The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). It’s impossible to attend a conference or check your email without seeing the term. Though the IIoT generates a lot of buzz, it’s really a term that describes getting connected to the web.
IIoT-ready human-machine interfaces (HMIs) allow manufacturers to take data from the floor and share it with a local or cloud-based server, where it can be used company-wide, regardless of the user’s location. The translation of machine data to actionable information allows companies to make cost-saving decisions and allocate resources more appropriately.
But many OEMs are hesitating to implement IIoT and are not taking advantage of the available technology. Even if customers are not ready to integrate these systems right away, they will eventually want to implement an IIoT strategy to keep up with their competition. And when those customers decide to implement their IIoT concept, your machine should be ready without the need for downtime and replacements.
Despite the benefits machine IIoT readiness can bring to OEMs and their customers, some OEMs still do not recognize the full value of starting IIoT implementations early. Too often, they have fears about how difficult or costly the process is. With this in mind, the following are some of the most common OEM misconceptions about IIoT.
Are any of these stopping you from making valuable upgrades to your machines?
Misconception 1: Implementation is extremely costly
There are ways of becoming IIoT-ready without major capital investments. For example, some IIoT-ready HMIs can range from $299 for compact applications to $1,990 for machines that need more robust systems.
By adding IIoT-enabled HMIs to equipment, OEMs allow customers the flexibility to add the capability now or later without major upgrades or downtime. “Your customer can implement IIoT at any time by downloading the modified application, without purchasing airfare or sending products by mail to update,” says Larry St. Peter, CEO at Maple Systems. “This keeps your costs down, but also keeps your customer’s costs down too.”
Misconception 2: It’s better to wait for a consensus to develop before investing
Some OEMs feel that if they start upgrading now, they won’t be flexible in the future. As Lanette Mannon, Maple Systems’ marketing manager, explains, “Some OEMs are being conservative, seeing what others are doing before jumping onboard.” Though that mindset is understandable, there are HMIs that offer you flexibility by supporting a variety of communication protocols.
MQTT, in particular, is a versatile tool for this—it is an emerging lightweight messaging protocol with cloud compatibility. Paired with an IIoT-ready HMI, MQTT enables secure communication with a wide array of PLCs, sensors and more, regardless of the device’s protocol. If your HMI supports many common protocols, you (and your machine) can remain flexible.
Misconception 3: The value of the IIoT doesn’t measure up to the hype
The IIoT concept is to use connectivity to get more out of your machines and make better business decisions. With IIoT-ready HMIs, there are numerous benefits for both the OEM and customer, such as:
- Customers get a view of how their systems are actually performing so they can optimize their production (and use of machinery) and automatically track maintenance or operations costs.
- A secure connection safely allows for advanced remote functionality such as email alarms, remote access, remote monitoring and remote programming. Plant managers can monitor machines from the palm of their hand, while email alarms alert staff immediately for expedited action.
- Offsite troubleshooting and configuration reduce travel expenses and costly downtime, saving money for both the OEM and customer.
- OEMs can track how their machines are performing. They can also use data to schedule predictive maintenance.
- Customers can take a more proactive sales stance with data on trends, users and orders. This could help them predict inventory needs more accurately and be better prepared.
- Some HMIs can store data using a SQL format if access to the Internet is interrupted to prevent data loss.
Beyond the immediate benefits, OEMs gain insight and can design future machines according to data collected on how each feature is used, where the machine shines and where it struggles. Knowing how customers actually use their machines allows them to better understand their customers and highlight popular features in marketing materials.
Misconception 4: Adding an IIoT-ready HMI will be complicated
Many OEMs often don’t know where to start. Forward-thinking HMI developers understand the confusion and some are taking steps to make IIoT implementation easier for customers through software systems that are simplified and condensed, making them easy to execute at many skill levels.
For example, Maple Systems recently introduced EasyAccess 2.0, an affordable software service that enables the remote monitoring and support of HMIs in the field. The software offers the functionality of an IIoT system with an easy-to-use, simplified interface. With EasyAccess 2.0, an OEM can update the functionality of the customer’s HMIs remotely, eliminating the need for onsite visits when the customer is ready to adopt IIoT capabilities.
Misconception 5: It’s better to wait until customers request it
With any type of technology, the old adage is true: The early bird gets the worm. When OEMs adopt IIoT-ready technology, they can start marketing the machine to potential customers as being IIoT-ready. Though customers might not be taking advantage of these features just yet, the functionality is there when they are ready. When customers decide they want to start reaping the benefits, it’s as easy as downloading an application. They don’t have to order new hardware, make a service call or spend a lot of money to make changes.
An OEM with systems that are upgradable in the field has the peace of mind of knowing that, when you’re ready, you can keep up with the competition. It’s really important that OEMs stay ahead of the curve now so that they can be competitive when the time is right.
For more information, visit Maple Systems at www.maplesystems.com.