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Editor's Note: A Look At The Plant Of The Future

TheĀ Industrial Internet of ThingsĀ can mean theĀ difference betweenĀ a plant thatā€™sĀ competitive, and oneĀ that lacks controls,Ā data, and businessĀ intelligence.

This article originally appeared in the August print issue of IMPO Magazine. To view the digital version, click here

Not a day goes by that we consumers donā€™t hear the term ā€œInternet of Things.ā€ And while there is a lot of interesting potential behind the interconnectedness of nearly everything, in my opinion, IoT becomes a lot more fascinating when you add another I ā€“ resulting in The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). IIoT can mean the difference between a plant thatā€™s competitive, and one that lacks controls, data, and business intelligence.

In a recent article for the IMPO website, authors Todd Edmunds, Bob Voss & Cliff Whitehead describe the seven key elements of ā€œthe plant of the future.ā€ The trio of contributors represent some big names in technology (Cisco, Panduit Laboratories, and Rockwell Automation) and warn manufacturers to look closely at some of the ways this type of innovation will impact their businesses.

Because I found this list of seven to be right on target, I thought Iā€™d recap the high points ā€“

1. Automation Network Infrastructure: A common network infrastructure built on standard unmodified Ethernet and Internet Protocol (IP), such as EtherNet/IP, which enables the seamless flow of data either within a plant or across an organizationā€™s global enterprise. It also offers new opportunities for increasing productivity, improving time to market and minimizing reconfiguration when conducting changeovers.

2. Security and Compliance: A commitment to security and compliance will help minimize risk and unnecessary downtime.

3. Mobility: Early adopters of mobile in the industrial space are showing just how valuable it is by achieving up to 80 percent improvements in decision making times.

4. Video: IP video offers more than security. It can help monitor the efficiency of a plantā€™s people, equipment and production processes.

5. Industrial Compute and the Cloud: Among the many benefits a converged network infrastructure offers is the ability to deploy industrial compute resources at several levels ā€” from edge computing on the plant floor, where the data is collected, all the way up to the cloud.

6. Remote Access: Using wired and wireless technologies, remote experts working from a centralized location can securely monitor and analyze key metrics such as temperatures, flow rates and faults for plants around the world.

7. Energy Management: The plants of tomorrow will view energy as a manageable cost, with insights that drill down to more granular levels for better energy-related decision making.

Certainly, forward-thinking plant management will see the opportunities here, not just the threats. While the authors do a good job of reviewing the most critical technology coming down the pipeline, I think the last line in the article is the most poignant, as it basically asks the readers how willing they are to risk showing up late to the party:

ā€œThe question to ask yourself is: just how close is the future? And how ready are you?ā€

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