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Get! Set! Smart! - Importance of IoT in the manufacturing world

Get! Set! Smart! - Importance of IoT in the manufacturing world
November 20, 2018

The next industrial  revolution  isn’t  just  around  the  corner  anymore, it’s  here  and it’s happening!

The answer to what more can happen in a world already equipped with automated machines and smart computers has come, and it’s the Internet of Things, or more famously, IoT.

The  basic principle behind IoT is connecting any ‘thing’ to the internet and allowing it to transmit information created by IoT sensors over this connection and link to either other devices or central data which will, in turn, send instructions/commands to the ‘thing.’

In the spirit of a true revolution, IIoT shows no signs of slowing down!

Though IoT has garnered a huge popularity amongst various industries and applications, the manufacturing industry has been the clear-cut leader in industries with scope of utilizing the IoT to its fullest and hence was born the fourth industrial revolution with a backbone of IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things), and a new age of manufacturing where the machine could take care of itself.

A 100 percent yes; note that this is not just my answer, but the answer of many in the manufacturing sector worldwide who have deployed IoT in their machinery.

No matter the heaps of praise, one cannot fathom the scope and size of the change this revolution can bring. I can, however, illustrate a picture of its importance with the help of an example.

Consider two companies A and B in the manufacturing industry. A has traditional machinery and B has smart machines; for the simplicity of the example, let us assume they each own only one machine.

They both hire employees to work the machine for a minimum of eight hours and after a few days, A realizes its workers aren’t obeying its timings. A surprise checkup further revealed that its workers have resorted to simply switching on the machine without actually putting it to work. These are two very common scenarios in factories.

One day, a part of its machine starts malfunctioning and A’s management is only informed of this when this machine can no longer run. It now needs to find out what went wrong, order a new part, and then wait for the part to arrive — all of this causing a long downtime.

Now, let’s take a look at B.

B made the decision of utilizing IoT. It installed current sensors to monitor whether the machine is running for the required eight hours. Similarly, the machine had sound sensors, heat sensors,

chemical sensors, etc. which could directly identify any damage to the machine or abnormality in the products. These IoT sensors send the data acquired directly to B’s device and its workers work with discipline.

Hence, in the end, B’s management is much happier than that of A. It doesn’t need to breathe down anybody’s neck, it is notified appropriately and quickly by the machine itself allowing it to utilize its money and time suitably. Most importantly, B’s vendors are also quite happy; this is all in contrast to A which has lost money, time, and vendors’ trust as they didn't receive their due in time.

As you can see from the example, IIoT has provided a sense of convenience for companies with remote units involved in the manufacturing process; they can now avail real-time data and logistics directly from their machines on the state of machinery, the quality of material being processed during the manufacturing process, the number of hours the equipment was running, the fuel utilization, and so on. This gives them a deeper insight into the manufacturing process compared to the situation earlier, and the swiftness of data transfer also allows for faster and better decisions.

As stated in the beginning, through IoT, connections can also be made between two machines (M2M) which can allow a chain of activities to occur without human input, further minimizing the risk of human errors and time delays.

There is, thus, a more effective management control, a virtual eye on equipment utilization, reduced errors, and the icing on the cake: the machine can assess its own health and requirements.

All of this directly allows an increased workflow to occur, resulting in higher productivity when compared to traditional machines and as seen in the example, the company saves money, time, and its vendor relations.

USE CASES

The manufacture of even a simple object involves quite a complicated process, and though each step might not be compatible to IoT just yet, here are its key use cases in the industry:

Manufacturing Opertaions

This is the major use case (over 57% of IIoT investments) and includes elements related to manufacturing operation management (MOM) like monitoring performance, planning, human-machine interactions, and transparency of operations.

Asset Managemnet 

The list of uses in the asset management  sector varies depending on the input and product but a common few areas include tracking of the asset for improved asset management, along with the monitoring of its’ quality, performance, damage, etc.

Other cases

There are, of course, many other use cases than mentioned which are dependent on the product you are manufacturing; for example, field service in industries where the manufacturing company is the service provider.

4.0 OR NO?

Recognizing the challenges faced by IIoT is a critical step before making a ruling on its importance as we must know whether it is worth the issues it presents. The most common obstacles faced are:

  • Security :Deficient cybersecurity is a major threat for any manufacturing company linking its devices to the internet as there are many hacking communities and the blow that a simple hack can cause is unfathomable. 
  • Techincal Requiremnets: The working of IIoT is complex; the data from the sensors is raw and most often nonlinear; similarly, an analysis must be created for the data acquired. This requires a technical team equipped in machine learning, big data, and other skills not found off the bat in the market.
  • Unemployment: With the advent of each industrial revolution, there was accompanying unemployment;similarly, this time around will also see the loss of jobs in numbers running to millions.

CAN WE OVERCOME THE OBSTACLES?

Yes, there is yet a problem without a solution. We can overcome issues of security and privacy by taking up and investing in  appropriate measures. As for technical requirements and unemployment, they are no new problems and the solution has always been and always will be: education. Educating one’s self on required skill set can again open up various jobs.

As you can see from the example, IIoT has provided a sense of convenience for companies with remote units involved in the manufacturing process; they can now avail real-time data and logistics directly from their machines on the state of machinery, the quality of material being processed during the manufacturing process, the number of hours the equipment was running, the fuel utilization, and so on. This gives them a deeper insight into the manufacturing process compared to the situation earlier, and the swiftness of data transfer also allows for faster and better decisions.

As stated in the beginning, through IoT, connections can also be made between two machines (M2M) which can allow a chain of activities to occur without human input, further minimizing the risk of human errors and time delays.There is, thus, a more effective management control, a virtual eye on equipment utilization, reduced errors, and the icing on the cake: the machine can assess its own health and requirements.

All of this directly allows an increased workflow to occur, resulting in higher productivity when compared to traditional machines and as seen in the example, the company saves money, time, and its vendor relations.