Internet of Things (IoT) Industry 4.0 Smes AI Digital Supply Chain

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Est. reading time: 4 minutes
Author: Steph Locke

IIoT can have benefits for manufacturing businesses of all types and sizes. It can be particularly useful in providing transparency and tracking along the supply chain but that’s just the start. To stay safe, it is vital you develop strong cyber security practices around IIoT. Here we offer some best practices and how to approach them.

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Steph Locke

Technologist and consultant with a track record of delivering transformation of businesses into data science and AI companies.

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Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a key part of modern manufacturing. Like the joke about big data and teenage sex, “everyone says they’re doing it” but it’s still not as simple as buying a robot and pressing play. IIoT isn’t a silver bullet but it is transformational, so how do you get that value?

The European DIGITAL SME Alliance, of which we’re a part, has published a great guide on IIoT to help small to medium manufacturers get more insight into the use cases and how to deliver IIoT onto your factory floor securely. Cybersecurity is an increasing concern for almost all businesses and taking a “secure by default” approach now will safeguard your business.

So what questions does the SME Guide for Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) report answer?

What’s the difference between IIot and IoT?

IIoT tends to have a smaller number of end nodes than IoT, reports more data more frequently, and is more context sensitive. For industrial settings, precision in where the sensor is and when it recorded the information is key so that information can be correlated across multiple sensors.

What are the benefits of IIoT generally?

  • Data Analytics
  • Operations Optimisation
  • Predictive Maintenance
  • Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES)
  • Supply Chain Integration
  • Asset Tracking
  • Fleet Management
  • IoT enabled products
  • Servitisation

I make simple things, can IIoT really help me?

A great case study from the paper is of a small metal pipe manufacturer. Their primary process involves cutting longer pipes into various sizes. Unfortunately, as speeds increase through the process, pipes can start rattling around potentially causing defective products or, even worse, damaged machines or operators. Using accelerometer devices and AI, plant managers were given notice of impending issues resulting in a significant reduction in risk.

I make lots of small batch, high complexity stuff, how can IIoT help me?

Another case study is an SME producing products for automotive manufacturers. Each component in the product was produced using highly automated machines but there was significant movement between stations and assembly. Unfortunately, the paper-based, manual process of gathering components for products did not meet the quality standards needed by their automotive customers. Combining data from the machines, mobile devices for operators, and the central production schedule, enabled a transparent view into the process and ensured complete product lineage for customers.

I’m having trouble with my supply chain, how can IIoT help me?

IoT can be used along the supply chain to offer transparency and tracking. This then enables improved real-time monitoring and even predictive methods.

IoT is set to revolutionise supply chains by improving operational efficiencies and creating revenue opportunities. Three of the areas that can benefit from IoT deployment include inventory management and warehouse operations, production and manufacturing operations, and transportation operations.

Supply chain processes that can be improved include:

  • Inventory management and warehouse operations

    • Route optimisation, reduction of in-process collisions
    • Improved handling of hard to reach or dark assets
    • Real-time inventory monitoring
    • Minimising stockouts
    • Workspace monitoring
    • Stock keeping units
  • Production and manufacturing operations

    • Real-time condition monitoring
    • Remote maintenance
    • Predictive mainteance
    • Improved measurement
  • Transportation operations

    • Full supply chain lineage
    • Real-time tracking
    • Remote sensing
    • Product quality preservation
    • Bottleneck reduction
    • Fuel efficiency enhancements
    • Improved service delivery

What’s the best approach for ensuring strong cybersecurity practices in my business?

  • Support / buy-in at the senior leadership level
  • Maintain an Information Security Management System
  • Set company standards and processes
  • Develop standards collaboratively with staff
  • Communicate why standards are needed

How can I approach cybersecurity for IIoT?

There’s no single security approach for IIoT so it will be important to fit it into your broader cybersecurity practices. The report outlines a number of areas to consider, including the following:

  • Physical and remote access control
  • Firmware and configuration backups
  • System hardening
  • Log sending
  • Asset management
  • Patching processes

If you’re using IIoT in industrial automation or control systems you should select products that meet the standard.1

The report delves into detail on the cyber security aspects in a very accessible manner for further reading.

What should my next steps be?

IIoT can produce a wealth of benefits but it does require planning and organisational change. Take time to read the report to get further acquainted, read more relevant content, or even schedule a call with us to discuss your strategy.

Further reading

  1. ISA-62443-4-1 Security for industrial automation and control systems. Part 4-1: Product security development life-cycle requirements.

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