How the Internet of Things is driving cost-saving efficiencies for manufacturers

 In Big Data, Hardware, Solutions

If there’s one industry that demands efficiency, it’s manufacturing. Lined with robots and skilled workers side by side, modern assembly lines pump out millions of goods every year at record speeds. But nearly every line will experience maintenance shutdowns, can improve flow, and can correct designs and oversights.

Manufacturers are now combating those challenges with Internet of Things (IoT) devices that can bring about big results through data collection. In fact, 61 percent of North American manufacturing executives said they’d be willing to use IoT devices to monitor equipment for predictive maintenance services.

This is the next step in the evolution of industry, which has come a long way from the steam-powered 18th century. The mass production of the 20th century and the advent of robots in the 1970s sped production lines, and now those tools are getting smart. The digitization of manufacturing means smart devices and technological progress that’s opening new opportunities.

Welcome to Manufacturing 2.0, where IoT devices are boosting productivity, improving efficiency, and putting money into manufacturers’ pockets.

Cisco Internet of Things for Manufacturing

Finally collecting data, and using it

At their root, IoT devices produce data, and their software counterparts collect and process that information. Manufacturers can benefit from IoT devices in three ways:

1. IoT devices save manufacturers money by preventing unplanned downtime: Factories are complex machines with thousands of moving parts, large and small. Any one failure can shut down production, costing the organization time and money. Using IoT sensors to monitor specific parts of the production line for weaknesses, however, allows organizations to spot those deficiencies early and minimize downtime by planning ahead and quickly solving a problem.

For example, a vibration sensor connected to the network through an IoT device can alert maintenance if part of the line has shifted and become uneven, which can increase the vibration on the line. The alert from the sensor signals to maintenance that parts need to be ordered and repairs must be scheduled before the line fails.

2. IoT devices help manufacturers make money by finding new efficiencies: Data collection and monitoring through the use of connected devices allows manufacturers to better understand how a plant is performing and where there are opportunities to improve efficiency.

The lighting and HVAC systems of many manufacturing facilities are two examples. Are the lights in one section of a plant always on even though that area is only used in the morning? Does the HVAC run too hot or cold in some areas of the plant? By employing IoT devices with light and temperature sensors to gather real-time analytics throughout a facility, plant managers can fine tune the plant’s systems to reduce costs while maintaining a proper working environment.

3. IoT devices drive connectivity, integration, and better security: Manufacturing has long relied on IT systems built for specific use cases; often, each machine along the production line would run on its own network and server, isolating it from the other pieces of hardware. Integrating IoT devices into an environment pushes the entire network to be more connected and secure, and promotes open communication between machines and the software used by people.

Now, plant engineers are pushing for a more integrated IT environment in order to improve data collection and monitor real-time analytics. This revamped environment can also cost less to run, too. And by limiting access to appropriate and authorized resources, and ensuring device hardening and configuration assurance, your network will stay safe.

Interested in IoT? Start here.

Manufacturing plant managers have to work with IT to improve the network infrastructure before implementing IoT devices. IT must create a baseline for a connected factory, including three prongs — the wired network, wireless network, and layers of security. Establishing these baselines gets the ball rolling for incorporating IoT devices along the assembly line.

The wired network begins with a strong Ethernet and builds from there. Managed switches allow for physical isolation of plant machinery, but can be separated logically through virtualization. A factory-wide managed Wi-Fi network is needed too, and should be unified (single interface of management). Finally, IT must secure these two networks through firewalls and access controls.

With that baseline of security and connectivity, IoT devices can be integrated into the system, allowing the data gathering to begin.

Better data leads to better results

Improving access to information often creates actionable takeaways; for manufacturers, gathering data and refining the parameters of data collection can lead to improved efficiencies. That’s why plant operations are connecting their assembly lines and back-end IT infrastructure with IoT devices, which are giving them deeper visibility into the plant’s inner workings.

But it all starts with IT infrastructure that supports data collection. Before pursuing an IoT strategy, upgrade your wired and wireless networks and review security. These improvements support extensive data collection that can enhance efficiency, reduce costs, and expand revenues.

Interested in learning more about IoT in manufacturing? Contact your SHI account executive.

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