In the age of the Internet of Things, everything is becoming more automated, with your fridge now able to tell your Amazon Alexa app to update your weekly shopping list. And consumers are not the only ones benefiting from all this seamless connectivity. Large organizations are realizing the benefits of the Industrial Internet of Things, with CMMS solutions creating new possibilities for maintenance professionals.

What is the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)?

The IoT, or the Internet of Things, is the ever-growing network of people, machines, and objects sharing data over networks. The result is more efficient, reliable, and accurate processes with an ever-decreasing level of human intervention. Basically, the machines have started to talk to one another.

The IIoT, or the Industrial Internet of Things, is just the IoT in an industrial setting. It’s not your smartwatch sharing your step count with your smartphone. Instead, it’s a temperature sensor on a hydraulic press sending real-time data to a CMMS.  The benefits are clear: maintenance professionals can catch problems in real-time or even before they develop, streamlining the maintenance management process. This new technology can be a game-changer, especially when it comes to work order management.

Pre-IIoT, old-style work orders

Work orders are an integral part of maintenance management. They’re how work gets prioritized, assigned, completed, and tracked. Older systems were labor-intensive and involved piles of paper or endless spreadsheets, but in the last decade, computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) and enterprise asset management (EAM) has gone a long way toward automating what was once a frustrating process. Still today, though, many types of data need to be entered into the software manually. With IIoT, that’s set to change, and for maintenance professionals, that opens up a lot of interesting new possibilities for work orders.

Machine-to-machine communication 

Here, it’s not that people are taken completely out of the loop. Instead, they’re drawn into the loop much later on, and before they are, data is collected, distributed, analyzed, and acted on independently by a collection of networked machines and software. For example, a vibration sensor on a fan sends a constant stream of real-time data to a CMMS, which records the data and then sends it off to forecasting software that crunches the numbers to predict when the fan is going to fail. The CMMS then schedules a preventive work order just before the predicted failure. The PM is confirmed and assigned by a maintenance manager.

Linked inventory

Integration also helps organizations take control of inventory and replacement parts. Managers can connect to their warehouses to keep track of inventory, incoming orders, or get alerts when they’re low on inventory for a particular part. The IIoT can even go a few steps farther. Within the work order software, managers can set max and min levels for parts. Once the min level is hit, the software automatically reaches out to suppliers to place an order. How does the software know the current levels? Do maintenance managers have to constantly punch in that data? No. When a work order is generated, the necessary inventory and parts are associated with it. And then when the work order is closed out, those inventory and parts are automatically marked as used and the warehouse levels are adjusted.

Big savings from big data

IIoT is all about capturing and leveraging huge amounts of data. Machines vacuum up data about themselves and pour it into a CMMS, where all that data can be organized, managed, and, most importantly, leveraged. On one level, you’re collecting data about one asset, and then using it to trigger PMs. For example, you have a pump set up with vibration sensors that can trigger PMs when the vibrations are too large. At the same time, also in your facility, you have three other pumps that are identical to the first one. By collecting and analyzing all of their data, you can perfectly fine-tune your PM schedule. This same principle works, for example, on a fleet of cement trucks. Instead of using the data from one truck, you can use all the data from all the trucks. 

Where is IIoT used now

It’s now found across industries, including medical, retail, and distribution centers. It has been helping manufacturers optimize business operations, reducing the impact of recalls, and meeting government requirements by providing continuous monitoring and record-keeping. For example, IIoT helps to predict and avoid failures in refrigeration systems, and the manager can see real-time data of the entire cold storage chain. Sensors detect if thresholds have been exceeded and then send out early warnings.

How IIoT will influence maintenance management in the future

According to a recent study by Frost & Sullivan, IIoT can help maintenance shift from reactive or corrective maintenance to predictive and preventive maintenance over the next five years. This can in turn help improve productivity and management of assets. IIoT in maintenance will come with a number of benefits, including:

Improved maintenance operations

Traditionally, maintenance managers were forced to wait until something broke down before they could fix it. With IIoT, the guesswork gets eliminated as the process becomes automated. Real-time data from the sensors help set up a dynamic maintenance schedule.

Reduced operating costs

Predictive analytics can help in reducing costs and preventing unplanned downtime when used with real-time data. According to a recent study, 27% of organizations believe that IIoT can help them to effectively prevent and predict asset downtime. 

Detailed tracking of machine health

With the help of IIoT, you no longer need to perform physical checks on machines. Without checking the gauges on your assets, you can keep track of vital information like vibration rate, pressure, rotation,  temperature, speed, and fuel levels. Once this data is fed into a CMMS, you have a detailed overview of the asset’s overall health.

Next steps

The future is bright for maintenance managers looking to embrace and leverage new technology. And the best part is that it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. It’s possible to dip your toe in and get comfortable before jumping into bleeding-edge technology with all the bells and whistles. A good place to start is with a user-friendly CMMS solution. When you’re talking with providers, make sure they’re offering something with a nice gentle learning curve, solid training options, and dedicated ongoing support.

About The Author

Jonathan Davis

Jonathan has been covering asset management, maintenance software, and SaaS solutions since joining Hippo CMMS. Prior to that, he wrote for textbooks and video games.
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