Photo by Todd Quackenbush
Photo by Todd Quackenbush

There’s a new Industrial Revolution on its way—in fact, it’s already arrived.

While the initial Industrial Revolution focused on automating labor that was previously done manually by human workers, this one focuses on developing more intelligent, interconnected machines that are part of the vast “Internet of Things” network. Such machines can use sensors to collect data in real-time, and instantly send messages and alerts to other machines and to managers and other employees.

By making the switch to sensor-connected “Internet of Things” technology, manufacturers can optimize processes, reduce operating costs, and collect detailed insights about their manufacturing process. Here’s a look at how it can boost your manufacturing business.

Why IoT?

“Smart” technology has been relatively slow to take hold in the world of manufacturing. According to a December 2013 study by American Society for Quality (ASQ), only 13 percent of the manufacturers surveyed said that they’re currently using Internet of Things-based technology. But for those who’ve taken the plunge, the results have been nothing short of game-changing: 82 percent of IoT-enabled manufacturers have seen increased efficiency, 49 percent experienced fewer product defects, and 45 percent increased customer satisfaction.

IoT, or Machine to Machine (M2M) technology can help manufacturers collect real-time, detailed analytics about their manufacturing process, automatically troubleshooting devices when possible and instantly alerting employees when intervention is needed. The devices can help manufacturers identify flaws in the manufacturing line so that they can optimize their processes to boost efficiencies and cut costs.

Innovations in M2M manufacturing

Here’s a look at how manufacturers are incorporating IoT technology:

    • Connected machine diagnostics

      In most cases, manufacturers are forced to shut down the production line if a machine malfunctions, causing delays and significant expenses. But by adding sensors that can complete remote diagnostics, technicians can instantly detect the status of machine conditions through a cloud-based platform, no matter where they are. This can be critical to keep machines running smoothly, by remotely troubleshooting devices and providing maintenance before a malfunction occurs, based on trigger alerts. Real-time monitoring can also eliminate the expense of scheduling regular maintenance, as technicians can easily determine when support is needed.

  • Enhanced supply chain management

    Manufacturers are heavily reliant on their supply chain partners: If components don’t arrive in time, the schedule is thrown off. By using IoT-enabled logistics tools that monitor supply partners’ locations through GPS and RFID technology, manufacturers can track delays in real-time. These technologies can also enable manufacturers to monitor data such as temperature and other data points that may indicate problems with the shipment.

  • Improving employee productivity

    Employees at manufacturing plants can use wearable smart technology to work more efficiently. For instance, a soon-to-launch product called the ProGlove, which is designed for use by assembly line workers, uses sensors to detect what kind of tool the glove wearer is holding. It can track this information to provide detailed insights on employees’ workflow, which can be used in identifying flaws and providing additional training to employees. The gloves can also alert employees in real-time whether they are handling the wrong tool.

  • Automated inventory management

    Rather than going through manual inventory checking, which is time-consuming and subject to human error, IoT-enabled manufacturers can use sensors to automatically calculate warehouse stock, sending out automated alerts to managers and to supply chain partners when inventory is too low.

While moving to Internet of Things-enabled technology can require some upfront time and expense, it won’t take manufacturers long to realize the benefits of making a switch. Before long, you’ll see lower operating costs, streamlined processes, and gain new business insights from the vast amounts of data delivered from your IoT machines.

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Carl Krupitzer

Carl is CEO and co-founder of ThingLogix

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