You get a call on Friday afternoon from a customer after a productive and busy week. The customer has a urgent job that must be completed by Monday morning. Although the manufacturing plant is open on weekends, you will need to work an extra shift in order to meet the deadline. This can be done quickly by making a few phone calls. Once all details are finalized, the project can move forward quickly. Then, something terrible happens.

The machine breaks down and the functions stop. The customer is not happy and the occupation is severely delayed. The manufacturing company is left wondering, “What happened? How can we improve next time?”

These scenarios will be obsolete thanks to the Internet of Things. The part in the above situation could not have failed because sensors had alerted staff a few weeks earlier that it needed replacement.

It would have been ordered immediately and replaced during off-peak hours. This would have prevented any downtime. What would the outcome be? The customer might have been delighted with the outcome and would have given the company more work in the future.

These are just some of the reasons why manufacturing companies are looking at IoT. IoT has allowed manufacturers to experience a 28.5% average revenue increase.

Smart manufacturing: The Nuts and Bolts

Smart manufacturing focuses on harnessing the power and analytics of data to make your facility run more efficiently. The Internet of Things can help you communicate the information that is needed at the right time. To better understand how machines are working, sensors can be installed on manufacturing equipment.

Let’s say, for example, that you want to maintain a valuable and expensive piece of equipment. The process used to involve a few basic measures . These included:

  • You need to measure how often the machinery fails and use a preventive maintenance plan that is marginally less than the average interval.
  • Waiting for the gear failure to occur.
  • Repairing the gear.

This is because the process uses historical data instead of real-time information. Companies can now get more information about their equipment’s health by strategically placing IoT sensors on their machines.

While a lot of data is accumulated, equally important are the insights that these data provide. Managers can now see when equipment needs to be maintained and replaced before any urgent situations occur. These are five important advantages of IoT that manufacturing businesses should consider.

1. Higher Energy Efficiency

Manufacturing firms have one of their largest expenses: energy. The bills arrive several weeks before the end of the billing cycle. They highlight all the energy consumed by the factory. The problem is that these bills include the total energy consumed and it is impossible to decompose the bill to identify specific inefficiencies.

Nearly 77 percent of companies said they were able to obtain energy intake data through their monthly utility bills, or from electricity tracking tools. Both of these tools have limited data.

IoT closes this gap by helping to collect and understand data down to the device level. Are you noticing a device that is not performing well? The technology can pinpoint the problem and help you improve efficiency.

Managers can track every piece of machinery in the plant and gain detailed insight into their energy consumption. You can get actionable insights about how to reduce waste and improve equipment efficiency, as well as potential failures and regulatory compliance issues.

This real time data can give interesting insight such as off-hour intake, recommendations to optimize manufacturing schedules, and other savings opportunities. It can also benchmark equipment and identify which ones are performing well, as well as proactively fix problems that may be occurring.

Managers can also evaluate various locations to find hidden inefficiencies or waste.

The Key Takeaway: Manufacturers spend large amounts on electricity consumption. However, a lot of that money is a waste. IoT allows managers to identify where they are losing electricity and fix the problem areas.

2. Predictive Maintenance

The ability to preventively complete maintenance is one of the biggest benefits IoT brings to the manufacturing industry. Instead of planning maintenance schedules using historical information, you can receive real time data to understand maintenance requirements at the moment.

Sensors give you the data that is needed to understand the machine’s needs and not guess. This technology dramatically reduces waste in manufacturing. These resources can be used elsewhere if parts are not needed or don’t need to be replaced. This saves money and time.

IoT sensors can be used to monitor the temperature of important parts of manufacturing equipment. Staff can be alerted if the temperature begins to rise and can put in place a preventative solution to avoid any future problems.

This technology is being used by many companies, including the French rail company SNCF to forecast maintenance requirements proactively.

Machine learning is being used to extract insights from the increasing volumes of data about their rail network. This allows them to detect potential failure early and fix issues before they impact service.

IoT allows managers to view and understand the data to enable them to proactively address maintenance issues. These contextual insights keep equipment running without causing costly downtime.

3. Higher Product Quality

According to an IDC report, manufacturers have a primary goal of improving the quality of their merchandise. An better-quality product can lead to other benefits such as lower waste, lower prices, customer satisfaction, and higher sales. This goal is not always possible. IoT is able to help.

Faulty equipment is one of the main causes for product quality issues. Worse, manufacturers may not always be aware that their gear is defective, which can lead to product quality problems. They may not realize it until too late.

Let’s say, for example, that an auto manufacturer has to apply paint on metal parts. Although the company is known for its high-quality work , one mistake could lead to many months of problems.

The temperature at the painting station can shift without warning and exceeds the standards. The paint doesn’t adhere properly to the metal, but everything appears fine at first glance. After passing quality control and inspection, the product is shipped. Customers are not able to see the results until one year later. The problem is fixed by a recall.

These quality issues can have a huge impact on the brand, leading to product recalls, loss of trust, and even damage. Customers affected might jump to conclusions and believe the paint defect was caused by poor quality or cutting corners.

These costly problems can be avoided by using IoT. This technology could have enabled the paint station to have IoT sensors embedded in the equipment. Staff members would be notified when the sensors detect a temperature change. The alert would notify staff to stop production immediately and resolve the problem. This would prevent customers from becoming angry, causing recalls, and damaging client relationships.

This technology can also be used in the product development and testing phases. Sensors can be used to measure critical components, such as safety, performance, durability, and strength, in order to design aircraft, trains, and other transport equipment.

Customers are demanding more than ever before. Subpar products can have long-lasting consequences. It is possible to avoid making simple mistakes with IoT. This has the potential to reduce quality control issues and recover lost dollars.

4. Reducing Downtime

Profits are dependent on timely, accurate, and high-quality production. Companies that do not have reliable manufacturing could suffer serious. A machine that stops working in the middle of a run can cause merchandise loss and other downtime costs.

Let’s say, for example, that an oven fails at a plant during a baking run. You are not only dealing with downtime but also the loss of all components and the associated production period after a machine fails. These types of losses can be prevented by IoT.

Sensors detect any issues immediately from the baking machine when performance drops. The issue is immediately notified to staff so that they can resolve it quickly and minimize downtime.

The Key Takeaway: Downtime can have many costs. One of those costs is the loss of product production. There is also the loss of opportunity.

You might get a request to fill a rush order but you cannot fulfill it because your machine is down due to unplanned maintenance or repair. IoT reduces downtime and helps to recover these costs.

5. Make Faster, Better Decisions

IoT technology allows managers to be informed about the performance of gears and any problems they may encounter. They might have believed that everything was running smoothly until it broke. The Web of Things makes it easy to access critical information about performance, and lets those who are most in need of them know.

Managers can now transform their reactive approach that focuses on replacing parts according to set dates using historical data into a proactive approach where pressure is reduced and waste is reduced while visibility is increased. Managers can now make quicker and more informed decisions in the moment they are relevant.

The Web of Things empowers managers to make better decisions , because they have access to accurate and powerful data at the moment of relevance.

A Real Time Competitive Edge for Future

Manufacturing is highly competitive. Companies are always looking for ways to gain an edge and stay ahead. They strive to be more efficient, have greater profitability, and provide better customer service.

IoT technology offers a powerful set of tools to deliver these benefits. It uses data that is already available but not accessible and makes it available to those who need it.

Managers can turn a “putting out fires” state into something that is more efficient, allowing companies to develop new strategies for growth and innovation.

The equipment works optimally and the product quality is high. Customers are happier, so the company has greater resilience and strength. These are the benefits that make IoT an essential tool for manufacturing companies who want to thrive in the future.