Top 4 Use Cases for IoT in Manufacturing

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Collecting and analyzing data in real-time from IoT devices and sensors gives manufacturing companies valuable insights into their production processes. IoT has the potential to transform the industry by helping manufacturers operate more efficiently, reduce operational downtime, and improve productivity.

Collecting and analyzing data in real-time from connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices and sensors gives manufacturing companies valuable insights into their production processes.

IoT can transform many manufacturing industries by increasing efficiency, reducing operational downtime, and improving productivity.

A term that’s gaining a niche is Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), devices that allow users to capture reliable and advanced data in real-time, says Bill Rokos, chief technology officer at Parsec Automation Corp., a provider of manufacturing management software.

“Given the compact size of some of the devices on the market, manufacturers can install them on hard-to-reach, previously dark areas of a line or factory, which helps complete their operational visibility,” he says.

On top of that, there are the cost savings, Rokos adds.

“Before IIoT devices, if a business wanted to monitor their equipment digitally, they either had to invest in assets that could relay their status to a subsequent software companion or pay to retrofit non-internet savvy machines, if possible,” he says.

As was to be expected, this led to more prominent manufacturers cornering the market when it came to being able to act on invaluable, real-time insights, according to Rokos.

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“As IIoT has proliferated, affordability has increased, which has paved the way for a whole new sector of the industry to make use of the types of technology and insights their larger counterparts have been utilizing for years,” he says.

In a manufacturing setting, it’s also important to understand the flow of personnel and materials, says Stefan Schwab, CEO of Enlighted, a property technology IoT solutions provider.

With the deployment of smart IoT sensors and devices in zones, he says manufacturers and warehouse logistics firms can attain a new level of insight, curb inventory losses, boost productivity, and minimize waste.

Here are the top four use cases for IoT in manufacturing

4. Supply Chain Traceability

Manufacturers are drowning in data from IoT devices, but the benefit in optimizing manufacturing processes comes when that data is contextualized with other data from across the supply chain, analyzed, and leveraged in real-time, says Doug Lawson, CEO of ThinkIQ, provider of an Industry 4.0 manufacturing platform.

“IoT traceability technology contextualizes data and delivers actionable insights for manufacturers across industries to improve yield, safety, quality, and compliance,” he says. “IoT technology, the efficient collection of data, and sharing it makes end-to-end supply chain traceability possible.”

With IoT traceability software, data is first collected from devices, sensors, and scanners throughout every stage of the supply chain, from raw materials to the finished product, Lawson says. This data can be derived anywhere from production and inventory to shipping and distribution.

“IoT technology can then deliver valuable, real-time information about the location, scheduling, and condition of various products and materials throughout the supply chain,” he adds. “Once gathered, the data is then contextualized in a cloud-based system using advanced analytics that provide actionable insights, allowing manufacturers to make adjustments as necessary for optimal efficiency and productivity.”

Some of the world’s biggest manufacturers are using this technology, particularly in the food and beverage industry, where harnessing IoT data to track and trace materials is crucial for business, Lawson adds.

3. Predictive and Preventive IoT Maintenance

From maintenance intervals to tasks and practices, manufacturers can save time and resources by using IIoT-sourced data to monitor machinery performance and make adjustments as necessary, says Rokos.

“With contextualized visibility into factors like temperature and vibration rate, they can maximize equipment lifespans and increase asset uptime,” he says.

With the ability to diagnose the root cause of an issue more accurately, businesses can reduce emergency maintenance work orders and service equipment based on actual run time instead of calendar days. Manufacturers can also optimize their spare parts inventories because they have a more thorough understanding of machine performance and maintenance history, according to Rokos.

“By being strategic with their IIoT devices, manufacturers can improve their maintenance practices and help bolster their overall productivity,” he says.

2. Deeper Visibility Into Consumer Usage

The adoption of smart technology and connected devices has become an essential strategy for business growth for manufacturers across industries, including the kitchen appliance sector, says Tim Redfern, head of innovation at Fresco, provider of a smart kitchen platform.

“As consumer demand for smart appliances continues to increase, building the technology to power these appliances has proven to be costly and time-consuming for manufacturers and requires specialized expertise that most don’t possess in-house,” he says.

IoT has the potential to accelerate growth for appliance manufacturers, providing deeper visibility into consumer usage and creating new revenue and engagement opportunities, Redfern adds.

“And IoT also helps to provide a more personalized experience to customers,” he says. “Outsourced IoT solutions, such as Fresco’s IoT-enabled smart kitchen platform, offer a way for appliance manufacturers to harness the power of this technology, overcome the challenges of building and deploying smart appliances on their own, and can contribute significantly to a manufacturer’s bottom line.”

An effective IoT platform can also create an ecosystem that enables interoperability between multiple brands, allowing for numerous appliances to sync effortlessly, unlike the fragmented experience that exists in many cases today, according to Redfern.

“Most importantly, smart kitchen IoT solutions allow appliance manufacturers to glean valuable insights and data that can be used to better understand consumers’ needs and preferences and help them to bring more relevant and desirable products and processes to market,” he explains.

In addition to the strengths of consumer IoT, there are undeniable benefits from IoT technology in the manufacture of home appliances, Redfern adds. As these products already contain IoT capabilities, these features can be employed for virtually no extra cost during manufacturing, where production line testing, stock control, and just-in-time component supply chains all yield efficiencies that result in savings for the consumer.

1. IoT Energy Savings

According to Schwab, the attachment of asset tags powered by IoT smart sensors brings real-time auditing and asset tracking into play, reducing search times, averting potential hazards, and unlocking savings.

“Moreover, the synergy of smart IoT sensors and HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning.) optimization doesn’t just save energy, it also cuts down on energy costs,” he says. “Data from smart sensors cues lighting and HVAC systems to spring to life only in the presence of motion, conserving energy resources and eliminating unnecessary expenditures.”

For example, Geodis, a transport and logistics operator in France, cut energy costs and boosted efficiency by introducing an IoT platform in its operations, according to Schwab.

“At the Geodis site in Lille, France, Enlighted initially implemented 1,000 sensors covering over 27 square meters of warehouse and office spaces,” Schwab said.

“With only one hour of training, the whole team was able to create the whole set of lighting profiles, and within one year the site in Lille reduced energy consumption on lighting by 90%.”

The Bottom Line

Managing IoT data is central to supporting manufacturing efficiency, reducing costs, and maintaining high product quality, says Dwaine Plauche, senior manager of DataWorks product marketing at AspenTech, an asset management software provider.

However, often only a fraction of the data available is used to effectively inform decision-making, he says. Manufacturers are still only scratching the surface of the insight their industrial data can unlock for their organizations.

“As we enter the next phase of IoT, companies are going beyond the ‘big data’ approach in which they are struggling to manage massive amounts of data,” Plauche says. “Instead, many are starting to prioritize a ‘smart data’ strategy in which they are extracting actionable, valuable insights from their data.”

This means, in particular, having a strategy for organizing the growing array of data sources, digital platforms, and analytics tools across manufacturing sites and plants, he adds.

“By removing data silos and connecting the right [information technology/operational technology] teams and data sources, these organizations can capture a more complete picture of their business and leverage opportunities to inform, improve, and optimize manufacturing processes,” Plauche says.

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Linda Rosencrance
Technology journalist

Linda Rosencrance is a freelance writer and editor based in the Boston area, with expertise ranging from AI and machine learning to cybersecurity and DevOps. She has been covering IT topics since 1999 as an investigative reporter working for several newspapers in the Boston metro area. Before joining Techopedia in 2022, her articles have appeared in TechTarget, MSDynamicsworld.com, TechBeacon, IoT World Today, Computerworld, CIO magazine, and many other publications. She also writes white papers, case studies, ebooks, and blog posts for many corporate clients, interviewing key players, including CIOs, CISOs, and other C-suite execs.