a data-collection network on a shop floor. Such connectivity generates data that shops can flow into a software application where it becomes valuable information based on knowledge, not guesswork. As a result, shops can identify problems and respond in real time.
Once IIoT reaches mainstream acceptance, manufacturers will be required to implement long-term structural changes for competing in Industry 4.0. Large-scale parts manufacturers, for example, will need to transform their facilities into fully connected smart factories where machine tools are part of cyber physical systems and cloud computing plays a vital role.
As an early adopter of IIoT, we’re leading the way in digital resource productivity. From our new Mazak iSMART Factory™ concept to our intelligent machine functions to our Mazak SmartBox platform that provides easy, secure entrance into IIoT, we’re a firm believer in big data and harnessing the power of connectivity for optimized results. And, we’re here to help you navigate the digital revolution, so contact your local Mazak rep when you're ready to make the IIoT connection.