The Internet of Things has seen a lot of hype over the past few years. It’s not hard to see why, as device computing capabilities have now hit a tipping point, IoT promises to change everything from our domestic routines, how we pay for things, how we work, to how our cities function, how our food is harvested, how products are made, and how we keep in good health. But it’s a misnomer that IoT is just about connecting devices – it’s much greater than the sum of its parts. IoT’s promise is using these devices to create new services and capabilities that improve our collective lives. One industry that is experiencing a pronounced positive benefit from IoT adoption, is manufacturing.
The traditional evolution of automation system architecture for the manufacturing industry has been incredibly effective historically, and indeed brought us to this current point in time, and our appreciable level of sophistication. But to truly unlock the promise of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the approach to technology within the manufacturing industry needs to fundamentally change.
A New Paradigm
For the century (and a decade or two) since modern manufacturing was born, establishing a manufacturing capability has meant huge capital investment into manufacturing plants, with specialised machinery and processes, effectively unique to each plant. As with any such enormous endeavours, they are inherently ‘locked in place’ and unlikely to be changed or further developed due to the nature of unintended causal sequences, and the monolithic design of industrial manufacturing solutions.
Manufacturing deployments of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) takes sensor networks and intelligent devices and puts them to use on the plant floor, collecting data to feed big data, and even predict future events. With the introduction of computing technology, and the subsequent birth of IoT, we’re seeing a massive shift towards the modularisation of plants, both in terms of the hardware deployed as well as the ecosystems that control them. This is made possible by the standards-based architecture we’re seeing (gradually) take shape, meaning manufactures aren’t locked in to the traditional glacial lifecycles, and we can see smaller, more gradual steps in improvement between major refreshes. This more evolutionary process is dissolving the barriers that stifle innovation and efficiency improvements. As with all IoT devices, manufacturing ecosystems need to embrace standards like the Manufacturer Usage Description M.U.D. standard (that CyAmast have further enhanced) to ensure interoperability and interchangeability between models and even vendors as they evolve.
With the rise of cloud computing, software developers and data scientists now have access to vast amounts of real-time data from industrial machines, which means they can create applications that make sense out of the white noise of data streams. So as manufacturers look at how their operations could be improved by using smart devices connected over networks, many are beginning to see the potential benefits. This trend will continue as more manufacturing businesses realise the value of connecting things together through the internet, and this forces their competitors to also adopt IoT solutions to maintain market share.
IoT Manufacturing Improvements
According to ITIF research, IoT installations for monitoring machine utilisation can result in up to $1.8 trillion in global economic value by increasing manufacturing efficiencies. Real-time equipment utilisation metrics and a detailed view of what’s happening at every point in the production process are offered by IoT deployments, along with monitoring and optimising equipment performance, production quality control, and human-to-machine interaction enhancement.
Assessing the quality of manufactured goods is customarily done by manually inspecting a Work In Progress (WIP) as it moves through the production cycle, and by monitoring the condition and calibration of machines on which a product is made. Quality Control (QC) based on inspecting WIPs provides more efficient outcomes because it helps to uncover minor defects, reducing waste. There are, however, certain innate limitations that impede the method’s use because it is so resource intensive, traditionally requiring human inspection and testing. With new IoT-based technologies, products can be assessed even more accurately without human intervention. For example, manufacturing a computer keyboard, once at WIP status, can be Quality Controlled by examining the interconnection and alignment of parts through cameras.
IoT enabled manufacturing can also ensure Quality Assurance (QA) effectiveness by monitoring and adjusting the performance of the manufacturing equipment itself to ensure flawed products aren’t created by flawed equipment. Even in this new emerging paradigm of a modularised approach, manufacturing equipment is still a huge investment. The adoption of CyAmast’s solution, means that your control systems can perform continuous monitoring and interpretation of your IoT enabled deployments. By establishing what ‘good’ operational parameters look like, as soon as any anomaly or even minor degradation in operation is noticed, corrective steps can be taken either automatically, or by notifying employees. This level of predictive maintenance would not be possible without IoT and the CyAmast installation to detect seemingly minor changes early, thus avoiding potentially major – or even catastrophic – performance deterioration.
Other Benefits to IoT-enabled Manufacturing
In addition to improving operational efficiencies, IoT also offers manufacturers an opportunity to enhance customer experience through real time data collection and analysis. For example, if a manufacturer knows how users are leveraging their product in the real world, they may be able to send customers messages informing them of how to improve their experience in using the product. Moreover, they may even use that same data to help shape the improvements that will be seen in subsequent models.
Environmental Benefits of Manufacturing IoT
Manufacturing processes generate large quantities of waste material that need to be disposed of safely. With the advent of IoT, these wastes can be minimised, and through intelligent control systems, some waste materials can even be converted into energy sources. For example, food processing plants can convert off-cuts into biogas, while paper mills can turn excess or flawed cardboard boxes into fuel pellets. Moreover, the very process of converting raw materials into finished goods generates heat, which can then be used to generate power through the introduction of smarter climate IoT-enhanced climate control systems.
Key environmental benefits of manufacturing IoT adoption are:
- Fewer materials wasted to produce goods
- Reduced energy use
- Longer-lasting goods due to stricter QA & QC
- Smarter shipping & logistics through IIoT reduces the impact directly related to production and distribution
It’s worth noting, that in the case of manufacturing, energy use is a massive component of both total cost of production, and the potential environmental impact of the process. Real-time monitoring of energy prices (as well as the procurement of other material resources) when integrated with smart manufacturing plants, can see manufacturing efforts ramp up/down in response to these market prices.
Moving Towards Change
Manufacturing companies have been slow to adopt new technologies, largely because their lifecycles and CAPEX is much larger than most other industries, concerns of manufacturing OPEX overruns through ‘new systems’, and operational/security risks. The benefits through IoT though, are compelling enough to manufacturers to move them toward adoption, and as one, so must all in order to stay competitive.
Traditional, linear manufacturing supply chains can be transformed into dynamic, connected systems using IIoT. IoT technologies help to change the way that products are made and delivered, making factories more efficient, ensuring better safety for human operators, and helping reduce the impact on the planet. CyAmast helps optimise the potential benefits manufacturers can reap from moving towards IoT, while mitigating the risks that might otherwise deter them.