IoT, or the Internet of Things, has played a vital role in global industrial transformation by orchestrating the emergence of Industry 4.0 (the fourth industrial revolution) and Industrial Internet.
The manufacturing industry is among the forerunners in harnessing this technology for enhanced automation, data collection and analytics, as well as optimizing processes and workflows.
This is no surprise considering that IoT in manufacturing accounted for $178 billion in 2016. Further, the worldwide IoT in manufacturing market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 29% through 2022.
According to Gartner, there should be 20.4 Billion IoT devices currently. This proves that IoT has created in a new era of smart and cognizant manufacturing by connecting people, processes, products, and infrastructure.
A. The Role of IoT in Manufacturing
With IoT technology, various devices in a manufacturing plant can be programmed to collaborate and produce superior outcomes on an assembly line. It is capable of gathering and interpreting data based on the current environment and equipment to instate foolproof technologies that enable proactive plant maintenance and disaster recovery.
The connected devices are capable of functioning with data analytics to improve processes, and produce insights and optimizations, which lead to informed decision-making.
In modern factories, IoT helps enhance automation. Manufacturing units that have already installed sensors, actuators, and other basic devices in their automation system will find that integrating IoT in their existing systems is the inevitable next step.
IoT is complex and implementing it requires a certain level of expertise. In order to take advantage of IoT technology and reap the benefits, you should connect with an experienced local IoT service provider. So, if your business is based out of Monroe, for instance, speak to a provider of managed IT services in Detroit about your requirements.
B. Applications of IoT in the Manufacturing Sector
Let’s take a look at some undeniable applications of IoT in manufacturing units.
1. Smarter and Connected Factories
IoT-enabled machinery will result in a digitally connected unit that will be able to transmit comprehensive operational data to stakeholders such as equipment manufacturers, factory and operational heads, and field engineers. This will allow them to effectively manage the unit in real-time and make the most of process automation and optimization. Further, it will help establish a better line of command within the unit.
2. Enhanced Quality Control
IoT augments the quality control process by using thermal and video sensors, which collect product data through the various stages of the product cycle. The products can be tested during each stage of manufacturing to verify if their features meet the required standards. Steps such as instrumentation and monitoring of calibrated equipment help ascertain that standards are maintained, and imprecisions are eliminated to avoid product defects.
Data gathered by IoT sensors can help enhance the composition of raw materials used, work conditions, transportation, and so on. Further, when used correctly with the final product, IoT devices can provide manufacturers with data about customer sentiment towards their product. This feedback, in turn, can be examined to identify and improve quality issues.
3. Improved Inventory Management
IoT makes inventory management seamless with the help of technologies such as RFID (radio-frequency identification) and UID (unique identification number). It can transform the data gathered by RFID readers into valuable business insights.
It can create a detailed record of inventory items by including information such as their location, volume, position in the supply chain, and stock availability, while sending out alerts for missing/unavailable items and other deviations from plans.
Manufacturers can look forward to receiving comparable results, while gaining cross-channel visibility of the available materials, ongoing processes, and estimated arrival time of new materials, thereby reducing shared costs in the value chain and boosting efficient processing.
4. Better Facility Management
By integrating IoT sensors with manufacturing equipment, manufacturers are able to receive condition-based maintenance notifications. This information is crucial because several expensive machines and important tools function within fixed temperature and vibration ranges.
IoT sensors can keep track of this and notify you when the equipment does not follow the set parameters. By using the machinery in suitable conditions, manufacturers can save energy, lower costs, minimize downtime, and boost operational efficiency.
5. Timely Predictive Maintenance
Combining industrial IoT with data science can help manufacturers shun ineffective maintenance routines. This approach is called predictive maintenance. This also involves the integration of IoT sensors with the factory equipment to monitor the operating environment and derive analytics to comprehend the extent of wear and tear. Prompt repairs and service of machines and equipment results in quicker identification of anomalies, higher efficiency, lower downtime and failures, fewer production delays, and reduced costs.
6. Superior Product Flow Monitoring
IoT enables manufacturers to monitor the entire production line, starting from the material refining process to the packaging of the final product. This allows the early identification of errors and provides an opportunity to make the necessary adjustments in processes for better operational management. This, in turn, minimizes waste and unnecessary work in progress inventory, while also eliminating avoidable expenses.
7. Safer Operations
Apart from optimizing process and operations in a manufacturing plant, IoT can help in improving the safety of workers and equipment. It can be used to determine workforce presence, absenteeism, mishaps, and machinery damage.
IoT-enabled wearables can make a huge difference here. Employees can be monitored for their heath metrics when they work on sites to understand their exposure to chemicals and harmful fumes resulting from processes. The information gathered can be used to improve business compliance, reduce insurance costs, and avoid legal consequences.
8. Accurate Metering of Resources
IoT-powered smart meters installed in manufacturing units can be used to track the use of electricity, water, and fuel, and other resources. Sensors allow manufacturers to understand exactly how and where these resources have been expended, and accordingly devise strategies for better usage. Manufacturers can refer to customizable end-user dashboards to interpret the results of smart metering.
9. Optimized Supply Chain and Logistics
IoT can be used to track materials, equipment, and products as they move through the supply chain in real-time. Manufacturers can gather and enter delivery information into the ERP (enterprise resource planning) and related systems, thereby connecting their units to suppliers and other concerned parties. This will bring everyone on the same page when it comes to outlining interdependencies, material flow, and manufacturing cycle times. The data derived can help manufacturers foresee potential issues, and reduce inventory as well as capital requirements.
10. Smart Packaging
Technologies such as sensors, QR codes, augmented reality, and virtual reality help integrate IoT with product packaging to gain insights into the handling and usage patterns of customers. Smart tracking devices can also identify product wear during shipment along with the cause. This information can be helpful when redesigning product package for safer transport and delivery, thereby improving customer experience.
IoT has become a game changer for the manufacturing sector to the extent that it is being called the harbinger of the fourth industrial revolution. As a driving force for this industry, it enables manufacturers to leverage smart sensors and cloud technologies to take advantage of intelligent services at a lower cost. The rate at which this technology is growing, smart factories will soon become the order of the day. So, without further ado, take cognizance of the above points and set the ball rolling for running a manufacturing unit that’s smarter and more efficient than ever before.