Businesses in every business are deriving massive value from IoT technology and the growth of the business is a reflection of this pattern. Data collected from IoT devices is growing at a staggering rate as well – Cisco predicts data from IoT devices could pass 800 zettabytes by the end of 2021.

But why is this happening and what are IoT devices doing for businesses that has resulted in such volatile growth? It can be simplified into two overarching categories: saving money and making money. One example of IoT generating revenue is when it enables a business to add a subscription version to their offerings, creating insistent revenue.

The way IoT reduces costs varies by business. In the manufacturing business, IoT saves money by: decreasing overall maintenance costs utilizing predictive maintenance principles; increasing worker safety during training and repairs; bridging the gap between floor workers and executives; identifying and resolving bottlenecks in production, as well as offering insight into future changes and chances before money is spent toward action. We drill down further into examples of specific cost-saving use cases of IoT in manufacturing.

No Longer Surprise Downtime With Predictive Maintenance, Not Heard Maintenance

Do you know how much unplanned downtime is costing you? If you are representative of 80% of companies, the answer is probably,”No, not really. Not exactly.” When machinery fails, whole production lines can come to a halt.

In a research study from ServiceMax called “After The Fall: Cost, Causes and Consequences of Unplanned Downtime,” they found that 70% of companies aren’t sure when their production machines need maintenance or upgrades. 

This contributed to 82% of companies in the analysis experiencing unplanned downtime over the past 3 years, using an average outage duration of four hours and a median cost of $2 million.

Old-school maintenance usually presents in one of two ways:

Gear breaks > production halts > you wait for the maintenance person to come fix it, which sometimes requires ordering parts that aren’t on hand. You pay workers to twiddle their thumbs while the corporate bank account starts to resemble a bucket with a hole in the bottom. 

Alternatively, you risk increased churn as employees who anticipated paid hours that week in order to feed their families, begin losing faith and trust in your company. This can then generate an air of negativity and dissent causing them to seek more stable employment.

You program downtime at a somewhat arbitrary interval > you wait for the maintenance person to remove what may be perfectly fine parts and replace them with new ones, sacrificing money and generation time along the way. Neither solution is efficient, as they ultimately waste resources.

Here’s what modern maintenance looks like:

The machines onto your manufacturing floor are all equipped with small Internet of Things (IoT) devices that track a variety of data including usage, uptime, quality, energy consumption, inventories of parts, and a log of program disruptions.

If anything happens to go wrong –or begins to go wrong–the right people are instantly alerted with a notification. Using historical data, the IoT-enabled predictive maintenance system will also notify you if a part is nearing its end-of-life and ought to be replaced. It can also let you know if, if, and how the quality of output is slipping or when a machine is consuming more resources, such as power and water, than anticipated.

Connected equipment gives manufacturers access to valuable data, which can tell them a story about the historical performance of the equipment, as well as alert them of forthcoming failures.

Because all of your machines are equipped with this same technology, your parts inventory is just like the Goldilocks’ fairytale outcome–it is just perfect. You have the parts you need if you want them, but you’re not wasting precious space saving items you don’t and won’t need from the near-term future.

Predictive maintenance saves you money by:

  • Reducing costly unplanned downtime
  • Replacing parts just when they need to be replaced based on historical data or whenever they show signs of malfunction before they hit critical failure. 
  • Problem diagnosis becomes faster and more accurate than ever
  • Carrying just the parts you need
  • Remote observation with real-time alerts expedites response times
  • Minimizing employee churn and customer dissatisfaction due to quality issues.

Eyes Where You Never Knew You Wanted Them

Machine learning–a subset of artificial intelligence (AI)–is the technology that underpins maintenance forecasts. One way to get the most out of IoT and machine learning in manufacturing is to unite them into a”digital twin.” 

A digital twin is used for complex, smart simulations that take into account the past behavior of the machines and their current condition in order to forecast their future behavior.

Predicting future behavior via this channel leads to reduced catastrophic disruption and overall maintenance costs as well as increased production efficiency. Digital twins can also assist with design, worker training, and worker safety–especially when combined with other technology such as virtual and augmented reality. 

Imagine a worker who is able to visualize the broken inner workings of a machine without having to remove any protective shielding. It is like having eyes within your machines, all the time.

How a digital twin based on IoT benefits your company’s bottom line:

Advanced predictive capabilities through complicated simulations that can involve 1 piece of machinery or the whole production floor. Be ready for anything.

  • Fewer disruptions caused by expensive and time-consuming failures
  • Reduced overall maintenance costs
  • Increased uptime
  • Enhanced worker satisfaction and safety, decreasing churn rates and training expenses.

Empower, Involve, and Protect Your Own Shop Floor Workers

From the manufacturing vertical, it isn’t unusual for there to be a disconnect between workers on the manufacturing floor and executives and analysts that are assumed to operate separately within their ‘ivory towers’. This may mean that your business could be missing out on valuable information as well as decreasing your employees’ investment in its own success.

Together with MachineMetrics IoT solutions, workers on the floor can provide human input to be considered with the remainder of the data. With touchscreens on factory-floor machinery, operators can add human context to machine data that helps to bridge the gap between job roles, offering deeper understanding into a host of previously undetected issues.

By giving an interface for operators to interact, MachineMetrics is able to utilize both human and machine data to understand performance.

By providing production employees a voice the business can move toward advancement as a device, with investment at all levels. At the same vein, well-maintained equipment means workers are safer at work and have fewer unexpected off days.

Factors such as these can offer a rise toward positive company culture which can reduce sick days, up productivity on the clock, and reduce churn and training costs–a major concern for many manufacturing companies.

IoT benefits your employees and shop floor employees in ways which reduce costs by:

  • Finding hidden issues by bridging the gap between job functions
  • Increasing worker safety so fewer expensive accidents
  • Improving employee satisfaction by offering ways for them to give input and become invested in the company
  • Boosting positive company culture so that employees are spent in achievement, more productive and efficient and possibly taking fewer sick days
  • Reducing churn and prices for acquisition and training.

Break Your Bottlenecks

Bottlenecks restrict the overall manufacturing capacity of your company. However, it is not always apparent where these obstacles sit or the degree to which they impact productivity on the shop floor. IoT can pinpoint which areas are slowing you down the maximum.

Is there a machine that breaks greater than the remainder, or that requires an upgrade because its manufacturing speed is slowing down overall output?

Are there time intervals during which some machines are under-utilized? Are your procedures holding you back–and if they are, do you have actionable solutions to fix them?

The benefits of IoT reign supreme when it comes to breaking up your company’s bottlenecks. When coupled with machine learning within an intelligent platform, you will soon discover exactly how accurate, historical data from industrial IoT sensors can provide actionable insight into where improvements can be made. It can show you which steps to take now for the maximum payoff as well as continuing to offer optimization insights based on real-time data.

IoT helps lower costs by prioritizing and reducing the impact of productivity congestion by offering procedure optimization and analysis as well as conditional analysis to make sure human and machine work in perfect harmony.