The Internet of Things (IoT) has been breathlessly discussed from a consumer perspective. Smart homes and driverless cars certainly look and sound exciting – but there are equally stimulating possibilities when the IoT is applied to more corporate environments. Take manufacturing, for example.
At its most basic, the IoT is about connecting previously isolated and disparate devices together. It’s about sharing and consolidating information – and using that information to map trends, make predictions and highlight potential problems at the earliest opportunity. All these capabilities mean that the IoT has truly transformative potential for the manufacturing sector.
Manufacturing organisations deploy a huge number of physical assets – machines that carry out different stages of the manufacturing and supply process. They are all part of the same process – so they all exist as part of a cohesive whole – and yet until recently there was no way of cost effectively linking them together. IoT capability means that, for the first time, organisations can capture data relating to the performance of these assets from them and the disparate systems, consolidate it in a central analytics platform and deliver insight in ways that are easily consumed by the people who can effect change. Here are some ways in which that can improve the manufacturing process:
On-going, real-time data collection on the performance of key physical assets grants staff unparalleled visibility into their organisation with the data they need to do their job. This visibility is both broad – because it covers all the disparate machines and systems that make up the manufacturing process – and deep – because it can be tailored to examine anything from temperature to the level of consumables like oil and water. The best tools don’t just centralise this information – they translate it into statistics and clear dashboards, meaning that not only senior management can get an at-a-glance overview of how their physical assets are performing but the people best placed to improve that performance have their view too. In turn, this drives manufacturing efficiencies and saves time and resource.
One of the biggest hindrances to manufacturing efficiency is a bottleneck between different machines or different stages of the manufacturing process. One machine fails or is underperforming and a backlog develops. Remote monitoring and diagnostics tools, connected to an analytics engine via the Internet of Things, can identify and even predict such failures far more rapidly than manual checks, and enable management to make quick decisions as to how to ease or bypass the bottleneck.
Bottlenecks don’t need to be caused by machine failure either – they can develop because of stage of the process taking relatively longer than the others, or because orders have passed a critical point. Once again, remote monitoring and diagnostics tools, because they build trend maps on each stage of the manufacturing chain, can help management identify when these are likely to occur.
Product and marketing innovation
Effective manufacturing isn’t just about an efficient process – it’s also about developing compelling, in-demand products and associated marketing campaigns. Here, the Internet of Things can also play a valuable role in collecting and analysing data on customer behaviour, and consequently helping manufacturers to make smarter development decisions.
Sweat your assets
Sweating your assets simply means maximising the useful lifespan of your physical assets with intelligent, strategic maintenance processes. So, ensuring that you carry out maintenance before small issues become big ones, but crucially not before maintenance is actually needed and you’re therefore enforcing unnecessary, inefficient downtime. The Internet of Things can support asset sweating by collecting in-depth data on machine performance, analysing it and providing maintenance recommendations automatically. This is an issue we’ve blogged about in more detail elsewhere – click here for a more in-depth look at how the IoT can help you sweat your assets.