The Internet of Things in Manufacturing

6th October 2014

We have previously discussed how the Internet of Things will eventually affect (and in many cases improve) the way we live and work. This excellent piece featured on TechRepublic talks about the ground breaking impact IoT will have in manufacturing, as the article outlines how we will move into a new era of industrial revolution. The manufacturing industry could be set to undergo a massive change, and it’s all thanks to interconnectivity and the Internet of Things.

If you are still unsure about what the Internet of Things actually is, our previous blog post explains a little more. Our current expectations and ideas about how devices will connect and communicate with each other is still in an early stage, and as hardware and software develops, so too will our ideas on where to take the technology. One of the key areas that this technology will make a difference is in streamlining manufacturing and making the process as efficient as it possibly can be.

Big Data

We are slowly seeing sensors and automatic detection hardware appear in all sorts of new technology, buildings and locations. These are used to collect data, and provide a solution or a response as it reacts to the information it has gathered. Over time, some of these devices are used to generate a broad picture of patterns and behaviours, giving us ‘big data’. What we should eventually see is a method of collating this big data, as well as acknowledging standard data that is picked up by these “smart” devices. The devices should be able to interpret the data and take corrective action if needed – self-diagnosing and self-repairing. On a broad manufacturing scale, IoT can be used to cut down on production waste, which will speed up processes and cut costs radically.

IoT Applied to Manufacturing

TechRepublic give an example of how IoT is used in manufacturing today:

“In industries like food and beverage, sensors that generate machine-driven information and automatic alerts are already widely used to measure the temperature and the humidity of containers that food products are shipped in, and also to track shipments from their points of origin to their final shipping destinations”.

To give you an idea of how IoT can connect manufacturing processes in an everyday scenario let’s consider an example. Perhaps a component in your car needs replacing. Your “smartcar” could notify your supplier automatically, which would then trigger the component automatically being manufactured and shipped off to your local garage immediately. This cuts down on time taken to contact suppliers, then waiting for the part to become available and eventually arrive. Bring 3D printing into the equation and we have an intricate, time saving, cost and resource-cutting system that is totally efficient.

Working Together

The main problem that we face when really trying to advance and make the most out of this technology’s potential is getting manufacturers, vendors and consumers on the same page. If just one of these links in the supply chain are not ready or willing to participate in an IoT-run manufacturing and maintenance cycle, it simply will not work. These ideas need to be adopted on a large scale for it to work perfectly.

Another troublesome aspect to IoT is figuring out a way for this big data to be processed and turned into a way of perfecting manufacturing systems. Big data will no longer be used solely for analytics, but will actually be a crucial part to the way systems operate. We’re looking forward to the advances that IoT will bring, especially to these industries.