Industrial automation is becoming mainstream by expanding its boundaries. It accelerates and makes work more productive. Automation takes over the involvement of people in manufacturing processes. It creates the opportunity to allocate human resources in the right direction.
Not so long ago, many people felt skeptical about industrial automation replacing humans. But as time progresses, studies speak in its favor. Even though the current technological solutions don’t fully replace human participation, they take over much of the workload. They ease tasks, save time and increase productivity.
Industrial automation technologies have proven their efficiency time and again in various business industries. “We credit automation technologies with the continuous growth of our business. Without them, it would be hard to achieve the level of manufacturing we’re capable of today,” explains Gevorg Hambardzumyan, the CEO of Front Signs, a renowned manufacturer of business signs in Los Angeles and across the US.
The global tendencies aim for the digitization of almost everything around, converting homes to smart homes, cities to smart cities, factories to smart factories and so on. The current and developing Industrial Revolution – referred to as “Industry 4.0” – has brought sophisticated manufacturing technologies to pave the way in 2022 and beyond.
1. Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
Industrial IoT refers to the cyber-physical transformation of manufacturing processes. This is implemented via connecting physical devices to networks through different types of sensors. This helps extract real-time data from industrial devices and transmit them to the networking system for further processing and analysis.
The adoption of Industrial IoT leads to digital transformations in manufacturing. It helps manufacturers draw data-driven insights to enhance operational productivity. The system notifies of potential machine malfunctions before they happen. This makes performance issues easier to handle. As a result, the tech can save resources for a company such as time, labor and equipment..
2. Condition Monitoring and Predictive Maintenance
Industrial IoT helps monitor processes and find any operational drawbacks with the help of smart sensors before things get to a critical condition. Consequently, experts can schedule repair programs and prevent downtime. Sensors can also detect the need for maintenance.
Devices of the future will even implement maintenance on their own. We’re already witnessing examples of this with self-cleaning coffee machines, ovens and toilets, for example. The sensors embedded in one version of such gadgets make them work according to a predetermined cleaning schedule. The trend of automated maintenance is set to further develop this year and beyond.
3. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)
High-tech innovations such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are making gains in virtually every field. Artificial intelligence is developing at a blazing fast pace. It uses algorithms to simulate human intelligence. These algorithms use big data as a fuel that powers decision-making. Pursuing the 4th Industrial Revolution, engineers use AI to further develop the Industrial IoT processes. For example, industrial machinery in smart factories will soon be able to run its own predictive maintenance.
Machine Learning, which is a subfield of AI, is advancing towards a more sophisticated state. Now the embedded big data enables the further autonomous decision-making of machines thanks to the ever-growing potential of data science. ML is paving its way in virtually every industry and manufacturing is no exception. In 2019, the International Federation of Robots presented its annual report according to which 2.7 million industrial robots were operating in factories all over the world that year.
4. IIoT for Sustainable Manufacturing
Industrial IoT also comes with environmental benefits such as energy conservation, reducing emissions and lowering water consumption. For instance, sustainability managers can monitor water usage by having machines connected to Industrial IoT devices. In turn, they can find out the machines or processes that are wasting water. Accordingly, they can take measures to reduce water usage.
Another example is how smart farming systems contribute to food production. These sensor-powered technologies can deliver real-time data on external factors affecting crop growth. This way, farmers can use the data in seeding, fertilization and other agricultural operations. In addition, AI-powered by big data can foresee circumstances unfavorable for crop health and help to prepare for such events.
5. Testing Automation for IIoT Architecture
The testing automation of Industrial IoT architecture is imperative for large-scale manufacturing processes. It helps find any bugs in the connected devices such as sensors, sensor communication, networks, microphones, cameras and so on. Finding QA engineers well-versed in the industry will foster your manufacturing and digitization processes.
In addition to testing against bugs, QA engineers conduct cybersecurity testing. It’s hard to maintain security with a high level of connectivity between Industrial IoT devices. In one such example, the Industrial IoT system was subjected to a serious security breach. Unknown attackers altered a process controller code to triple the amount of salt in a food recipe. Once you adopt Industrial IoT, it’s wise to operate with thorough procedures like a technology company to prevent similar issues. Employing a staff of QA engineers that can buffer security risks is one way to do this.
The Bottom Line
It’s true that high-tech Industrial IoT solutions can bring forth cyber security and data protection challenges. Despite this, the digitization of industrial processes delivers benefits for manufacturers such as enhanced manufacturing quality and overall operational efficiency. To manage and safeguard the processes effectively, industry experts should have a solid technological system in place when adopting Industrial IoT. This way, they’ll be able to overcome the challenges and take full advantage of the high-tech innovations available in 2022 and beyond.