Change is occurring on the plant floor and in the supply chain. Legacy manufacturing systems have been unintelligent and required a great deal of manual input. A new generation of factory equipment takes advantage of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to add smarts to these devices. With it, factory personnel gain more insight into the flow of materials and goods in their manufacturing processes.
An Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of connected machines and devices that communicate with each other and share data and it represents the next generation of microprocessor technology, one that pushes intelligence and processing power into smaller form factors. The Industrial Internet of Things, or IIoT, is a subdomain of IoT. Here, the connected things underpinning the concept of IoT are implemented somewhere in a manufacturing plant, allowing for more efficient and effective manufacturing processes.
In the past, most manufacturing equipment was not connected to the internet. This meant that there was no way to monitor or control these devices remotely. With IIoT, this has changed. Now, factory equipment can be connected to the internet and monitored remotely. This has a number of benefits for manufacturing companies.
1. Create Smart Factories
These smart factories are equipped with advanced sensors, embedded software, and robotics that help personnel collect and analyze real-time data and provide the foundation for better decision-making. Even higher value is created when Big Data from production processes is combined with operational data from Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), supply chain, customer service, and other enterprise systems. The change creates new levels of visibility for managers. Previously, such information was siloed and available only in one application. The data might have been available, but it was not integrated and, therefore, less valuable. But with the IIoT, this data can be collected and processed in a way that allows for better decision-making across the enterprise.
Because of the many benefits, IIoT deployments are rising. In fact, IIoT market revenue will reach a whopping $1.11 trillion in 2028, a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 22.8% from 2021.
2. The Importance of an MES
However, creating new information is only the first step to leveraging it. Personnel need access to the data, so suppliers have been adding software that enables workers to see what is happening with each machine. Manufacturing companies then must consolidate such information, so they understand how different parts of the business interact.
To maximize the use of IIoT in factories, manufacturers need to deploy an MES solution, like PlantStar. This enterprise system acts as a traffic hub providing real-time monitoring, synchronization, and analysis of plant equipment data. Vendors have been adding analytics, so employees correlate information and make changes that positively impact the manufacturing process. With an MES, they integrate autonomous manufacturing functions into their overall manufacturing operations and realize benefits, like improved efficiency, less product variation, and higher productivity.
3. Manage Repairs Proactively
With IIoT, manufacturing companies do a better job of asset tracking. Analyzing the large amounts of Big Data collected from sensors on the factory floor ensures real-time visibility of manufacturing asset tracking. They then conduct Production Monitoring, which tracks how quickly parts are produced, scrap, OEE, downtime, and end of shift reporting. Process Monitoring measures different process variables, such as temperature, pressure, and hold time, that impact equipment performance. Next, they use the data to streamline their operations and provide the groundwork for predictive analytics and maintenance. Here, companies get ahead of possible repairs rather than wait for a device to fail.
4. Reduce Manufacturing Errors
IIoT-enabled quality control systems provide real-time monitoring of production processes. These systems can detect issues early on and provide information to personnel so that they can take corrective action. This is a significant improvement over traditional quality control methods, which often relied on manual inspection of finished products. With the IIoT, quality control can be built into the production process itself, resulting in better-quality products and fewer defects.
Replacing manual inspection business models with AI-powered visual insights reduces manufacturing errors as well as saves money and time. With a minimal investment, quality control personnel connect their smartphone to the cloud, so they monitor manufacturing production from virtually anywhere. By applying machine learning algorithms, manufacturers detect errors immediately, rather than at later stages when such repair work is more expensive.
5. Better Manage Supply Chain
Analytics also create potential improvements throughout the entire supply chain. In most cases, vendors have intricate webs of connections that must function in harmony if the company is going to run as lean and efficiently as possible. A problem in one area or a change in demand ripples throughout the entire process and creates challenges in other places. For example, because it has real-time visibility into its entire supply chain, a manufacturer reduces costs when material prices change or deal with unexpected issues quickly to avoid serious financial losses. If shortages or overages arise, they adjust and come closer to meeting shipping objectives.
The IIoT can help manufacturing companies to be more agile in their approach to business. By providing real-time information about the production process, the IIoT can help companies quickly adapt to changes in customer demand. In addition, the IIoT can help companies rapidly prototype new products and bring them to market faster.
6. Automate More Functions
The smart factory has been gradually replacing tasks done by teams of humans. Increasingly, suppliers rely on robots, first physical ones and increasingly virtual solutions. The growing sophistication of data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning enables these systems to automate functions that previously required human intervention. For instance in Quality Assurance, enterprises try to ensure that all products are well built, but some product flaws are too small to be noticed with the naked eye. HD cameras are more sensitive and detect even the smallest anomaly, improving product quality.
The factory of the future has arrived. The emergence of IIoT enables suppliers to adopt Industry 4.0 principles and move from the inefficient plant floor processes of yesterday to the modern, digital IIoT interactions of today. By making the change, manufacturers automate manual processes, streamline their supply chain, boost manufacturing operations, and enhance equipment performance. Because of the many benefits, companies are adopting IIoT in growing numbers.