Colby: Industrial Internet of Things and Sustainability

Until recently, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) was expected to revolutionize the industrial landscape of our companies and cities. We believed that by connecting machines, devices and systems in real time, companies, energy and infrastructure operators could operate more efficiently.

In the real world, there was a desire to achieve this on paper, but in reality the “pain” was not so great that one was willing to invest significant budgets in OT hardware and IT software. Almost no one can understand why completely digital and disruptive alternative business models have emerged from this great technology, as happened with other well-known digitalization projects (Spotify, Netflix, Uber, AirBnB,…). There was no real “pain”. The “pain” of the large increase in income thanks to the general economic boom cycle was certainly bearable. But beyond the economic benefits, IIoT now plays an essential role in the context of sustainability. Sustainability will have a completely different impact and reading in the coming years. It is the great challenge we face as a global community, which is to reduce the approximately 51,000 tons of greenhouse gases that we release into the atmosphere annually around the world.

Sustainability has become key to the energy policies of all governments, central, regional and/or local. From how we produce the electricity we need, how we get from one place to another, how we make the goods and services we consume and even the foods that form part of our diet; Everything can be measured in terms of sustainability. Now investment is made not only where sustainability is exceptionally good and necessary, but where it can also be demonstrated that the process is sustainable and progress in the right direction is justified.

Good application of IIoT in asset digitization environments is essential to drive sustainable practices and help improve environmental performance.

  1. Increase efficiency: The Industrial Internet of Things makes it possible to improve supervision and control of production processes. Sensors and data analysis tools provide real-time information about the operation of machinery and equipment. This helps companies use resources such as energy and materials more efficiently, resulting in a reduced environmental footprint.
  2. Preventive maintenance– By constantly monitoring machines, companies can detect impending breakdowns early and plan maintenance tasks before costly breakdowns occur. This extends equipment life, reduces the need for spare parts, saves resources and reduces waste.
  3. Sustainable supply chains: The Industrial Internet of Things facilitates product traceability across the supply chain. Companies can trace the origin of raw materials and ensure they come from sustainable sources. This increases transparency and consumer confidence in the sustainability of products. There are now manufacturers of industrial products that provide what they call a digital product passport where they detail the carbon footprint of the product in question in terms of kilograms of CO2 per piece related to the raw materials, transportation and production involved in making that. Product.article.
  4. Energy efficiency: Industrial sectors that consume a lot of energy, such as the steel industry, the glass industry with its industrial furnaces or the cement industry, benefit from smart energy management enabled by the Industrial Internet of Things. By optimizing energy consumption and identifying potential savings, companies can reduce their environmental footprint while reducing costs.
  5. Waste reduction: IIoT supports lean principles in manufacturing by reducing waste. Businesses can reduce overproduction, waste, and inventory through careful control of processes, which helps reduce resource consumption.
  6. Make data-driven decisions: By collecting and analyzing data from multiple sources, data-driven companies can make informed decisions about sustainability. They can identify trends and apply continuous improvement measures.
  7. Cost saving: Implementing IIoT can be expensive initially and can be evaluated as an investment, but results in significant cost savings in the medium and long term. This allows companies to invest resources in sustainability projects and achieve long-term benefits.

Now, how can I get the production data if it hasn’t been captured yet? One unpromising method is to try to read data from existing controls. With over 350 different communications controllers for countless PLC systems, this will only be possible with great effort and good people. It is difficult to justify the time required.

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Beyond the economic benefits, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology now plays an essential role in the context of sustainability.

The easiest way is to choose the critical sensors in my business or the plant that provides me with accurate information that gets me closer to my goal. In this case, these are often sensors for the state of temperature, humidity, vibrations, pressure or even electrical values ​​such as voltage, current and performance. Our partner in advanced automation, the German company NXTGN Solutions Gmbh, offers us several Edge communication devices to collect data, pre-process it and send it directly to IT solutions (Azure, AWS, PowerBI…) through an integrated IoT cloud interface. For this reason, many highly compact equipment solutions are available for DIN or IP67 rail installation with built-in Ethernet and 4G/WLAN connectivity (SIMonBoard). Signal reading is available for Modbus TCP, Modbus RTU, integrated I/O and even wirelessly thanks to the IO Link Wireless protocol.

Juan Carlos Pahilo

Advanced Automation Manager at Kolbi

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This article appears in Issue 551 of the Mechanisms and Devices pages. 50 and 51.

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