The Internet of Things (IoT) is moving into the manufacturing space for a number of reasons, including, according to Automation World, “greater operational efficiencies, better top and bottom line management, supply chain streamlining, and improved decision-making based on better and more timely delivery of data.”
It is connecting what was once unconnected. “This means identification of the device, a communication infrastructure able to securely deploy billions of devices, and open standards to sustain innovation in manned and unmanned environments. The IoT benefits from decades of innovation and the benefits of experience from large deployments [on a worldwide scale] using Internet protocol technologies and associated security protocols,” Patrick Wetterwald, president of global collaborative forum IPSO Alliance states in an ISA.org article.
Not that bringing IoT into manufacturing will be an easy task. According to TechRepublic, “enterprise systems must be modified so they can interface with and monitor IoT sensor-based technology, along with a host of disparate manufacturing, logistics, procurement, order, and other systems that must be integrated into a single back plane system.” It means having an IT staff on board that is up to the challenge of integrating new technologies onto the manufacturing floor.
However, once systems are connected, IoT’s automation of manufacturing can ramp up production and enhance overall growth. For example, according to Forbes, when food company King’s Hawaiian added IoT technologies, it was able to double its daily bread production. The technologies included adding a software suite that generated real-time data from equipment inside the plant and a dashboard that showed operational performances.
Other ways that companies are using IoT to automate the manufacturing process include the following:
Supply Chain Management
Many experts believe that IoT could be a real game changer in supply chain management, primarily in the way business leaders, plant managers, and sales staff can monitor the transit of products. This is done through cloud-based GPS systems to track location and with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips. “Data gathered from GPS and RFID technologies not only allows supply chain professionals to automate shipping and delivery by exactly predicting the time of arrival; they can monitor important details like temperature control, which impact the quality of a product in-transit,” Udaya Shankar explains in his Inbound Logistics article.
With the use of sensors, plant managers are better able to monitor the status of the equipment. Not only can they monitor the production levels of individual machines, but the sensors can also alert personnel to potential problems and, with the right software program, IoT can begin the process to fix the broken part with work orders and service-call notifications.
“By hooking equipment into the IoT, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) or dealers could use that stream of data to adjust preventative maintenance schedules based on actual wear and be able to better optimize uptime,” writes Roberto Michel in Modern Materials Handling.
With smartphone apps, employees can remotely monitor equipment and production, allowing managers to troubleshoot issues even if they are at a meeting on the other side of the plant or the other side of the country. IoT also makes the production system more efficient by responding to just-in-time demands, and can remotely diagnose and correct problems, increasing the efficiency of the entire factory. Apps such as iWarehouse can track fleet vehicles both inside and outside of the plant, and can even tell if particular vehicles are being underused.
This is just the beginning of the ways companies are seeing how IoT is improving the production process and streamlining automation. As IoT becomes more mainstreamed into manufacturing, companies will see just how the variety of technologies available can benefit the bottom line.