Firefighting — fixing machinery emergencies on the fly without data that could deliver long-term solutions — is still the norm in many manufacturing plants.

These workaround solutions may appear necessary at the moment, but over time they damage productivity, profitability, and employee morale.

Yet, thanks to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and improved communication among equipment, production lines, and corporate management, most firefighting will soon become a relic of the past.

Why? Because IIoT-enabled visualization and collaboration tools can capture information from machines and embedded devices, supporting real-time analytics that help prevent unexpected production events such as equipment breakdowns, depleted inventory, poor-quality products, or unsafe work conditions.

With real-time diagnostic analysis, employees stop problems before they occur, and make better decisions to help reduce waste and boost productivity.

In short: Data is transformed into actionable intelligence.

Even better, embedded smart devices and EtherNet/IP™ connections to remote controls and sensors can help to digitize a continuous improvement initiative such as lean or Six Sigma.

Workers can track production and equipment metrics in real time, allowing them to plan and implement improvements more quickly and more cost-effectively.

Unfortunately, many manufacturers and industrial operators face significant challenges in making the digital leap to a connected enterprise. They include:

  • Outdated controls and sensors — already a cybersecurity risk — are often incapable of extracting and communicating data;
  • Network infrastructure frequently can’t accommodate data transfers from operations to the enterprise;
  • Legacy analytics solutions limit the usefulness of information for workers and managers alike;
  • A lack of strategic planning for digitization stalls organizational transformation.

Inside every plant is a wealth of digital opportunity. Are you ready to find yours?


Beth Parkinson is Market Development Director, Connected Enterprise, at Rockwell Automation