How the IoT will change manufacturing operations

By | 3 minute read | May 4, 2017

The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing the landscape of how businesses gather and analyze data across nearly every industry and sector, including manufacturing. IoT for manufacturing can harness the data from machines and equipment to transform the processes and systems of the modern factory environment. By denying or ignoring the transformation that the IoT will inevitably bring, manufacturers risk falling behind competitors and losing clients that value speed and innovation.

Entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Since the late 1700’s, there have been four recognized shifts in manufacturing processes and technology. The first, emerging in 1783, centered around the introduction of water power for increased efficiency, steam engines powering machinery such as looms and cotton gins, and the use of conveyors. These innovations led to unprecedented economic growth and laid the foundation for manufacturing today.

The Second Industrial Revolution, emerging around 1870, brought us electricity. The invention of lightbulbs and power stations enabled automation of factories, and thus gave way to mass production.

Ninety years later, in 1960, we saw the third wave of the Industrial Revolution come to fruition. Computers and digital technology replaced analog technology, leading to increased trade, globalization, and information technologies. This revolution has led us to the world we know today, but change is constant and, especially with technology, we must always be on our toes.

The fourth wave, Industry 4.0, has begun to emerge. This will be the era of cognitive manufacturing – where IoT sensors, big data, predictive analytics, and robotics will forge the future of manufacturing operations.

Digitize & optimize manufacturing processes

The IoT enables devices to connect and exchange data. In manufacturing, the IoT connects assets to processes, systems and people. This enables better integration of plant processes, achieving higher levels of productivity, and taking manufacturing to the next level of transformation, Industry 4.0. Consider the example of Carl, a plant manager at a large manufacturing company who utilizes the Internet of Things to transform his manufacturing process. Watch Carl’s story below or view here.

IBM Watson IoT focuses on driving improved performance and value to three fundamental pillars of manufacturing operations:

Intelligent assets & equipment

When referring to an intelligent asset or piece of equipment, by enabling these assets with IoT sensors and cognitive capabilities, they can sense, communicate, and self-diagnose issues in order to optimize performance and reduce downtime. Just like when you may start to feel like something is off with your own body, you have the cognitive abilities to sense it, communicate the problem, and likely even have a fairly good idea of what is wrong before going to the doctor for confirmation. By catching problems early, it avoids disaster down the road.

Using intelligent assets and equipment, it is possible to:

  • Prevent production delays and improve production line performance
  • Reduce equipment downtime and increase process efficiency
  • Expedite equipment repairs

Cognitive processes & operations

Manufacturers have been collecting and storing data for the purposes of improving operations since the first Industrial Revolution. As data has grown in size and complexity, it has gotten far more challenging to make sense of the output. The concept of a cognitive process lies in the fundamental ability to take existing data and analyze it to drive decisions around improved operations, quality, and safety. By analyzing both structured data being collected in databases, and unstructured data such as photos or video footage, it is possible to bring more certainty to decision-making and business operations.

With cognitive processes and operations, businesses can:

  • Improve productivity of the production line through inventory and scrap reductions
  • Expedite service calls and repairs and reduce warranty costs
  • Improve quality and yield due to improved quality practices

Smarter resources & optimization

Optimizing resources, whether it be people, energy, or knowledge, is critical to keeping costs low and improving overall engagement and productivity levels.

Using IoT and cognitive insights, it’s possible to utilize inputs like geolocation data, usage data, individual data, and environmental conditions, combined with analytics, to:

  • Improve worker safety and gain better workforce management
  • Increase worker productivity and expertise
  • Reduce energy consumption of your facilities and buildings

Begin your IoT Journey

Curious to learn more about these three pillars and how you can apply IoT to your manufacturing processes and operations? Register for the on-demand webinar to:

  • Learn about specific use cases that may apply to your business
  • Find out how one business saw a $50M cost savings over 5 years from reduced consumption of spare parts and labor costs
  • Understand how you could achieve a 7-10% decrease in plant and equipment maintenance costs
  • Build a scalable and comprehensive IoT platform
  • Learn about why the Watson IoT technology and ecosystem provides unrivaled value

For more information on IoT for manufacturing solutions, visit our website.