The Internet of Things (IoT) has had a major impact on the manufacturing industry. The inter-reliability of sensors, equipment, machines, lines, processing units, plants, materials, containers, transportation, buildings, computers, software, cloud technology, mobile devices, people, departments, companies, and processes is helping achieve innovative results, and drive value in manufacturing.
IoT is disrupting several industries, but it is manufacturing that is benefitting the most of it.
Here are a few ways in which IoT is helping the manufacturing industry evolve:
Secure storage of data collected from sensors and machines for analysis and application is essential. The cloud enables flexibility and efficiency in leveraging the information to make it actionable for manufacturing companies.
To bridge the gap between manufacturing and enterprise networks, manufacturing companies are deploying intelligent networks. This allows them to reduce downtime by enabling remote access to systems and partners, and deliver precision, reliability, and resilience from the plant floor to the enterprise.
It is imperative for manufacturing companies to get better visibility into resource needs, equipment performance, and security threats. They can develop dashboards showing details of plant environment, safety, efficiency, and return on assets.
Integrated production systems are critical for manufacturers with geographically dispersed production sites. This can help shorten lead times. For faster information flow, enhanced market responsiveness, and faster decision-making, manufacturers can leverage Internal Protocol (IP) network technology which connects enterprise applications with device-level production data in real time.
Alarms and event resolution
In many cases, manufacturing plants lack the capability of issuing real time notifications in case of equipment failure. Open standards allow users to tap sensor-level networks which can detect malfunctions quickly (sometimes even before they occur) to craft high levels of overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).
Regular maintenance is key to the smooth functioning of a plant. Planned outages (usually annual) for maintaining and repairing equipment help companies better deal with emergencies. However, this approach is not unproblematic since not all equipment need maintenance at the same time and per the same schedule. Industrial Internet of things helps companies move to a more proactive model of predictive maintenance. Industrial internet of things (IIoT) provides for real time monitoring of machinery and device health, enabling companies to schedule maintenance when the machine needs it, and not per an arbitrary schedule.
Visibility into supply chain
Supply chain visibility is essential and challenging, especially in the food industry, where many suppliers are involved and new regulations mandate complete transparency and compliance. IoT in manufacturing industry ensures real time visibility into all manufacturing processes. For example, food manufacturers using sensors can determine if their products have been exposed to temperatures, pressures, or other environmental conditions that may render the food unsafe for consumption. Knowing this ahead of time can save companies millions of dollars in recall costs.
Comparing the efficiency and product quality across facilities was challenging in the past. Today, however, manufacturers can use IoT technology to collect and analyze data from several facilities. This aids in better decision-making with regard to quality, operational efficiency, etc.
IIoT involves machines communicating with each other without interference from humans (who could introduce errors). This expands the scope for IoT in manufacturing, which have been adopted in increasing numbers by organizations in order to boost efficiency and improve the quality and consistency of their products.
Powerful, low-cost cloud computing, wired and wireless communication, and systems on a chip for embedded computing are fueling the IoT revolution.
Here’s a list of principles that can guide companies on their IoT journey while keeping the risk manageable:
- Identifying and defining the problem
To begin with, companies must be clear on what they want to achieve through IoT in manufacturing. They should answer the query: What’s the business problem to be solved and the benefit sought — in terms of cost reduction, customer experience, quality, productivity, growth, improving products, and/or risk reduction. They must define a problem statement, use cases, success criterion, and value statement.
- Collaborating to achieve more value
IoT can only be powerful when communication is seamless. From devices to people, processes and data – the more enriched the sharing, the wider the span, and the greater the benefit achieved. Open standards and interoperability can play a critical role, reducing cost and improving chances of success.
- Reconsidering what skills and culture can realize
IoT in manufacturing has the potential to disrupt the way companies do business. New experiences, new processes, and new products will emerge. But their current teams may not be able to work optimally in the new environment without training. A balanced mix of creative, analytical, data, technical, and business process skills will be critical – with the ability to transcend silos and functions.
- Need for experimentation
Manufacturing companies must ‘think big, (but) start small’. Thorough testing and learning solutions can assist companies in developing a richer understanding of the benefits and risks of implementing IoT in manufacturing. Companies should assess successes and failures, and measure the value and degree of disruption. They must run gradually bigger experiments as they learn, and in turn build stronger capabilities.
- Developing knowledge of risks and rules
With value comes risk. IoT can upgrade a company’s business. It is, therefore, necessary to understand the associated regulations and risks. Aspects such as security, privacy, and safety need to be considered. Companies must ensure that they keep in mind customers, employees, assets, partners, and all other stakeholders.
- Importance of an ecosystem
IoT requires a connected ecosystem of ‘components’ to deliver value. A company’s solution won’t rely on one vendor or product; instead, it requires all components to work together. So, partners in each area must be identified and a clear blueprint of cooperation created.