You’re almost certainly aware of the concept of the Internet of Things, or IoT; machine-to-machine connectivity that enables data sharing across a community of digital devices.
As an exciting and rapidly growing technology, IoT is a modern advancement that’s discussed frequently, particularly in terms of the potential for such an innovation. We often see IoT considered for possible future applications that would once have been inconceivable: self-driving cars and drone-delivery services, for example. What isn’t discussed quite so regularly, however, is how IoT is already driving real change in manufacturing environments around the world today. It’s sometimes referred to as machine-to-machine or ‘M2M’ technology, and it’s powering the widespread shift to Industry 4.0.
Exploring the ‘how’
IoT is not a futuristic technology. It has already been adopted by many manufacturers across the globe, and these organisations are reporting back on the benefits of IoT that they’ve been experiencing.
According to a survey by Aberdeen Strategy & Research, 55% of manufacturers using IoT solutions report cost savings. 51% have seen an improvement in operational uptime. 45% have benefited from increased operational speed, while 36% have been able to design higher quality products. And 23% have noticed greater safety within the factory or plant as a direct result of connected machines and devices.
In this specific industry, IoT isn’t the future; it’s the here and now. And due to the incredible benefits that are already being seen, McKinsey estimates that this sector will generate the largest economic value from IoT technologies. It’s expected to reach somewhere between 1.2 and 3.7 trillion USD by 2025.
But the big question we need to be asking ourselves here is… ‘how’?
How are manufacturers incorporating IoT into their long-established processes and operations to generate this value and drive such benefits and results? How are they using the Internet of Things to improve and change methods of working in ways that create previously unseen levels of business value?
That’s what we’re here to look at.
Here are 10 top use cases for IoT in manufacturing today:
1. Remote monitoring
Manufacturers are using IoT sensors to connect machinery and equipment to data collection and sharing technologies to facilitate the remote monitoring of health and productivity. This eradicates the need for manual inspections. IoT sensors can quickly and proactively identify potential issues that could create future delays. With improved monitoring – not subject to human availability – predictive maintenance processes can be implemented that maximise uptime through the delivery of warning signs and health alerts.
2. Product development
A further application of IoT can be found in product development, with manufacturers incorporating IoT sensors into their products to enable them to track usage in real-world situations. By analysing this data, manufacturers can gain deeper insight into what works and what doesn’t. New development strategies can be generated, and ‘digital twins’ can be used to test potential changes for best effect. In this way, IoT can be used both to adapt existing products to improve value, and to develop new products shaped by user requirements.
3. Service optimisation
Sensors inserted into products can generate valuable usage data for product development. They can also be used to report back on the health of the product, in much the same way as remote equipment monitoring. This enables manufacturers to track the status of their products throughout their lifetime. They can take proactive measures to swap or fix, prior to irreparable damage. This application can be a significant driver of improved customer satisfaction, building loyalty, reputation, and profitability.
4. Supply chain management
The application of IoT technology to the supply chain is helping manufacturers to track their assets in real-time. The delivery of essential paperwork, needed to facilitate smooth logistics operations, can be automated. Material shortages are cited as one of the biggest challenges facing manufacturers in the ‘new normal’. A more transparent overview of the supply chain and internal inventory can ensure all necessary parts are available to meet anticipated demand, which may fluctuate across the year.
5. Warranty compliance
With IoT sensors built directly into product design, manufacturers are applying the technology to their warranty protocols to determine whether customer claims are valid based on usage data. Sensors are able to communicate accurate information relating to the use of the product which may conflict with information provided by the customer. This can help manufacturers to see where warranty criteria have been met – and where they haven’t – to reduce financial losses associated with fraudulent claims.
As the manufacturing landscape continues to become increasingly competitive, IoT technologies are being applied to benchmarking activities. This helps to provide more accurate, more insightful data on organisational performance – and how a company measures up against its closest competitors. IoT can be used to collect and analyse performance data automatically, based on selected metrics and KPIs. This enables leaders to gain an understanding of strengths & weaknesses, and where there’s room for improvement.
7. Green initiatives
Manufacturers that rely heavily upon the use of multiple machines running continually can often find it challenging to meet their own green initiatives, and those set out by potential clients. Forward-thinking manufacturers are now applying IoT concepts to this area to analyse the energy consumption of their equipment. Operations can be optimised to reduce power requirements, demonstrate responsibility, and grab new opportunities for tenders from clients setting out strict environmental criteria.
8. Sustainable transformation
Manufacturers are using IoT to create opportunities with customers seeking sustainable partnerships. Let’s use the food industry as an example. Packaging manufacturers are increasingly using IoT to track a product’s journey from farm to fork. This enables them to create carbon labelling systems showing the carbon footprint of products across the manufacturing, travel, retail, and end of life journey. Increased visibility of a product’s story can help to build new opportunities with eco enterprises.
9. System integration
Despite the benefits of organisational wide collaboration, many manufacturing firms are still operating in silos. Access to essential, valuable data is kept isolated within specific departments. Now, some manufacturers are beginning to use IoT to integrate cross-departmental devices and machinery, enabling data sharing across all teams. This drives smarter, more informed decision-making. It keeps everyone on the same page, utilising the same real-time data, and working towards the same ultimate goals.
10. Resource utilisation
Manufacturers have often struggled to assign the right staff to the right tasks – at the right time – to maximise productivity, without compromising on the employee experience. Now, they’re starting to apply IoT concepts to HR processes to optimise resource utilisation. Sensors are able to provide accurate real-time feedback on individual performance. Managers are able to gain deeper insight into individual skills and talents, ensuring workers are assigned to the most relevant tasks to boost productivity and safety.
Getting started with IoT in manufacturing
More and more manufacturers are expected to start incorporating IoT into their operations in one way or another. The latest reports estimate that the IoT in manufacturing market will grow at a rate of 10.1% per year to 2025. Despite this, it’s believed that 40% of manufacturers don’t know where to get started.
As we can clearly see from the above use cases, there are many different ways that the technology can be applied to today’s manufacturing industry. Some directly impact an organisation at business level, and others produce indirect benefits through an improved end-user experience.
As leaders in the field, we recommend starting with ‘lighthouse’ projects. These are applications with a high financial impact but a low level of complexity – such as predictive maintenance, for example. They generate results quickly and act as a guiding light for more complex, second-tier use cases in the future. Contact us here for more information.
Gen8-IoT™ from Powerhouse Digital, is a groundbreaking industrial door management software solution. It increases the productivity of your operation, improving accuracy and cutting costs.
It offers: Advance analytics, alert and notification tools to help prevent costly damages to people and assets.
More importantly, it helps your organisation reduce it’s carbon footprint and works towards meeting your Net Zero targets.
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