Industrial Internet of Things ñ How much will manufacturing devices be networked?
The concepts of Industry 4.0 proposed by Germany, the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition in the United States, and Made in China 2025 and “Internet Plus” in China are national strategic initiatives to enhance the penetration of networks in the manufacturing industry. Although they have different names, the philosophy behind them is almost exactly the same – integrate networking technologies into manufacturing processes. Technologies and strategies that previously have not been associated with the manufacturing industry are now being advanced, such as customization, shortened delivery times, real-time data analysis, cybersecurity, Big Data, and so on. All of these concepts are part of the convergence of networking and manufacturing. This is what we call the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
The IIoT is changing manufacturing from an “old-fashioned” and “conservative” industry to one that is more interactive and in line with the consumer experience. However, the past few years have shown this process to be quite slow, as business owners have applied network technologies to their manufacturing centers cautiously to ensure minimal disruption of the manufacturing process. Even in the networked applications deployed today, proprietary network technology and traditional architectures as fieldbus remain the rule rather than the exception.
A recent IHS report on the Internet of Things shows that while the manufacturing industry is currently comprised of an installed base of 23.8 billion industrial automation devices, networked applications are still not prevalent (Table 1). Currently, only 9.1 percent of discrete process and automation elements are connected to a network, which is below average when compared to other sectors of the electronics industry, some of which approach nearly 50 percent connectivity (enterprise and consumer). In this regard, the potential for deploying networks in industrial automation environments is still large and unrealized.
However, this situation is changing. Forecasts project that for new installations, the percentage of network-enabled industrial automation devices will far exceed the average for those already in operation, with the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of such deployments increasing from 19.0 percent in the base year of 2013 to 24.1 percent in 2019 in Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing environments.
An example of this change is the increased use of Industrial Ethernet (IE) in programmable logic controllers (PLCs), which are a key component of automation systems. Over the last few years, embedded networking features have largely been restricted to mid- and large-sized PLCs, but recently more and more compact PLCs are being integrated with IE technology as plant operators realize the importance of improving the productivity of their factories. This also illustrates the proliferation of networking technology at the control level of manufacturing centers rather than solely at a supervisory level in the monitoring office.
With PLC and other connected applications gaining traction at the control level in manufacturing environments, networking technologies will subsequently see wider adoption in the world of industrial automation and control. This will lead to more open environments in the manufacturing center, and an opportunity to capitalize on the untapped potential of networking technologies for the IIoT.
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