​​Properly equipped with smart factory technology, assembly lines now feature collaborative robots performing injection molding, gluing, welding, and other manufacturing processes that once seemed impossible to automate.

In other words, the data shared by connected machines can help lower disruptions, and safety gear with IoT technology could help with not having as many injuries.

These are only some of the many competitive advantages connected manufacturing can offer. The manufacturing process is changing due to smart technology. 

Let’s take a look at these areas that smart technology can bring you opportunities and potential dangers.

Smart Factory Technology and Predictive Maintenance

Rather than waiting for a machine to have troubleshot, IoT sensors can monitor heat, humidity, and vibration on a production line.

In addition, plant maintenance crews can schedule repairs to production machinery, like lathes or CNC machines, in advance, so that they don’t get in the way of production runs.

Benefit: Collecting data across entire production lines can provide more accurate guidance on when equipment will need service, saving manufacturers’ maintenance costs and downtime, for better profit margins. 

Integrated technologies can assist in identifying potential problems before they spread throughout the production line.

The Danger: With the advancement of sensor technology, its reliability may be compromised. If a sensor fails to work properly, it can cause a problem that compromises the product’s quality.

Management of Inventory and Supply Chain

Manufacturers can track supplies and parts on a global level using IoT devices. 

Furthermore, machinery alert manufacturers when the necessary components arrive by using RFID tags placed on shipping containers or parts. 

This technology allows manufacturers to easily manage their inventory with even greater precision and flexibility.

Benefit: Companies can easily optimize their inventory, which can then lead to greater efficiency and visibility across multiple locations. 

Customers can get real-time GPS information to witness shipping times and possible delays. It is possible to track finished goods, which can help speed up product recall tracking.

The Danger: A failure in RFID technology could hinder a company’s ability to locate and get rid of products from the market. Consequently, this could lead to product recalls.

Benefits of IoT and Quality Control

Companies can remove the human element by aiding in improving manufacturing quality and precision. As a result, every aspect of production will be available to monitor and control by digitally integrated software and sensors. 

Systems can monitor temperature and humidity and adjust equipment automatically to make sure production runs smoothly.

Benefit: Sensors can capture data at a granular level across an entire facility, allowing manufacturers to achieve greater precision in assembly functions that require it, such as in the aerospace and defense industries. Companies can adhere to strict manufacturing standards with this level of integration.

However, human error happens, and automation does not get rid of human error. If a plant worker accidentally loads the wrong antioxidant solution into a machine it can lead to flawed products that sensors might not detect.

Manufacturers might want to run a Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA). To identify potential problems and add quality control processes based upon the results.

Operational Efficiency

The key performance indicator that smart factory technology can track is Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). The OEE measures the amount of time spent on manufacturing. Sensors collect, share, and analyze data all across the facility and beyond.

This gives way for manufacturers to view trends much better, such as unexpected downtime on specific machines or production lines.

Benefit: By analyzing in-plant performance data, manufacturers can gain insights that they can use to plan capacity, make performance better, lower energy consumption, increase productivity, and reduce costs per piece manufactured. 

This data helps manufacturers to secure specific performance levels in contracts.

The Danger: A furniture facility that depends upon predictive inventory data may not be able to meet the production deadline for a key customer. If they do not order and receive the supplies they need in time,

Safety of the Workforce

The IoT is changing how employees are protected and productive. Wearable digital technology can improve employee safety and increase productivity.

Wearable IoT devices collect data about workers and their environment. This feedback automatically informs decisions, changes behaviors, and teaches skills. Moreover, it could also help to prevent injuries and save lives.

Benefit: From robotics that handles repetitive or potentially hazardous tasks to dynamically connected wearable devices that help detect hazardous conditions and automatically warn employees or shut down equipment, IoT technology can lead to fewer work-related accidents.

This will help to bring down the cost of injury claims as well as the disruption caused by trying to fill in scheduling gaps while workers are healing.

Unintended Risks: Employees could be exposed to unintended dangers by the incorporation of IoT technology into manufacturing equipment. If a textile manufacturer uses IoT technology but fails to identify and control other hazards such as physical safeguards on the equipment, it could cause injury to a key employee.

To make sure everything and everyone is safe, manufacturers will need to include:

  • Quality assurance managers
  • Safety managers
  • Employees in the adaptation of IoT-enabled devices.

Customer Insights & Product Innovation with Smart Factory Technology

Smart sensors allow manufacturers to monitor buying patterns and properly adjust production volumes in real-time to meet consumer demand.

Wireless sensing devices, which can gather data about consumer product use, can be used to help quickly identify product innovation opportunities for manufacturers.

Benefit: Customer care is changing in the IoT age. Manufacturers can adapt existing product features to customer usage and market these enhancements to gain a competitive advantage. Companies can update wirelessly with IoT technology to avoid costly and inconvenient product recalls.

Equipment manufacturers can adjust their recommended maintenance schedules based on performance. This can help increase customer satisfaction.

Danger: Connected gadgets are useless if they don’t work. Different sensors have different cyber security capabilities. Product security teams need to understand these differences.

Consistent and continuous uptime reporting from sensors should be reliable to ensure optimal performance for users and/or service providers. If a patient’s medical device is hacked, a manufacturer of medical devices could be subject to privacy concerns.

Manufacturers can face both high-risk and high-reward IoT. Manufacturers can benefit from understanding both the benefits and the risks of IoT, regardless of whether they integrate it into finished goods or production lines.

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