• Industrial Revolution
  • The Industrial Internet Of Things

Welcome to the next industrial revolution

We are on the very edge of what will be the next industrial revolution. Manufacturing, shipping, agriculture, mining, and even railroads and transportation stand to be much more productive. The key is the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) where, suddenly, just about every machine will have intelligence and communicate with other machines.

The last industrial revolution occurred in the 1970s and 1980s when computers – first mini-computers, later PCs – swept the workplace. Productivity jumped as computers replaced typewriters, photocopiers replaced carbon paper, and fax machines replaced mail and courier services.

Expect a lot more this time.

Paul Daugherty, chief technology officer at Accenture, believes that the IIoT will lead to a reinvention of many industrial sectors that usher in new levels of productivity. Embracing the IIoT will also empower machines to engage on our behalf and to constantly assess risk and relationships. This, he thinks, will take this new industrial internet revolution to the next level.

Another factor: companies are seeing true benefits to IIoT deployments and as that word spreads, more rush to implement the Industrial Internet of Things.

How will these changes continue to affect business and push productivity even higher? Cases in point are increasingly common. Many companies, for instance, are equipping manufacturing machinery with sensors to better predict maintenance needs and in that way to prevent disruptions that occur when a crucial piece of machinery fails at a critical moment. According to the IIoT advocates such as Daugherty, that cannot always be avoided, but with the right sensors in place on the right equipment using advanced analytics, machinery failures will become the rare exception, rather than the rule.

The IIoT revolution often is breathing new life into unexpected businesses such as shipping logistics, where experts say sensors are producing mammoth change in an industry that has been stagnant for the past 50 years. Now change is apace. The IIoT is helping improve both the safety and speed of unloading mammoth container ships; a ship can now log in and tell a smart crane that it’s arriving in port and share what it’s carrying, and where it’s headed. An IIoT shipping container can also warn the harbourmaster if it contains hazardous materials, in case there’s a fire. Thus the IIoT fuels an interconnectivity that benefits many.

There’s also a revolution happening in irrigation of industrial agriculture, thanks to IIoT. Precision watering is having big impacts, as many realize they can water less, but get better results. How? Traditionally water has been poured onto fields as much by the clock as anything else. That has meant some crops are over-watered while others may be under-watered. Distributing sensors throughout the field changes everything. Experts share that companies that pursue precision watering commonly enjoy an immediate 20% savings in water overnight and that benefits the agribusiness and its customers, but it also may benefit the planet.

Supply chain management, where businesses work to optimize the flow of goods in and out of the company, is yet another example of an industry which is undergoing a sea change. Grocery chains are in the forefront of this revolution. They know they make no money when their shelves are bare but they also know they lose money if they buy excess inventory.

The IIoT changes all that as grocers begin to use sensors to light up their entire supply chain.

Those companies don’t guess where their truckloads of goods are; they know because the information is continuously updated.

Through autonomous mining equipment ...
companies like Rio Tinto are able to realize significant gains in productivity because one operator can now control a fleet of automated machines instead of directly operating just one piece of equipment.

Accenture’s Daugherty pointed to another industry — mining — where Australian company Rio Tinto is conducting operations in the outback with machines doing much of the hot, dusty, sometimes dangerous work. Said Daugherty: “Through autonomous mining operations, companies like Rio Tinto are able to realize significant gains in productivity because one operator can now control a fleet of automated machines instead of directly operating just one piece of equipment. The IIoT can help dramatically improve the speed to see and resolve the causes of downtime that manufacturing and process industries struggle with on a daily basis.”

Nor is this about collecting information just for the sake of collecting. Companies see this as paying for itself.

And that’s the thing: With the IIoT, industrial processes will be optimized, which will lead to less waste, lower prices and ultimately better availability of merchandise. Consumers win, just as manufacturers and distributors win.

Of course to realize that full slate of benefits, companies and even whole countries will have to take decisive steps to optimize their infrastructures.

A belief that is spreading among the IIoT experts is that finally this will really be the year. Companies just won’t want to be left out.