smart manufacturing

How the Internet of Things Is Changing Manufacturing

Read Time: 2 minutes

The Internet of Things is quickly catching on among all industries. Workers in the IT sector have seen the brunt of IoT’s early impact, but it’s quickly making its way into nearly every job and profession imaginable. In fact, it’s already revolutionizing manufacturing operations across the globe.

Seeing Early Disruption in Manufacturing

While some industries will benefit more from IoT than others, we already see some of its effects within the manufacturing sector. With greater tracking of raw materials, finished pieces, and fully assembled products, engineers can provide in-depth quality assurance at every phase. In some cases, changes and updates to the production process or lifecycle can even be made on the fly.

Data generated within a manufacturing facility can be transmitted back to material providers and suppliers, who can use this information to maintain stock levels, offer personalized recommendations and provide superior customer service. This results in streamlined communications across the board and greater continuity to the entire supply chain by promoting automated shipments and recurring orders.

Lordan, a company specializing in the manufacture of heating and cooling equipment, recently implemented IoT connectivity to identify process bottlenecks, eliminate unnecessary downtime and reduce overall waste. It saw cost savings within a matter of weeks after installing the system and has saved more than 600 labor hours per month.

Paving the Way for Smart Manufacturing

Smart manufacturing is a term used to describe the marriage of IoT and today’s manufacturing landscape. In the past, nearly every manufacturer worked with batch orders of larger quantities. This method accommodates the time needed for securing materials, assembling components and manufacturing products. While the process works well enough, it’s not without its flaws.

To address some of the shortcomings of traditional manufacturing, IoT makes it possible to fulfill smaller orders, including quantities within the single digits, without having any adverse effects on production time, costs or shipping. As such, manufacturers can remove the emphasis from bulk orders and place it on customer service.

Interns with the Tongtai Group used to record mission-critical data by hand. Their results would be turned it to the company’s team of master workers at the end of each shift. While this method was used for years, it was incredibly inefficient. Today, the Tongtai Group has joined its fellow Taiwanese manufacturers in introducing real-time monitoring capabilities, advanced robotics, and digital recordkeeping.

Turning Big Data Into Insightful Information

To receive the maximum benefit from IoT, however, we need a way to translate the enormous amounts of data that is being generated and collected on a daily basis. As our world’s total digital footprint is expected to leap from its current point of 4.4 trillion gigabytes to a whopping 44 gigabytes, there’s a lot of information to rein in.

Today, data is pulled and collated from every one of your IoT-connected devices. This could include the machines on your factory floor to the desktop computers and, in some cases, even the mobile phones or laptops of your engineering team. With such an unprecedented level of interconnectedness, company leaders can monitor data in real-time, share results and recommendations among their peers and track multiple performance metrics.

Schaeffler has joined with IBM to explore the application of machine learning to bolster the efficiency and safety of its large-scale wind turbines. By using a series of sensors, the team hopes to collect operational data on the various components and internal mechanisms of its turbines. The data will also be used to schedule maintenance and upgrades during ideal weather conditions, thereby increasing safety on behalf of workers as well as the general public.

Shaping the Future of Manufacturing

Although IoT can be used in nearly every industry, most of its current functionality provides tremendous benefit to modern manufacturers. Those who aren’t afraid to forego tradition and take a chance on a new and emerging technology are among the earliest pioneers of IoT and smart manufacturing. If its early success is any indication, however, it won’t be long before IoT is recognizable among businesses and consumers alike.

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Article by: Megan Ray Nichols

Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance science writer and science enthusiast. Her favorite subjects include astronomy and the environment. She encourages discussions in these fields. Megan is also a regular contributor to Datafloq, The Energy Collective, and David Renke's World of Space. When she isn't writing, Megan loves watching movies, hiking and stargazing. Love what you're reading on Schooled By Science? Don't forget to subscribe today!