As we anticipate Simutech Multimedia CEO Samer Forzley presenting at LiveWorx on June 11 in Boston, we wanted to give a little preview on his topic of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and its impact on the manufacturing workforce.

Since we are in the dawn of IIoT, manufacturing is not what it was in your grandfather’s day. Advances in technology are making the industry smarter, cleaner and leaner, with more plants employing devices like PLCs and sensors and connecting them to the enterprise.

A report from Deloitte Insights entitled “The Smart Factory” explains this new way of operations as “ a leap forward from more traditional automation to a fully connected and flexible system—one that can use a constant stream of data from connected operations and production systems to learn and adapt to new demands.”

Some analysts are predicting that in certain industries, such as material handling, breakthroughs in robotics and artificial intelligence will be driving operations close to complete automation in possibly five to 10 years. More sensors, connectivity and analytics are resulting in enormous changes in production and the capabilities of what can be achieved in facilities.

Collecting data is not new in manufacturing plants, it’s been done for awhile now, but what was being done with the data is questionable. In some operations, historical data was collected, but just sitting on the server. However, now historical data can be put through a machine-learning algorithm to predict defects in products produced. The result? Safer and better products produced with less waste.

What’s more is that plant machinery, powered by AI, is enabled to self-correct itself, thus, preventing even more failures and reducing downtime. However, what IIoT isn’t great at is predicting atypical, but certain events. When introducing an IIoT solution into a manufacturing plant, the environment it is being released in is a wildly unpredictable place. As we all know, the real world is strange, and like the adage associated with Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

Anticipating million-to-one events might not seem like an enormous problem, until the number of IIoT devices employed are in the millions themselves. Then million-to-one events won’t be that unlikely.

When advanced automation devices fail, the results can be catastrophic. A worst-case scenario example of this is the recent Boeing accident, which early investigations are pointing to a faulty sensor at the root of the cause in tandem with other failures. The result has been a tragic loss of human lives as well as financial costs estimated at $1 billion for the company.

Of course, there is no comparison to the scale of the human suffering caused by this failure and the downtime caused by a sensor failing on a production line. However, what the two examples do have in common is when the equipment cannot fix itself and there is a major problem, human intervention will be needed to troubleshoot the situation.

No matter how close the industry is to “lights out” manufacturing, investing in workers and equipping them with the skills and know-how to fix an equipment failure will still be needed. After all, if the devices meant to boost productivity and efficiency are down, then they aren’t doing too much to help the bottom line, are they?

As for our customers, we are definitely seeing a rise in those looking to thoroughly understand PLCs and advanced automation devices, which is why we came out with our newest Troubleshooting Industrial Sensors Module.

But more than just simply meet a training need in the industry, we decided to use a 3D simulation platform for the module. We strongly believe that in order to be effective, training should be an immersive experience. Our newest module is designed to have a more realistic look and feel of an industrial environment, so users can understand the complexities of the modern manufacturing plant in a safe space.

In the next part of our IIoT series, we will take a look at how IIoT could affect the future of manufacturing work. And please join us at LiveWorx this June in Boston!

 

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