Consumer interest and demand for customization and quick service have driven the acceleration of IoT in manufacturing. IoT, or the Internet of Things, has already transformed the manufacturing industry. Still, many manufacturers have not harnessed the power of IoT solutions. Maybe you’ve heard the term IoT or the Internet of Things, but you’re not sure what it means exactly. Or perhaps, you are hesitant to adopt this technological advancement because you are uncertain about its benefits.
Whatever the case may be, we are here to help you. I’ll explain what the Internet of Things is, and the ways it can transform your manufacturing business. It is time to join the smart manufacturing revolution and enter industry 4.0.
What is the Internet of Things?
Before we get into the details of using IoT in manufacturing, we should begin by explaining what IoT is. IoT refers to a network of devices, appliances, and other everyday objects that have computer chips or sensors that transmit data using the Internet. In domestic terms, this includes things like smart thermostats and your Alexa device.
Businesses have also found many uses for this interconnected technology, and it is often referred to as the Industrial Internet of Things, or industrial IoT. Industrial IoT includes sensors, instruments, machinery, and a wide array of other connected devices that are all networked through the Internet and a business’s computer systems. Utilizing the Internet of Things in this fashion can give manufacturing companies complete control over their processes and ultimately make them more efficient.
How Can the Manufacturing Industry Put IoT Technology to Good Use?
The potential uses of IoT applications in the manufacturing industry are nearly limitless. Smart manufacturing technologies combined with big data and cloud computing can turn any manufacturing business into a highly efficient and profitable operation. Industrial IoT is the future of manufacturing. Any manufacturing company can adopt industry 4.0 technology standards now and get a leg up on competition. Let’s explore how the manufacturing industry can put IoT applications to good use in their plants, warehouses, and other business locations.
One of the most important assets a manufacturer possesses is its machinery. Before IoT in manufacturing existed, the machines would be run until they broke down or failed. Machine downtime was just part of the manufacturing process, but this no longer needs to be the case. IoT-enabled machinery allows you to monitor the health and performance of your machines so that you can schedule maintenance and make repairs before they go down.
Cutting down on machine downtime allows your operation to be more efficient, produce more goods, and ultimately make more money. Keeping your manufacturing equipment running at optimal levels can be aided by artificial intelligence that helps predict breakdowns before they occur. IoT-enabled sensors can capture real-time data about your machines including temperature and motor vibration to help aid in the predictive analysis of their overall health and efficiency.
IoT solutions can give manufacturers a detailed overview of everything that is happening during every stage of their production process in real-time. The power of this data can help manufacturers make quick decisions in real-time without having to wait for reports from the manufacturing floor. Smart manufacturing begins with understanding your machines and production process in minute detail.
Nearly as important as your manufacturing equipment are the products you produce. We’ve already seen how IoT solutions can be beneficial to the maintenance and production processes of your machines. Did you know that most of the same IoT-enabled sensors that help keep your machines running at optimal levels can also be used to ensure product quality?
In the grand majority of cases, issues with products can be traced back to issues with your manufacturing equipment. Previously, manufacturers had to ensure quality by inspecting the work in progress. This is a costly and inefficient method of ensuring product quality, and manual inspections can hardly account for all of the products being produced.
IoT sensors can be used to ensure product quality more efficiently. As we’ve already discussed, sensors can track a machine’s temperature, motor vibration, and more. You can calibrate IoT-enabled sensors to track optimal ambient temperatures and humidity, machine speeds and vibrations, etc. When production conditions move outside of your optimal ranges, the sensors alert you to the possibility of poor product output. You can then take steps to mitigate the issues presented, avoid bottlenecks, and ensure product quality without wasting valuable time trying to manually inspect all of the products coming off your production line.
Supply Chain Visibility
IoT solutions can help provide manufacturers with total visibility over their entire supply chain. This technology can be used to get real-time data on the location of every object or product that is part of your supply chain, from individual items to entire truckloads of products. Inventory management is a crucial aspect of manufacturing. IoT-enabled sensors can help manufacturers gain a complete understanding of what products they have ready to be shipped, where their shipped products are currently, the stock levels of their manufacturing materials, when they can expect a new shipment of products or materials, and so much more.
The latest advancements in IoT technology offer manufacturers more than just inventory management and supply chain visibility. New IoT applications offer manufacturers insights into the status of their products too. For example, manufacturers can use IoT-enabled sensors to monitor the conditions of their products from the warehouse, through the shipping process, and finally when it arrives at their customers.
In the past, manufacturers were only able to monitor the condition of their products when they were at specific delivery points. Now manufacturers can use IoT tech to monitor the condition of their items while they are en-route. They can also monitor the conditions of the materials and goods they use in the manufacturing process too in order to ensure that they are only using high-quality components.
The ability to monitor the conditions of items while they are shipping is crucial to manufacturers that ship fragile or perishable goods. If something happens while your product is being shipped to your customer, you can alert them and send a new product before they receive a broken or spoiled product. Likewise, if you are receiving a shipment of materials and you know that they are broken or spoiled before the shipment arrives, you can notify your supplier and get a new shipment sent.
Fully automated manufacturing sites are not far off, but they aren’t a widespread reality yet. In most cases, you will have employees who are working at your manufacturing site. Employee safety is always a big concern, but it is even more important when heavy machinery is involved. IoT-enabled wearable technology can help keep employees safe by monitoring a myriad of different data points including heart rate, body temperature, and galvanic skin response.
Machine Learning can help you find unusual patterns of behavior in real-time data such as sudden, erratic movements and elevated heart rates. This information can help your safety team mitigate a threat to an employee’s safety whether it be from a fall, overexertion, or a medical emergency before it happens.
Accidents in the workplace are bad for morale, and they can lead to lengthy downtime of your manufacturing applications. Your employees are your most important asset, and IoT-enabled wearable technology can help keep them safe on the job.
What are the Challenges of Implementing IoT in Manufacturing?
We’ve just seen a few of the ways IoT solutions can be deployed in your manufacturing operation. We haven’t looked at any of the challenges or concerns manufacturers might have when it comes to implementing IoT-enabled technology. There are a few challenges manufacturers may face when trying to adopt this technology, but they can all be mitigated with a little bit of work.
The main concern in most manufacturers’ minds is data security. With more information being compiled, stored, and transmitted on the Internet through a wide array of different devices and sensors there is a greater risk of cyberattack. This should be a major concern to anyone using IoT technology, and the only solution is to invest in security measures to make sure that your business and data are protected from cyberattacks.
As the world becomes more connected via the Internet the threat of cyberattacks will continue to grow. Luckily, there are several specialists and security experts that can help you secure your IoT applications.
The other major concern most businesses have is cost. IoT solutions can be as expensive or as affordable as you want them to be. You would be surprised how much you can learn, and how much you can optimize with just a few data points. Conversely, you could gather data from every possible point in your processes. If cost is a major concern that you have, know that there are cost-effective IoT solutions available. To find one, you just need to contact an experienced IoT development company.