We’ve all heard of the Internet of Things—the evolving interconnectivity of multiple hardware devices that possess networking capabilities. All these seemingly unrelated devices send and receive data in order to improve efficiency by communicating with one another.
This innovation is rapidly expanding to include more devices and systems, as everyday appliances increasingly become integrated with smart technology. In fact, the Internet of Things is beginning to lead to innovations in the industrial sector and that’s spawned a new term: the Industrial Internet of Things, or IIoT.
In its most basic form, IIoT is the IoT applied to smart machining technology in order to improve accuracy and automate processes in an industrial setting. These applications can greatly improve quality control, as machines are able to rapidly cross-reference data with one another to reduce errors and locate inefficiencies. Another area where this technology can be beneficial is in the realm of e-commerce and replenishment.
The management of industrial product vending machines located in factories, for instance, can be a cumbersome process. In addition, oversights on the human monitoring side can result in depletion issues, which can lead to down time or unexpected expenses. Applying the IIoT to this process can greatly reduce the amount of monitoring time while increasing the accuracy of the order quantity and delivery.
For example, say that one person normally monitors the levels of a certain on-site vending machine that is utilized daily in a shop to equip workers with such items as work gloves and drill bits. When the supply level falls below a certain threshold, that person places an order for more product. If this person was out of the plant unexpectedly or if there was an unexpected spike in usage that was not noticed right away, the company could be in real trouble.
With IIoT, the process is fully automated. Once the machine hits a certain level, sensors embedded in the vending machine instantly transfer re-ordering data to the vendor’s order processing system and replenishment is sent as needed. The vending machines can also be set with software that forecasts when items will have to be re-ordered. This ultimately saves time and eliminates worry from an organization’s vending replenishment needs.
To set up this system, the replenishment vendor would work with the I.T. infrastructure of its client company. Once in place, the order processing system would be customized to manage the order process based on a variety of factors. These could include:
- Minimum consumption: Orders are placed based on the lowest amount of expected product consumption.
- Maximum consumption: Orders are placed based on the largest amount of expected product consumption.
- Historic consumption: Data is analyzed to place orders based on trends in previous usage.
- Demand forecast: Algorithms are utilized to determine the replenishment needs predicted over a given period of time.
As the IIoT continues to expand, automated systems processes like this will become more sophisticated. They will also become more commonplace in industrialized settings. It will be interesting to watch how rapidly technology like this will be deployed to make procurement more and more streamlined.
Nathan Wakefield is a marketing analyst for MBEMRO, which operates MBEMROCatalog.com, an e-commerce site that sells maintenance, repair and operations equipment and materials that businesses use to run their facilities. MBEMRO, which is an acronym that stands for minority business enterprise maintenance repair operations, is the e-commerce initiative of integrated supply firm Production Services Management Inc., or PSMi.