Just as the Internet transformed consumer-oriented industries such as retail, media and advertising, this next evolution, what is being described as the “Internet of Things” or the “Industrial Internet,” has the potential to transform a much broader range of industries and businesses. When intelligent machines and the data created are connected via an open, global network to people who are making decisions and driving processes, this transformation can take effect and create the efficiency and productivity that is the Holy Grail for all businesses.
Transforming Massive Volumes of Big Data into Intelligence
Productivity can be described as the ultimate engine of economic growth. When a manufacturer embraces the Industrial Internet and connects the machines on the plant floor to the Internet via software, valuable data is produced and insights are gained. These machines become part of an intelligent network that can make data actionable and drive predictability, which is key to optimizing performance and improving productivity.
When the “check engine” light comes on in your car, subscription services like OnStar proactively diagnose the issue and can let you know that you need a new oil filter. It can then order the replacement oil filter for you and set up an appointment for you to have it replaced — that’s the power of the Internet of Things from a consumer perspective. When manufacturers have added intelligence to the machines on production lines, they are collecting data constantly and, like OnStar type services, are monitoring for anything unusual. They can predict when a machine is getting close to a breakdown level, so maintenance can be scheduled and it can be repaired without the entire line going down. In industries where unplanned downtime can cost millions, this is an invaluable tool.
Having the Right Information Find the Person — the Power of Mobility
Manufacturers need these innovations to deal with the pressures of competing in a global economy, producing the best products at the lowest costs, and showing the ability to shift rapidly to address changing consumer demands. The adoption of mobile technology on the plant floor is more than handing smartphones or tablets to operators; it is providing contextualized data to the right person at the right time on the right device.
Plant operators can now monitor production, gather intelligence about data and processes, view notifications and even control environmental factors such as plant temperature on a mobile device remotely. By integrating data from multiple sources, plant operators are capable of faster action and decision-making. This real-time operational intelligence helps manufacturers speed time to market and improves product quality.
A Living Network of Intelligent Machines, Data and People
Plant operators who formerly had wrenches in their back pockets and grease under their fingernails may now be monitoring a virtual vision of the entire plant from a console or an iPad. They now have access to actionable data that help make decisions to make the plant more efficient regardless of location.
Today’s manufacturers have a great opportunity today to take incremental steps in their operations to add the intelligence layers and ability to monitor and use data for faster decision-making. By embracing an innovative approach that truly will transform their businesses, they can achieve the promise of the industrial internet as a catalyst for the productivity gains that will fuel resurging economies around the globe.
Bernie Anger is a general manager with GE Intelligent Platforms.