Scalability is a major concern among manufacturers, and with good reason. Upgrading production systems is practically synonymous with unavoidable downtime, overblown budgets, and months of headaches. Industrial manufacturing equipment is expensive, and just the process of installing it can take weeks - weeks that often translate to a lot of lost profit.
The process is so painful that most manufacturers opt to keep old legacy equipment limping along as long as possible - directing engineers to hold everything together as best they can until the machinery finally breaks down so badly that it just can’t be fixed.
So, naturally, it’s no wonder that the very suggestion of upgrading equipment is enough to give most manufacturers a mild panic attack.
The utility of IIoT technology is virtually undisputed. Every manufacturer has heard about all the potential benefits of a connected system, and every manufacturer knows that having an IIoT system would be great for business. What most manufacturers are afraid of is the difficulty involved in deploying an IIoT system, and the problems they might face in maintaining and scaling that system in the future.
But IIoT systems are unique in that they don’t add to the complexity of maintaining and scaling systems - they actually greatly simplify the process.
That might seem like a bold claim to make, and it is - but it’s also absolutely true. In today’s article, we’re going to examine the factors involved in scaling IIoT systems, and how an IIoT approach can drastically improve the process of expanding manufacturing systems across the board.
IIoT Scaling is Different
With traditional control systems, every system in the chain that’s affected has to be manually upgraded to work with whatever new control systems you’ve installed. That usually means a lot of wiring, a lot of hardware modifications, and potentially months of complicated interfacing work.
Thankfully, that’s not the case with IIoT connected devices. With IIoT, everything operates on a standard network. All your systems communicate with your central servers, so you rarely ever need to do any work on the machine level. Instead of wiring your new sensor into every machine on the line, your server can just pass the data along using the connections already in place. If you need an IIoT connected device to react to that data, it’s as simple as changing a few lines of code on your servers to change the instructions sent to the connected machines.
This is crucially important when it comes to scalability. Regardless of how many IIoT devices you have, you can make whatever changes you need to make in one central place, and have that behavior apply across the entire network. Compare this to older M2M or analog systems, where anytime you want to upgrade your line you have to individually upgrade every affected machine on that line. The difference is staggering.
This doesn’t just apply to new systems either. IIoT upgrades can usually be inexpensively retrofitted to even the oldest legacy equipment. And, as soon as that legacy equipment has been upgraded, it can benefit from the full spectrum of IIoT technology just like new equipment can. Instead of upgrading your legacy equipment every time you introduce a new element into the chain, you can simply upgrade it to be IoT enabled once. After it’s connected to the network, making further changes is often as simple as typing a few lines of code into your server. It’s a simple, inexpensive way to breathe new life into older machinery.
Make Profits, not Headaches
IIoT revolutionizes the entire process of scaling and updating manufacturing systems like nothing else before it. When you implement an IIoT system, you’re not just adding yet another system on top of what you have - you’re creating a unified network of connected devices. Instead of just adding more systems, you’re bringing the systems you have together, and that connectivity brings a whole new level of control to factories. With each new device you add to the network, you expand the capabilities of every other device in your system. And when you combine this with the advantages of a solid networking backbone and the flexibility and ease of use provided by software control, the implications are clear.
Upgrading systems doesn’t have to be painful. IIoT networks enable manufacturers to stop worrying about many of the headaches caused the old upgrade process, and instead focus on what they do best - creating better products and delivering better service to clients.