Today, industrial machines are more intelligent than ever before. These intelligent machines are changing companies in many ways.
Why smart machines?
Mobile networked computers were a key breakthrough for making smart machines. Big Data allows machines and computers to store information and analyze complex patterns. Cloud computing offers broad access to information and more storage.
These computerized machines are both physical and virtual. Some call them “cyber-physical” machines. Technology lets them be self-aware and connected to each other and larger systems.
Businesses change their approaches
Intelligent machines allow companies to innovate in many areas. For one, the value proposition for customers is evolving. Businesses now model and plan in different ways in many industries.
Makers of industrial machines and parts work in new ways within the organization. Engineering now partners with mechanical, electronic, and software staff to develop new products. Manufacturing now seamlessly ties what happens on the shop floor to the customer.
Service models are changing too. Scheduled and reactionary servicing of machines is fading. Now intelligent machines track themselves. Machines detect problems and report them automatically. Major problems or failures are predicted and reported.
A data mining example
One good industrial example is mining, which can be dangerous and difficult. As ores become scarce, the costs of mining have increased.
“Smart machines” started in mining in the late 1990s. Software and hardware let remote users change settings. Operators moved hydraulic levers from a safe distance. Sensors observed performance and diagnosed issues.
Data cables connected machines to computers on the surface. Continuous and remote monitoring of the machines grew. Over time, embedded sensors helped improve monitoring, diagnostics, and data storage.
The technology means workers only go underground to fix specific issues. As a result, accident and injury risk is lower.
New wireless technology now lets mining companies connect data from many mine sites. Service centers access large amounts of data and can improve performance. Maintenance is prioritized and equipment downtime is reduced.
For companies the time is now. Today, mobile “connected things” generate 17% of the digital universe. By 2020 that share grows to 27%.
You might not be investing in this so-called “Internet of Things” (devices that connect to each other). But it’s a good bet your competitors are. A December 2015 study reported 33% of industrial companies are investing in the Internet of Things. Another 25% are considering it.
There are risks
This new dawning era of manufacturing is exciting. But there are concerns. Cyber attacks on the Internet of Things are not new. But as the use of intelligent machines grows, the threat of cyber attacks in industry grows.
Data confidentiality and privacy are concerns. So too are software and hardware vulnerabilities. Exposure to attack lies not just in the virtual space but the physical too. Tampering with unattended machines and theft pose serious risk.
To address these threats, industries must invest in cybersecurity along with smart machines.
The potential advantages of smart machines are staggering. They can reshape industries and change how companies produce new products and create new markets.
For more information, please download the white paper Digital Manufacturing: Powering the Fourth Industrial Revolution.