The Industrial Internet of Things and the Future of Manufacturing


Over the past couple of decades the internet has changed the way we work and live, revolutionizing and disrupting just about every industry from retail to healthcare. Productivity has increased as costs have decreased, all while providing better products and services to consumers. Yet for all it’s impact, one of the industries that has seen great changes and improvements from the rise of the internet has been one people tend not to expect — manufacturing.

What Is the Industrial Internet of Things?

So what exactly is Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)? According to GE Digital, a leader in the IIoT, “It’s the network of a multitude of devices connected by communications technologies that results in systems that can monitor, collect, exchange, analyze, and deliver valuable new insights like never before. These insights can then help drive smarter, faster business decisions for industrial companies.” 

In short, it is a network of devices that interconnects all of the manufacturer's technologies to make them more efficient and productive. Of the companies who are utilizing the IIoT, 82% have reported greater efficiency in production.

The Benefits of the Industrial Internet of Things

There are many inherent benefits to implementing IIoT. One of the most obvious benefits is an increase in productivity. 

Manufacturing production has doubled since 1984. Manufacturing outputs in industries such as food and petroleum have seen all-time highs in recent years. Most of these increases can be attributed to a rise in technological advances and the implementation of IIoT within organizations.

While productivity is the most obvious benefit, the benefit that is often overlooked is how the increased use of IIoT improves manufacturing’s impact on the environment. The Industrial Internet of Things can seamlessly monitor and collect data to provide valuable insight for organizations to develop clean-energy saving strategies. Per GE Digital, this could result in 44% reduction of global energy consumption. Even more beneficial? It could cut an organization's energy cost by 5% to 15%.

The Problems of the Industrial Internet of Things

With every new benefit that technological innovation brings to manufacturing, there are new challenges as well.

Perhaps the biggest problem is cyber threats. With IIoT running through cloud-based systems, organizations are more vulnerable to cyber attacks, which could end up being costly to an organization. So an emphasis on cyber security needs to coincide with the greater implementation of IIoT technologies.

Another primary issues is interoperability, which is the ability of computer systems or software to exchange and make use of information. With devices and machines all coming from different manufacturers and running on different operating systems, it can be hard for them to connect.

Another concern is the disruption to the labor force, especially in blue collar manufacturing jobs. Although over the past couple of decades we have seen record-setting increases in output, employment in manufacturing is down to 12.6 million. At its peak in 1979, manufacturing employment was at 19.6 million.

However, despite the decline in manufacturing jobs, IIoT can provide a solution. According to the World Economic Forum, “the Industrial Internet will also create new, high-skilled jobs that did not exist before, such as medical robot designers and grid optimization engineers.”

The Future of the Industrial Internet of Things

The IIoT market brings a lot of new benefits and challenges to manufacturing, and expects to see strong growth through 2022. Over these next five years we can expect to see greater collaboration between humans and machines, as more and more organizations start to implement new technologies.

Whether you’re a fan of the impact of tech on the industry, or hesitant of the implications, the IIoT is here to stay, and you will continue to see new technologies improve, revamp, and impact manufacturing industry.  

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