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Industrial Internet of Things: Revolution or Evolution?

The signals are clear: wireless communication in industrial applications will pave the way regardless of how this new era is labelled.

Read on and see how WERMA’s intelligent monitoring systems can help revolutionise the workplace

Affecting every industry globally the “Industrial Internet of Things” (IIoT) is the melding of digital, physical, and biological environments.  Breakthroughs in technologies and processes are occurring at an unheard of pace.  Yet a recent survey in the Engineering Industry community revealed over 60% of interviewees said they had heard of IIoT but fewer than 30% confessed to knowing anything much about it!

So, what is it?  The Industrial Internet of Things (or IIoT) is a concept formulated by German industrialists lead by Klaus Martin Schwab, a German engineer and economist who is best known as the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum.  This IIoT concept furthers the original construct of the IoT (Internet of Things) ascribed to Proctor & Gamble’s Kevin Ashton in 1999.  The philosophy is to encourage work towards developing more sophisticated technologies in order to automate and computerise the running of factories.  This trend is also captured by the phrase “Industry 4.0” or “4th Industrial Revolution” or IIoT.  It describes the desire to work at removing “human – machine interfaces” (a.k.a. HMI) seen by their very nature as being potentially vulnerable.  This belief is due to the often unpredictable nature of human behavior and looks to replace the HMIs with more automated computer-driven systems.  But first a quick timeline review is in order.

First Industrial Revolution       (Mechanization, steam power, water power)

The First Industrial Revolution took place from the 18th to 19th centuries in Europe and the US. It was a period when mostly agrarian and rural societies became industrial and urban.  The introduction of James Watt’s steam engine spurred on developments in the iron and textile industries, all creating the Industrial Revolution.

Second Industrial Revolution (Mass production, electricity, assembly lines)

The Second Industrial Revolution took place between 1870 and 1914, just before World War I. It was a period of growth for pre-existing industries and expansion of new ones, such as steel, oil and electricity, and it used electric power to create mass production. Major technological advances during this period included the telephone, light bulb, phonograph and the internal combustion engine.

Third Industrial Revolution (Computers and automation)

The Third Industrial Revolution, or the Digital Revolution, refers to the advancement of technology from analogue, electronic and mechanical devices to the digital technologies available today. Continuing from its inception in the 1980s, it is still ongoing. Advancements during the Third Industrial Revolution include the personal computer, the internet, and information / communications technology.

Fourth Industrial Revolution (Cyber physical systems)

The Fourth Industrial Revolution builds on the Digital Revolution, representing new ways technology becomes embedded within societies and even the human body. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is marked by emerging technology breakthroughs in a number of fields, including robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, quantum computing, biotechnology, the Internet of Things, 3D printing, autonomous vehicles, etc.

In his book The Fourth Industrial Revolution, Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, describes how this fourth revolution is fundamentally different from the previous three.  The preceding revolutions were primarily characterised by technological advances. These technologies have great potential to continue by connecting billions more people to the web, improving the efficiency of business and organisations and regenerating the natural environment through better asset management.

With definitions and history established, the question of evolution or revolution results amongst the many manufacturers jockeying for position with their technologies in the marketplace.  Whether it is an evolution or truly a revolution really makes no difference.  This new age is sure to progress due to information being shared in this communication age.  And all that communication starts with an initial signal.

Although the Industrial Internet of Things is known by a few established names, there is another tag that is being widely used to coin the concept more clearly: Smart Factory.  This descriptive name explains how many manufacturers are adapting their products to survive in this digital age.  This approach includes simple visual or audible signals such as stack lights.  Sensors being triggered by machines can wirelessly send data now through stack lights to speed up communication.  In addition to providing local sight and sound indication, stack lights are now designed to play a more important role in a system that eliminates HMI-related weaknesses in process chains and replaces them with fail-safe automated systems.

Wireless solutions help make processes lean, faster and more efficient.  Wireless-based data collection and transmission systems are easy to retrofit on modular stack lights, enables analyses of an operation, and lead to untapped improvements and growth potential.  This optional feature benefits the end-user by keeping them one step ahead of their competition.

Some designs of these intelligent machine monitoring systems provide all the relevant data on the performance of machines, equipment and manual workstations, simply with a couple of mouse clicks.  Control station displays on the PC or automatic notification to your smartphone help reduce reaction times considerably and help identify ways of optimising manufacturing processes. Detailed reports and analyses of the data can also be produced automatically which then show the possibilities to improve processes and increase productivity.

Another application where signals can improve processes in a factory setting is on the warehouse floor.  A wireless communication system designed into a traditional stack light can now upgrade a simple indicating light system into an intelligent monitoring and call-for-action system. Unlike traditional Andon light systems, today’s technology not only gives a clear local visual signal of a disruption or change in status on a conveyor line, but also documents and analyses for bottlenecks and downtime. Wirelessly connected systems pass information to a control station display on a PC or screen and can also dispatch call-for-action e-mails or SMS texts automatically to personnel required to intervene and resolve a problem.  All of these advancements of speeding up your team, logistics, and processes support the concept of a Smart Factory.

Intelligent systems from WERMA

WERMA’s contribution to the debate comes in the form of two new smart and intelligent process systems both designed to play their part in eliminating HMI related weaknesses in process chains and replacing them with fail-safe automated systems.

SmartMONITOR: the smart alternative for machine monitoring and data collection.

As an optional element to WERMA’s modular stack light offering, the SmartMONITOR helps to make processers lean, faster and more efficient. The wireless-based data collection and transmission system is easy to retrofit and enables analyses of an operation which in turn will lead to untapped growth potential and keeping you one step ahead of the competition.

SmartMONITOR is the intelligent machine monitoring system alternative for companies who are looking for a quick and uncomplicated way of optimising their processes.  This solution will provide you with all relevant data on the performance of machines, equipment and manual workstations, simply with a couple of mouse clicks.

AndonSPEED: transforming traditional stack lights wirelessly into networked call-for-action systems.

AndonSPEED is simple to use, easy to understand, very easy to install and can be expanded based on its modular design.  Status changes are transmitted wirelessly from the workstation to a central control station and, if needed, can be sent by automatic e-mail to the appropriate response team.  An optional feature of “Head of line” capability provides a centralised overview of all workstations statuses.

Advantages include speeding up your team, logistics and ultimately your process by exposing weak spots, precisely documenting non-productive times thereby reducing down time at the workstations and improving efficiency.

To find out more about WERMA and Industry 4.0 systems please contact:


Thanks to the team for an awesome workshop, it was a great an no-nonsense practical demonstration of Lean and Industry 4.0 combined. I can highly recommend this workshop.
Oliver Buhlinger, New Intelligence
New Intelligence
Fantastic Day
Kirsty Eastwood, Rolls Royce
One of the most effective workshops on Lean I have been to in years. The team at Lean Workshop Group have put together an excellent practical demonstration, delivered by industry experts to help any business take their early steps into Lean to the more experienced who wish to consider I4.0.
Sam Thiara, MCS Control Systems
Very enjoyable day. Thank you and well done
Paul Fox, Denso Marston
A good all round experience
Paul Stratford, Cell Pack Solutions