Technology is slowly but indisputably changing the way we think and do in the manufacturing industry. The manufacturing operations are using smarter equipments but the amount of silo data collected by connected and other devices are making data collation and interpretation a daunting task.

Internet of Things or Industry 4.0, as it is called in the context of manufacturing production, is bringing in a much required dynamic change in the operational innovation and excellence by creating a world that brings together connective technology, the cloud and Big data; a world where faster and better informed decisions can be made in a snap. When you break it down, this means that through IoT, smart manufacturing captures and highlights all available information, right from the plant floor to the other levels of supply chain, real-time.

IDC survey results show that 55.0% of discrete manufacturers are researching, piloting, or in production with IoT initiatives. And IDC forecasts the worldwide IoT market will grow from $1.3 trillion in 2013 to $3.04 trillion in 2020. The statistics tell it like it is; according to a TATA Consultancy survey, Manufacturers utilizing IoT solutions in 2014 saw an average 28.5% increase in revenues between 2013 and 2014. Business Insider estimates that global manufacturers will invest $70 billion on IoT solutions in 2020 and the primary motivation for adoption here is the difference to the bottom-line.

MAKING CHANGE VISIBLE

The chatter around IoT always throws up two points of observation, one, connectivity and two, real-time. In manufacturing, real-time is everything. At one of GE’s Durathon battery plants, 10,000+ sensors collect vital data such as temperature, humidity and air pressure, all in real-time and this allows the company to monitor the status of production on each battery. The best part is that smart manufacturing gets rid of the time gap in information dissemination to different teams within the company thereby leading to a complete optimization of production.

FROM ONE TO MANY

One of the most salient features of smart manufacturing is the ability to take stock of more than just one factory at a time. IoT increases the visibility of each step in the process making it easier to control what happens across multiple factories at multiple locations. This increased visibility helped a company like Harley Davidson turn things around through its factory at York. Here, each of its machines on the shop floor is integrated to a performance management system which functions real-time.

BETTER CONTROL

Newer management systems allow companies to establish factory operations in different parts of the world while simultaneously allowing for much better control of critical processes. With smart manufacturing, manufacturers can assign a digital identity to all of their physical assets that allows them to collect pertinent information on the location, condition and efficiency of each, at any give time. Essentially, this eases up the process of taking manufacturing outside of the country of origin without a compromise on quality.

It’s true that IoT is still in its nascent stages but in the near future, manufacturers are likely to find more complex applications for it, especially, in areas such as augmented reality and artificial intelligence. At this moment some of these ideas seem far from reality but when IoT is combined with the potential of other transformative technology, it assumes much greater power and this is what manufacturers will look to harness.

The Internet of Things is enabling an orchestration of innovative products, improved decision making, predictive maintenance by asset tracking and paperless shop floor.