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Manufacturing a Solid Case for IoT on the Factory Floor

Manufacturing a Solid Case for IoT on the Factory Floor
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Sixty percent of world-wide manufacturers will use analytic data recorded from embedded devices to enhance manufacturing and supply-chain operations by 2021, according to market intelligence firm IDC. That's because small, inexpensive computing hardware (such as low-cost wireless radios and sensors) can wirelessly track and transfer data instantly on the state of any machine.
As a matter of fact, with the never ending mandate to cut costs, operate more efficiently, reach greater visibility into processes and minimize supply-chain risk, all manufacturers must start investment in IoT technologies — if they may not be doing so previously.
IoT’s countless features can transform your business and set you apart from your competitors. There are also risks, to be certain, but they can be mitigated for as long as the project is carefully and deliberately managed. Fortunately, it is exactly what competitive manufacturers already are good at.
First, let’s take a look at the advantages the IoT offer to your manufacturing floor, where smooth operations depend on reliably functioning machinery.
Increase Visibility and Simplify Operations
Smart industrial appliances can help increase visibility and simplify business operations:
1.            Increase visibility — With smart sensors, businesses can keep track of important assets at every stage of the supply chain and report this information to a centralized database.
2.            Simplify operations — Businesses could use smart sensors to find and assess inventory levels.
Predictive Maintenance Capabilities Can Mitigate Disruptions
Moreover, manufacturers can prevent error-prone service inspections with IoT technology. For instance, smart sensors can anticipate problems before they become larger issues by relaying real time analytics on a machine’s performance. Data collected from a machine, like current or vibration, combined with real-time alerts allows manufacturers to take part in predictive maintenance, decreasing disruptions and work stoppages, which actually increases asset utilization and mitigates the risk of missed deadlines, rises in production costs and reputational damage.
In this situation, best practices call for integrating a wireless connectivity module (Cellular or Wi-Fi-enabled, aka a smart sensor) that can communicate the status of the machine and its parts to humans on a cloud-based interface. These connectivity modules can also send and receive over-the-air (OTA) software updates even after the device has been deployed.
A use case such as the one described above can yield the following benefits:
•             Enhanced data handling and accurate information on the status of each machine, enabling better decision-making on labor, sales, and the supply chain.
•             enhanced visibility into the status of the fleet.
•             Increased asset utilization and decreased maintenance / overhead costs.
•             better energy efficiency by identifying inadequately performing parts and devices.
How to Start Your IoT Journey
As mentioned earlier, risks abound when implementing new technologies and systems — and it’s particularly true with IoT solutions. The following are four steps to take as you begin your project:
No. 1 - Define the business benefit
Make sure you have a problem to resolve, and that an IoT mechanism is the way to solve it. Manufacturers are already seeing greater operational advantages and cost savings in the following use cases:
•             Remote monitoring across the supply chain to enhance fleet operations.
•             Environmental and safety compliance reporting via tracking, monitoring, data reporting and analytics.
•             Asset tracking from the supplier to the production line.
•             Automatic fulfillment based on utilization-rate tracking.
No. 2 - Start small with an eye toward scalability
Identify a minor project that could bring about a short-term payoff as well as insights on how to build on it. Hire an expert to help scope the project, and assign a dependable project manager to lead it. And then, you can think about larger projects, using lessons learned from the first one to gauge how you can gather additional resources and organizational commitment. In time, you’ll be able to forecast your network and storage needs to a production-sized deployment.
No. 3 - Test, test and test some more
The only method IoT technology can succeed is by ensuring there isn't any points of failure. What that means is you need to continually make sure you have the ability to detect coding problems and catch bugs early as you develop your embedded systems, sensors, microcontrollers and mobile apps.
No. 4 - Choose the right platform and partner
Nobody needs to be reminded that significant technology investments require pinpoint planning and strategy. Careful, dedicated research will reveal the IoT partner best appropriate to deliver an optimal framework and the platform that can grow with your business. Ensure your vendor can deliver the right hardware, connectivity, device management and security measures that works with your needs now while successfully integrating with future technologies.
It’s All About Achieving a Competitive Advantage
There's no denying that IoT projects need a high level of expertise in hardware, software, security and app development. But they're more than worth the effort and commitment: A connected factory offers significantly greater flexibility, efficiencies and cost savings while delivering exceptional visibility into maintenance and operations.
This is certainly the type of competitive advantage no manufacturer can disregard.
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