Industrial manufacturing has become more complex over the last decade. As Industry 4.0 continues to reshape the landscape, companies that integrate a well-thought-out industrial internet of things (IIoT) strategy with robust workforce skills development initiatives are positioned to stay competitive and reap significant benefits.
One of the key advantages of this synergy is the potential improvement in overall asset reliability within your facility. In fact, from a skill-set perspective, there has been a huge increase in demand for industrial workers with controls experience, programming experience, electro-mechanical experience, and multi-craft experience. However, in my experience a fairly small percentage of industrial workers have IIoT skills, and I think that a similarly small percentage have even considered upskilling in that direction. For example, someone who has electrical experience and PLC/programming experience and who also has “wrench turning” experience would not even think to upskill their skillset and how it would apply to a job that is requiring IIoT experience.
This article explores how the integration of IIoT and workforce skills development both enhances asset reliability and ultimately drives success in the industrial manufacturing sector.
The power of IIoT
Since IIoT first became a recognized term in the early 2000s, the landscape of both the concept and the capabilities has changed drastically. In short, IIoT refers to the application of the internet of things (IoT) in industrial settings, connecting machines, devices, and sensors to collect and exchange data. This data can then be analyzed to make informed decisions, optimize processes, and enhance productivity.
By incorporating a robust and planned IIoT strategy into their operations, industrial manufacturing companies can achieve several key benefits:
- Real-time data monitoring – IIoT enables continuous monitoring of equipment and processes, providing real-time insights into their performance. This allows for early detection of issues, reducing downtime and minimizing the risk of unexpected breakdowns.
- Predictive maintenance – Through predictive analytics, IIoT can forecast when equipment is likely to fail. This proactive approach to maintenance ensures that assets are serviced at the right time, increasing their lifespan and reliability.
- Process optimization – IIoT data can be used to optimize manufacturing processes, leading to higher quality products, reduced waste, and improved efficiency.
- Energy efficiency – IIoT can help identify energy-saving opportunities by monitoring energy consumption and suggesting optimizations, leading to cost savings and sustainability benefits.
Workforce skills development: A strategic imperative
However, harnessing the full potential of IIoT requires a workforce that is well-equipped to operate and manage these advanced systems. In the context of IIoT integration, investing in workforce skills development is not an option; it is a strategic imperative. Here's a list of core Industry 4.0 skill sets that can contribute to success in asset reliability:
- IIoT system proficiency—Training programs can equip workers with the knowledge to troubleshoot, interpret data, and ensure seamless operation of IIoT systems.
- Cybersecurity awareness—With increased connectivity comes an elevated risk of cyber threats. Workforce training should include cybersecurity awareness to protect critical data and systems from breaches.
- Data analysis competence—Employees with data analysis skills can extract valuable insights from vast amounts of IIoT data, helping the company make data-driven decisions for process optimization and predictive maintenance.
- Adaptability and continuous learning—The world of IIoT is ever-evolving, so workforce development programs should emphasize adaptability and encourage employees to stay updated with the latest technology trends.
The benefits of synergy: Improved asset reliability
The synergy between a well-planned IIoT strategy and workforce skills development is where the results become noticeable. Here's how this integration significantly improves asset reliability within industrial manufacturing facilities:
- Enhanced troubleshooting—Skilled employees can quickly identify and address issues detected by IIoT sensors. This rapid response reduces downtime and prevents minor problems from escalating into major breakdowns.
- Data-driven maintenance—A trained workforce can make sense of IIoT data, enabling them to schedule maintenance tasks precisely when needed. This prevents unnecessary disruptions and prolongs the life of equipment.
- Reduced human error—Skilled operators are less likely to make mistakes in managing IIoT systems, minimizing the risk of system failures due to human error.
- Improved safety—IIoT can enhance workplace safety through real-time monitoring of hazardous conditions. A well-trained workforce can respond promptly to mitigate safety risks. Overall safety is improved because workers are not exposed to the hazards associated with heavy mechanical and electrical assets as often as breakdown maintenance.
IIoT workforce strategy
The marriage of a well-thought-out IIoT strategy and workforce skills development is a winning formula for industrial manufacturing companies. This integrated approach not only empowers organizations to harness the full potential of IIoT but also enhances asset reliability, a critical factor for maintaining competitiveness in the modern industrial landscape and cultivating a more educated and informed workforce.