Of the myriad of potential Internet of Things applications, manufacturing probably seems most abstract to lay people, but will ultimately have the greatest impact on our economy. It is easier for most people to understand how fitness bands impact their exercise routines, or how greater access to data will improve health care, but most people don’t know enough about industry to under just how the next wave of IoT implementation will impact the worldwide economy.
Most large scale manufacturing plants have literally dozens of components, some closely integrated with one another, others more independent but when considering the whole, most manufacturing relies on thousands of daily interactions. More closely monitoring all components and then aggregating the data will offer manufacturers enormous opportunity to increase efficiency and ultimately profitability.
Imagine the potential to increase efficiency when, at any moment in time, plant operators can:
- See what is running and what is not;
- Observe what requires maintenance (and what does not);
- Determine which orders are running and which to prioritize next;
- Monitor inventory and energy usage;
- Discover unnecessary waste;
- Quickly evaluate trends in real-time.
At all stages of development; operators, lab technicians, supervisors, engineers, and managers will access data and make evaluative decisions based on a plethora of information, all measured in the smallest units determinable and aggregated at whatever scale is required to move forward. Key decision makers will quickly identify areas for concern, as well as areas that are operating at peak efficiency, in order to make moves that will only increase productivity.
In Industryweek.com (“Are You an Authority on Dumb Manufacturing?”, December 1, 2016), Charles Horth (CEO, Factora) refers to it as the difference between smart and dumb manufacturing:
Many industry segments in manufacturing still operate in a similar manner as they did in the last century. But moving to smart manufacturing is not an incremental change–it’s a quantum leap. So the players that decide to move ahead have a quantum competitive advantage. Not only that, they have an advantage that continues to grow in breadth, year by year.
In smart manufacturing, key stakeholders will continuously measure and evaluate every step of the process in real-time.
The secondary benefit comes from the ability to use said evaluations to iterate key functions during the manufacturing process. In previous generations, manufacturers could only evaluate their products after completion. With the implementation of IoT technology, evals can be completed at every stage of the process and midstream changes can be made to correct any ills that get disclosed along the way. Horth refers to this as, the “difference between an art and a science.” With each new phase of IoT in manufacturing, plants will move more towards the scientific end of that balance.
According to Louis Colombus (Director, Global Cloud Product Management at Ingram Cloud), writing for Forbes.com (“Making Internet of Things (IoT) Pay In Manufacturing,” January 31, 2016):
- 63% of manufacturers have already begun to implement IoT technologies into their products, and
- 76% will increase their use of smart devices in their manufacturing process over the next two years.
This illustrates that the wave is ever increasing and that those who ignore it will be left behind.
What is also means is that businesses will require continued advancements in How they manage all of this information. Advanced messaging systems like UnifiedInbox will enable manufacturers to utilize the vast amounts of data to make critical decisions that will increase efficiency and productivity at every step of the process, and ultimately increase profitability. The data itself is awesome, but in a vacuum, it does nobody any good. Getting at the information, in a useful and seamless manner will make or break the difference for many manufacturing operations in the immediate future.
About the Author
Richard Meyers is a former high school teacher in the SF Bay Area who has studied business and technology at Stanford and UC-Berkeley. He has a single-digit handicap in golf and is passionate about cooking, wine and rock-n-roll.