If your facility could talk, would you listen?
What if you could access information and data about your business that would have been inaccessible at any other moment in history? This access would not only become a focal point of your manufacturing process, but it would usher in a new era of industrial development. Well, this is what has happened through industrial IoT devices.
We are currently living through the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) which is predominantly characterized by IoT. The acronym IoT stands for “Internet of Things” and is used to describe anything that connects to the internet. Along the same vein, IIoT stands for “Industrial Internet of Things”. Embedded sensors within equipment give real-time communication for fast and accurate data analysis.
Businesses are seeing the unending potential of integrating this technology into their facilities to improve supply chain management, equipment maintenance, quality control, and much more.
It would seem that to list all the benefits of the Internet of Things would be a near impossibility but here is a shortlist of 7 major ways industrial IoT devices can help improve your manufacturing processes and bring your business into the next era of Industry 4.0.
Read More: What is IoT, IIoT & Industry 4.0?
An incredible reason that the Internet of Things is changing the manufacturing industry is because of the ever-increasing potential to implement lean practices into the production chain and minimize waste. With industrial IoT devices, operational inefficiencies can easily be discovered through embedded sensors within equipment and production lines.
In essence, your facility and equipment can tell you about issues along the production line that otherwise would have gone unnoticed. This would include material waste, overproduction, unnecessary energy output, equipment performance, and a variety of other obstacles that manufacturers are faced with on a daily basis.
What’s even more exciting about IoT is the potential for a Smart Factory. Multiple pieces of equipment connected to a network can communicate together and remove waste or adjust issues with little human intervention.
Based on IoT data collection and advanced analytics pertaining to your production line, a connected facility behaves like a well-organized IoT ecosystem. This is accomplished through self-regulating inventory and modifying production and changeover times to optimize workflow and efficiency.
With accurate and readily available IoT data collection, information on product demands and resource usage is at your fingertips, helping your business become stronger and leaner.
In prior industrial eras, quality control relied on human observation to search for any defects in the fabrication process, hopefully catching issues early in production. If caught after production, manufacturers would sometimes see an inordinate amount of waste with defective products. If not caught and inferior products were sent out, then the company’s quality rating would be drastically affected, leading to lower customer satisfaction and trust.
But this all changes with industrial IoT devices integrated into the assembly line. Smart manufacturing equipment is programmed to observe and perform quality control every step of the way. If anything is not within the established parameters of production, then the assembly line can quickly inform employees and halt production if needed.
Through industrial IoT devices, detailed data is recorded during assembly. This not only serves as a quality watchdog during assembly but also confirms that specifications were met during production.
Performing quality control in real-time is an incredible advantage and greatly reduces the costs and risks of manufacturing defective products. And being able to provide detailed device history records, and complete traceability is a strong guarantee of quality for your customers, especially within the medical industry.
Scheduled preventative maintenance used to be the norm. Every few hundred hours, time-consuming inspections and maintenance would be scheduled to pre-emptively prevent malfunctions.
But using this method means you're taking a shot in the dark. For the most part, equipment malfunctions occur at random due to the unpredictable complexities of every machine and its tasks. Performing complete preventative maintenance regularly is not only time-consuming, but it's also costly; adding that most of that maintenance is potentially unnecessary.
Due to this lack of accurate knowledge and blindfolded approach, equipment failure is inevitable, resulting in downtime and loss of production. But, with industrial IoT devices, maintenance can transform from being preventative to predictive.
How does this work, you might ask?
Like we saw with quality control, IoT sensors and devices embedded in equipment can also monitor equipment health without interfering in your production. Anomalies in equipment behavior are reported immediately before any fault or damage occurs.
The equipment can communicate where a problem will occur before it happens, allowing manufacturers to perform predictive maintenance.
This gives you greater time and flexibility to plan relevant maintenance around your production schedule, greatly minimizing costly downtime.
IoT is not only beneficial for manufacturing equipment and systems, it is extremely powerful for the employee as well. Through, IoT connected tools, ToolConnect IoT, and our work instruction software, operators are connected to their equipment and seamlessly work alongside their machinery.
Imagine the potential of IoT-connected tools that not only function as equipment but also communicate with the operator. These IoT systems and tools have the capability to pre-set torque values, record and relay pertinent data, automatically advance work instructions, and help ensure that each component is built within the required parameters.
While operators are focused on their work, tools can coordinate with the work instruction software and intuitively assist the operator in their tasks while VKS manages the data flow. When operators have completed a task, VKS receives a signal and will automatically progress to the next step, push the next required settings in the tools, and record data for quality control.
As we’ve previously discussed, industrial IoT devices have opened up new and amazing possibilities in the realm of quality control and quality assurance. But integrating and connecting the worker has expanded this idea to include aiding the operator in mitigating human error.
While the operators follow their work instructions, each assembly component with a required specification is not only recorded but meticulously observed by the IoT hardware being used. If a part of the assembly process is not performed correctly or an improper torque was applied, then VKS will alert operators and halt the progression of the work instructions if needed.
Properly managing your inventory can often be a nightmare. Sometimes keeping track of items or ensuring possession of the appropriate amount of materials can seem like guesswork. But this is not the case with proper data and analytic tools.
Thanks to the integration of industrial IoT devices, your facility can communicate where items are located and when inventories are low; even going so far as to automatically order more supplies when needed so you’re never left without crucial supplies or materials.
Industrial IoT devices serve to transform your inventory management into a well-organized IoT ecosystem.
IoT sensors and identification tags embedded in and around your inventory provide highly accurate data and asset tracking capabilities. Once an item has been used for an assembly, the inventory is immediately updated, giving you real-time accurate knowledge.
Additionally, with advanced analytics sifting through the data, you will gather pertinent and accurate information tailored to your facility’s needs. This enables you to understand your material needs and optimize your inventory management reliably.
A great aspect of this increase in connectivity through the Internet of Things is that the information is always flowing; working devices are continually connected to the network. This means that your equipment and products are communicating non-stop under growing the 5G networks of the past year, greatly lowering any latency in your efforts to improve your company’s manufacturing process and customer service through IoT data collection.
This means that IoT is always working for you at an incredible speed, helping your company never skip a beat; always growing stronger and more competitive.
And finally, after production has been accomplished and the sale has been made, industrial IoT devices in your products are continuing to help your business improve and support your customer.
In the past, manufacturers had little connection with their products after they were sold. Problems or areas for improvement could only be discovered with direct customer engagement.
But with IoT connecting these products, customer support takes a huge leap forward. Companies can gather information and gain insight through automated IoT data collection, generating huge data caches that can be analyzed to create a more effective service and support for their customers.
Continuous improvement through IoT is now not only a possibility, but a standard in the industrial sphere. In the past, factories that failed to implement mechanization, modern electricity, or computer systems, were left in the dust by other capable and visionary companies.
As we’ve explored in a previous discussion on continuous improvement, the fast evolution and growth of new technology demands a corporate culture willing to seize at opportunity and knowledge. As time progresses and we innovate more under Industry 4.0, IoT is becoming more relevant and required by the day with its amazing ability to quickly acquire, analyze, and communicate data.
So if your facility could talk, wouldn’t you listen?
Read Next: The 4 Design Principles of Industry 4.0
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