After a busy and productive week, you get an urgent call from a client on Friday afternoon. They have a rush job and want it finished by Monday morning. The manufacturing facility operates within the weekend, but you have to add an additional shift to fulfill the deadline, which is quickly done with a few phone calls. With all details finalized, the project moves forward at a rapid rate. Then something awful happens.
A machine part breaks and functions grinds to a screeching halt. The job is seriously delayed and the customer is unhappy. And the manufacturing company is left asking,”What happened, and how can we do better next time?”
The Internet of Things is promising to make these types of scenarios obsolete. In the situation above, that part could never have broken because a few weeks prior, sensors would have alerted staff that it needed replacement. It would have been quickly ordered and replaced through off-peak hours, and downtime completely avoided. The outcome? The rush job would have lasted on the program and the customer would have been thrilled, maybe even awarding the company additional work in the near future.
Results such as these are the reason that manufacturing companies are taking a critical look at IoT. In fact, IoT has enabled manufacturers to experience a 28.5 percent average revenue increase, according to TATA Consultancy Services. However, what exactly is IoT, and how does it function in the context of manufacturing?
Smart Manufacturing: The Nuts and Bolts
Smart manufacturing is about harnessing the power of data and using analytics to conduct your facility better. Internet of Things technology can communicate what has to be done at the exact moment of relevance. Manufacturing equipment can be fitted with sensors to gather data and better understand the machines are operating.
For example, let’s say that you’re maintaining an expensive and valuable piece of equipment. In the past, the process involved a few basic steps, such as:
Measuring how frequently the machinery failed and utilizing a preventative maintenance program that was slightly shorter than the average interval of failure.
Waiting for the equipment to fail.
Fixing the Equipment
This process is not optimized because it is using historical instead of real-time data. Employing IoT sensors that are strategically placed on the machines empowers companies with much more information on gear health than was formerly possible.
A large amount of data is collected, but equally important are the advice made available by that data. Today, managers can truly understand when equipment requires maintenance and replacement before urgent situations arise. Here are five important benefits of IoT for the manufacturing industry to consider.
Greater Energy Efficiency
Energy is one of the largest costs for manufacturing firms. Bills arrive a couple of weeks before the close of the charging cycle and highlight all of the energy utilized for the whole factory. However, the issue is, these bills detail total energy intake, and there is no way to break down the bill to better understand where specific inefficiencies reside. Yet nearly 77 percent of companies reported obtaining energy consumption data from their monthly utility bills or electricity tracking tools, which both have restricted points of data.
IoT closes that gap, as it can help to collect and understand data right down to device level. Do you have a device that is underperforming? If so, the technology will pinpoint that apparatus so that you can figure out how to boost efficiency.
In fact, every piece of machinery on the floor can be tracked and managers can gain granular visibility into energy consumption. Actionable insights are sent about waste, the way to attain more efficiency from equipment, and also potential failures and regulatory compliance issues.
This real-time data can deliver fascinating insights, such as off-hour consumption, recommendations for optimizing production schedules and other chances for savings. It can even benchmark similar pieces of equipment to determine which machines are performing better and proactively solve problems with underperforming ones. Similarly, managers can evaluate different locations and pinpoint hidden operational inefficiencies and waste.
Main Takeaway: Manufacturers spend large amounts of money on energy consumption, however much of that spend is a waste. IoT empowers managers to determine where they are decreasing energy, and fix those problem areas.
One of the largest benefits of IoT from the manufacturing industry is the ability to proactively finish maintenance. You are no longer planning maintenance schedules based on historical information, but instead receiving real-time data to understand maintenance needs at an exact moment.
Sensors provide the relevant data so that you can understand the needs of the machine, rather than guessing. This technology drastically cuts waste from the manufacturing equation. If parts don’t require replacement or repair is not required, these resources can be utilized elsewhere, and money and time are saved.
For example, IoT sensors may monitor the temperature of a key piece of manufacturing equipment. If the temperature starts to increase, staff can be alerted to the situation and a predictive solution can be put to action to prevent any potential issues.
Many companies, such as the French rail company SNCF, are already using this technology to forecast maintenance needs proactively. They are using machine learning to gain insight from the increasing volumes of data they’re collecting about their rail network, enabling them to efficiently detect early warning signals of potential failure and resolve issues before they affect service.
Main Takeaway: IoT moves critical data out of silos, provides access to new data points via sensors and allows managers to access and understand that data so they can proactively solve maintenance challenges. These contextual insights maintain equipment up and running and minimize the risk of costly downtime.
Higher Product Quality
Improving the quality of products is a primary goal for manufacturers, according to an IDC report. A higher-quality product leads to many other benefits, such as reduced waste, lower costs, increased customer satisfaction and higher sales. Achieving this goal, however, is not always easy. This is where IoT can help.
One major reason for product-quality issues is faulty gear, whether it has not been set correctly, calibrated properly or maintained. But worse, manufacturers don’t always know that equipment has an issue and as a consequence, the quality of the item may suffer. And they may not find out until it is too late.
For example, let us say an auto manufacturer is responsible for applying paint to metal parts. The company has a reputation for doing high-quality work, but one misstep may lead to months of issues.
Without warning, the temperature of the painting station shifts beyond the norms. As a result, the paint does not adhere to the metal correctly, but at first glance, everything looks fine. The item sails through quality control and inspection, and it’s not until a year later that customers observe the effects. A recall is issued and large amounts of resources are spent correcting the problem.
These types of quality issues have far-reaching effects, leading to product recalls, lost trust and damage to the brand. Those customers affected may leap to conclusions and assume the faulty paint was the result of cutting corners or using a superior paint product.
Employing IoT can help avoid these types of costly problems. With this technology in play, the paint station would have had IoT sensors embedded to the equipment. At the moment the sensors detected the temperature change, staff members would obtain an alert. Employees could then cease production and solve the challenge immediately. As a result, the recall, angry customers, and damaged customer relationships would all be avoided.
This technology is also useful in the product design and testing phases. For example, the production of aircraft, trains and other transportation equipment can be designed with sensors that help to measure important components that determine the safety, performance, and durability of the product.
Main Takeaway:Customer demands are higher than ever, and delivering a subpar solution, regardless of cause, can create long-lasting effects. Simple mistakes can be avoided with the use of IoT, which has the ability to lessen quality-control issues and recapture those lost dollars.
Bring Down Downtime
Timely, accurate and high-quality generation is at the heart of profits. Without reliable production, companies risk serious reduction. Plus, when a machine stops functioning in the middle of a run, the product over the machine can be a total loss, in addition to traditional downtime expenses.
For example, let’s say an oven breaks at a plant in the midst of a baking run. Upon the failure of the machine, you’re struggling not just with downtime, but also with the reduction of all the components and associated production period.
IoT provides safeguards against these types of losses. Sensors immediately detect problems from the baking machine at the instant that performance declines. Staff are alerted in real time and the problem can be resolved to minimize any associated downtime costs.
Main Takeaway: Downtime has many costs, and among those costs is the loss of product during production. In addition, there is also the lost cost of opportunity. For example, you may get a petition for a rush order, but be unable to fill the order because you’re down a machine due to unplanned maintenance and repair. IoT helps recapture these costs and reduces downtime.
Faster, More Informed Decisions
Managers are never in the dark about equipment performance and issues if using IoT technology. They may have assumed everything was going smoothly in the past — before something broke. But the Web of Things simplifies critical data about performance and allows those insights to flow freely to those who need them .
Now managers can transform a reactive approach, focused on replacing parts on set schedules utilizing historical data, into a proactive approach, where stress is reduced, waste is decreased and visibility is elevated. As a result, they can make faster and more informed decisions at the precise period of relevance.
Main Takeaway: The Internet of Things empowers managers to make higher quality decisions because they are equipped with powerful and accurate data at the moment of relevance.