What exactly is IIoT? Figure it out with the ABCs of Industry 4.0.


Here’s what you need to know about smart manufacturing.

Are you confused yet? Sort of an odd way to start this conversation, but we’re just keeping it real. Before we even started this blog post, we already used three different terms: IIoT, Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing. So, what gives? Are they all the same thing?


Yes. That’s a quick, easy answer for you. Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing all refer to using digital solutions – such as automation and big data – in physical production and operations spaces. Over the last 400 years, the manufacturing industry has gone through a few key overhauls. You learned about them in school. Remember that whole steam engine craze back in the 18th century? The First, Second and Third Industrial Revolutions brought changes like steam, electricity and assembly lines, and even computers. We’re now in the fourth wave (hence, 4.0), and this transformation is all about harnessing the power of real-time, interconnected data.


And robots. There are lots of robots.


Change is scary. Is IIoT really for me?

The world is changing all the time. That’s just a fact. While adopting new technology can be overwhelming, the benefits are real and exponential. IIoT empowers you to collaborate better, create time and cost efficiencies, automate repetitive tasks, optimize your supply chain, attract younger talent, improve safety, and all kinds of good stuff. Essentially, you can understand your operation better so that you can make decisions using all of the information available – all in real time, of course.


As promised, the ABCs of Industry 4.0.

In order to cover everything you need to know, we’d have to publish a whole book of terms and use cases. However, this list a good start for anyone who’s just getting started, so dig in!


Artificial intelligence (AI) – Artificial intelligence (AI) is a broad concept where machines carry out tasks in a way that we would consider “smart,” such as identifying and predicting faults. Machine learning is a specific type of AI that requires less human involvement.


Automation – Ah, yes, the robots. Automation simply means enabling technology (robots, software, etc.) to perform the repetitive tasks that your people are spending time on. Automation can improve productivity, accuracy, safety and more.


Business intelligence – Big data isn’t that helpful if you don’t have a way to use it. Business intelligence offers a system that allows you to quickly access and understand data so that you can use it to make business decisions. It typically requires a data warehouse, analytics engine and other tools.


Cloud computing – With all that awesome data, you need somewhere to put it, right? Cloud computing simply refers to storing your data on a network of remote servers hosted on the internet rather on your hard drive. It allows you access to these resources from any location.


Cyber-physical system (CPS) – A CPS is a manufacturing operation that’s equipped to collect, analyze, use and share real-time data across all areas of the business. It's similar to the ecosystem (see below).


Ecosystem – You already know this term from elementary school biology. It’s not that different when applied to smart manufacturing. An ecosystem is an operation where different software systems are connected, such as inventory, maintenance, financials, customer relationship management (CRM) and more.


Enterprise asset management (EAM) – An EAM is a platform that allows you to collect, analyze and use asset data to extend equipment life. It aggregates condition data to help you better plan maintenance tasks and priorities.


M2M – This is an abbreviation for “machine to machine.” It’s the term for when your equipment has the ability to “talk” to other equipment, often via IoT sensors although this communication can be wired or wireless.


Predictive analytics – Predictive analytics is an advanced analytics model that uses current and historical data to make predictions about future events. By finding patterns in your data, predictive analytics can help with risk assessment, inventory management, forecasting and more.


System integrationSystem integration is the process of connecting your different software sub-systems (think work order systems, inventory management, accounting, etc.) so that they can work together like one unified system. It saves you a ton of time (and stress).


There’s your short list! Of course, typically, the more you learn, the more questions you have. We’re always happy to answer your questions about smart manufacturing. In case you haven’t noticed, we’re pretty passionate about the ways technology can help solve your problems.