8 Immediate Benefits of Connecting Your Factory to IIoT

Jan 29, 2020
3d Signals

The industrial internet of things (IIoT) is one of the hottest buzzwords when talking about industry 4.0. But what does it actually mean? IIoT means leveraging connectivity to optimize manufacturing and industrial processes. The Industrial Internet of Things utilizes the power of network connected devices, smart machines, and real-time analytics to collect data (real-time and historical) and analyze it in order to improve productivity and efficiency.

As the saying goes, what is not measured, cannot be improved. IIoT enables end-to-end visibility of the production process, and allows manufacturers to harvest insights from large amounts of data they couldn’t otherwise obtain. 

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

The term IoT (Internet of Things) has been around for a while and basically encapsulates anything and everything that’s connected to the … (you guessed it) … Internet. Smartphones, TVs, home appliances including lights and security systems, cars and even clothes and other wearables are now network connected.

The goal of the Internet of Things is to connect people to the products and even services they use every day. It’s streamlining life, and it now has the power to improve efficiency and productivity also in the manufacturing industry.

Industrial IoT allows manufacturers to use analytics through the connectivity of machines and other manufacturing assets to ramp up production, recognize unanticipated downtimes, resolve bottlenecks, and seek solutions to improve efficiency at every level.

The use of production enhancement tools is growing rapidly. Computerworld Magazine expects IIoT to be one of the 3 biggest trends in computing in 2020. Another study predicts the market will reach over $123 billion in 2021. Consulting giant Accenture anticipates that in the next decade IIoT will add $7.1 trillion to the US economy alone. So, the potential is immense. Simply put, there is a continuously growing number of potential IoT applications available within the manufacturing sector.

The Industrial IoT revolution provides manufacturers with many immediate and significant benefits.
Here are the 8 main ones:

1. Set and Measure KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

By retrofitting machines with effective and reliable IoT devices, there is a newfound visibility that allows production managers to determine KPIs that are closely tied to actual performance. These simple IoT applications provide valuable insight to managers, allowing them to determine the most accurate insight for their specific needs, at specific times. These can include various aspects of performance, such as production efficiency, speed, amount of waste produced or the number of malfunctions.

By maintaining optimal levels of analysis regarding every aspect of the supply chain, manufacturers can now have their proverbial finger on the pulse of every phase of production, from beginning to end.

IIoT technology provides a tool that leaders can use to boost productivity and identify areas that fall short anywhere throughout the supply chain.

2. Respond Immediately to Problems

Imagine having a tool that could indicate problems as they develop. The traditional manufacturing model doesn’t allow that, unless supervisors and foreman are constantly roaming the floor, inspecting every machine, and watching over every worker’s shoulder. Micromanaging, though, isn’t the solution.

Industrial IoT is. Strategically placed IoT sensors allow factory managers to identify any anomalies or problems in real time and attend to them immediately, preventing problems from persisting and worsening, and minimizing downtime.

When these managers have access to one of the most profound tools and advancements in technology within the manufacturing industry, the results are immediate improvements in machine uptime and productivity. 

3. Improve Planning of Workflows and Processes

Monitoring the entire production line provides a better understanding of the actual process time. This helps to identify bottlenecks and hurdles that cause delays in production and enables a more efficient shift planning to optimize any line’s accuracy, speed and production volume.

For example, a manufacturing plant may have an exceptional team of dedicated workers, but previously unbeknownst to the managers on staff, supplies were not available for the third shift as they could have been. This would require third shift workers to leave their station, seek out the materials, and bring them to their post. That could potentially slow down overnight production to a crawl, taking an hour or more away from productivity.

In another example, if the actual production time per unit is longer than the planned, theoretical time, the entire purchase order will take longer than planned, leading to delayed deliveries and frustrated customers.

With the right IoT sensors in place along every aspect of the supply chain, planning would become more accurate, and workflows and processes would be improved.

4. Improve Quality

IIoT-enabled quality control solutions allow factories to track production from A to Z, to monitor every stage of the production process – from quality of raw materials to end product – automatically and continuously. This dramatically improves traceability and quality control capabilities and thus the overall product quality.

5. Save on Resources  

The continuous monitoring of production could expose wastefulness in current operation procedures due to inefficiencies. Removing those and streamlining production could lead to a cut in the use of costly resources such as labor, energy, water and fuel. This cut will have economic benefits for the manufacturer and added-value environmental benefits.

Some companies that have already invested in IIoT sensors have managed to curtail energy costs by tens of thousands of dollars. Simply by switching machines off instead of keeping them idle overnight or for entire weekends, energy is no longer wasted to the extent it might have previously been.

Without proper sensors providing this valuable information, it’s nearly impossible to determine where all resources are being wasted.

6. Improve Inventory Management

IIoT allows for digital inventory management that is always updated and available. It enables manufacturers to trace the location of every tracked item. Manufacturers can better manage inventory, make data-driven purchasing decisions, and reduce the need for costly and labor-intensive manual inventory checks. 

Plus, with up-to-date, computer generate inventory analysis, the potential for missed raw materials or complete products  is eliminated.

7. Cut Maintenance Costs with Predictive Maintenance (PdM)

Predictive maintenance uses machine learning to allow manufacturers to prevent machinery breakdown. When performed wisely, it achieves downtime prevention and enables factory managers to better plan maintenance schedules – according to actual manufacturing time, orders, inventory, and employee availability.

Powerful IoT sensors combined with clever algorithms and artificial intelligence, can detect anomalies within engine or motor performance in ways the human ear or eye simply cannot. This will allow supervisors to get ahead of potential breakdowns and keep the machines operating smoothly and also schedule repairs and general maintenance more efficiently.

8. Improve Employee Motivation  

With IIoT, production schedules, output and targets are transparent and clear, and serve as a guide for the entire business. Setting clear, realistic, data-driven goals together with employees and managers, and promising rewards for hitting those goals, is a great way to increase employee motivation and engagement.

*          *          *

Industrial IoT brings significant, tangible, everyday benefits to manufacturers, and factories around the world are realizing it at a growing rate. 3d Signals’ plug-and-play machine connectivity solution enables you to digitalize your machines in hours and reach a more effective and productive operation in days. Don’t get left behind by your competition, connect your factory to the future.