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How IoT Can Improve Your Manufacturing Operations

Illustration: © IoT For All

Manufacturers are faced with numerous challenges in the quest to improve efficiency, safety, and quality in their operations. Taking advantage of opportunities presented by IoT is one way to create more value in manufacturing going concerns. For instance, the sensors in IoT devices can monitor the temperature in a manufacturing facility. If there is an abnormal temperature rise, the sensor can alert a manager remotely, who can then address the issue immediately.

According to Fortune Business Insights, the IoT market was worth $250 billion in 2019. The size of the market is set to grow more than five-fold by 2027. Some industries that will adopt IoT rapidly are agriculture and healthcare. In agriculture, IoT can unlock precision farming, which uses sensors and robots to provide the best possible care for plants. It minimizes the risk in agriculture that arises because of inaccuracies in farming inputs used.

Manufacturing remains the biggest adopter of IoT to date. It helps increase automation, provides visibility into the whole manufacturing operation, and reduces the time-to-market for innovations. If it’s possible to create a sensor for a certain parameter, it’s possible to apply IoT technology to improve a process. Some applications of IoT are pretty intriguing. It’s predicted that IoT will trigger another industrial revolution in this decade.

Quality Control

Traditionally, manufacturing operations monitored quality by randomly taking a few samples every few minutes or hours to check whether they met set parameters. However, installing sensors to monitor quality indicators continually and transmit that data in real-time is now possible. Data can be collected through thermal sensors, video, and dimension sensors. This way, an alarm can be triggered if there is a deviation.

Real-time identification of problems in manufacturing reduces wastage because corrective action is taken immediately when a deviation occurs. IoT devices also help to reduce the time to diagnose and fix faults. The data can show the stage where the fault occurs.

Inventory Management

Industrial inventory management relies heavily on RFID tags put on every item. These tags have unique identification numbers that represent unique information about an item. The data is then extracted for processing.

A combination of RFID and IoT technologies can lead to helpful business insights coming from the data gathered. A good example would be installing sensors that can collect data about the expected expiration date of goods based on real-time information about their condition. This can help minimize waste. IoT devices can also be applied in smart shelves and storage bins to monitor stock levels in real-time. Organizations can monitor stock usage patterns then inform manufacturing decisions. During transit, real-time location monitoring through IoT devices can help identify delays in shipping so that contingency measures are taken if necessary.

IoT Aids Predictive Maintenance

One of the biggest investments in manufacturing operations is heavy equipment. Lengthening the useful life of capital assets and maximizing their uptime is of paramount importance.

Without IoT devices being installed, manufacturing enterprises rely on regular checks for signs of faults in the manufacturing line. However, just as with monitoring real-time information on the quality of goods produced, it’s possible to monitor the condition of the machines themselves. Such things as temperature, vibrations, and fuel consumption can be used to tell whether maintenance is due or a particular part is worn out.

A predictive maintenance approach has several advantages. Preventing faults before they occur lengthens the useful life of machines and reduces the time for the production line. It also saves costs associated with breakdowns.

Visibility into Equipment Utilization

Manufacturers can use IoT technology to gather information about real-time equipment utilization. Using control systems architecture such as SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) and sensors, it is possible to collect data on machine run times, operating speeds, cycle times, idling and more. Engineers can then compare these actual performance figures with their utilization benchmarks. The complex data can then be processed and visualized to factory workers visually via apps. The entire system can be set up to provide users with real-time visibility instead of delayed periodic reports.

Real-Time Visibility in the Supply Chain

The application of IoT technology allows companies to know the availability and locations of goods in the supply chain and their conditions. Traditionally, goods ordered would be sealed and only opened for inspection at the point of delivery. However, sensors attached to the packaging can transmit real-time temperature, humidity, or any shocks. This data is important because there will be clauses on who bears the cost. The buyer can avoid receiving damaged goods, while the supplier can alert their driver or shipping company to take corrective action to prevent damage to goods.

Resource Optimization in Manufacturing

IoT can improve virtually any process if there is a sensor that can be installed to collect specific data. The data can then be processed to get actionable insights into the process. This can vastly impact resource usage in manufacturing as well as quality control. Other applications of IoT include smart metering. An IoT device is deployed to send information on electric power, water, or fuel usage. The goal would be to take corrective action in case the use is deemed inefficient.


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