From the very invention of the machine to the introduction of 3D printing, manufacturing is constantly taking on-board new ways of doing things to increase productivity and efficiencies. Manufacturing’s adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) is, therefore, an inherently natural progression. So, how does the IoT work, and how will it benefit the manufacturing sector?
IoT describes the network of physical objects that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the internet.
IoT integrated equipment therefor provides valuable real-time data that allows manufacturers or machine operators to make informed decisions.
One of the greatest benefits of the IoT is how it can dramatically improve operating efficiencies. For example, if a machine goes down, connected sensors can automatically pinpoint where the issue is occurring and trigger a serice request. More importantly, the IoT can help a manufacturer predict when a machine will likely breakdown or enter a dangerous operating condition before it even happens.
Sensors work by analyzing sound frequencies, vibrations, and temperature, of machines to tell if they are working within its standard condition. This process is known as ‘condition monitoring’. Normally time intensive when undertaken by humans, the IoT allows sensors to collect and quickly analyze data points in the cloud.
Furthermore, beyond saving money and time, the IoT can help ensure worker safety. For example, if an oil well is about to reach a dangerous pressure condition, operators will be warned well before an explosion occurs. Sensors can also be used to manage and monitor workers' locations in case of an emergency or evacuation.
IoT gives manufacturers the ability to automate and therefore optimize operation efficiency. Robotics and automated machinery can work more efficiently and accurately, boosting productivity and helping manufacturers streamline their functions.
Additionally, physical machinery can be connected to software via sensors that monitor performance on a constant basis. This will allow manufacturers to have better insights into the operational performance of individual pieces of equipment.
IoT enables manufacturers to digitize nearly all areas of their business. By reducing manual process and entries, manufacturers are able to reduce the biggest risk associated with human labor, mistakes.
IoT solutions can also reduce the risk of cyber breaches caused by human error. A Cyber Security Trend report cited people as the biggest cause of cybersecurity breaches, with human error being the culprit 37% of the time. AI and machine learning-enabled programs and machinery can do much of the required computing themselves, eliminating the potential for someone to make a simple mistake, and put the manufacturer’s data at risk.
Industries like discrete and process manufacturers are responsible for the majority of energy consumption worldwide. This leads to sizable operating costs. Fortunately for manufacturers, IoT can significantly increase energy efficiency in a number of ways.
From identifying hardware and devices that use the most energy to maximizing machine downtime, IoT connectivity can highlight abnormalities and address problems immediately. The capability keeps machines operating at peak efficiency without draining resources unnecessarily.
Before the industrial revolution, manufacturers could not envision a future with an assembly line. That was the innovation that changed the face of global manufacturing back then.
The next such innovation is the Internet of Things.
If connected systems seemed like science fiction 20 years ago, like a competitive edge in today’s manufacturing ecosystem, in the future they will be a widespread, fundamental manufacturing must-have.
We expect more data to be gathered, more analyses to be made, and more efficiencies to be realized. Manufacturers that accept this reality and allow the IoT to permeate their processes, will be the ones who leverage the benefits and reap their share of the $19 trillion in projected profits and cost savings.