IoT in Manufacturing: A Primer

The Internet of Things (IoT), or the interconnectivity of the world, has become a hot topic of conversation.  The concept of a network of interconnected devices that spans the length and breadth of the globe has become the next level for many companies worldwide, as firms scale up their operations to achieve global reach.

 

When applied to manufacturing and other industry sectors, the term sometimes becomes the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), but by and large, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is the cradle upon which rests the IoT. This blogpost is a primer on all things IoT, in relation to manufacturing.

 

Manufacturing in the 21st century: IoT, automation, and robotics

 

Our world is getting increasingly digital, and manufacturing is at the forefront of the digital race. From the days of steam-powered machinery to today’s fully automated factories, the technology has evolved to the present days of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. IoT is a catch-all term that encompasses a diversity of projects, enterprises, and technological advances that ultimately mean one thing: global connectivity.  The manufacturing industry has so far topped the financial charts in terms of innovative IoT-related projects, with a gross spend of $178bn worldwide in 2016 alone, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) spending guide. The same prediction indicates that it will reach $1.29tn by the year 2020.

 

Manufacturing makes up a high percentage of the overall economic activity across many countries, employing a  amount of the local workforce, greatly benefiting the local economy. Because of this, a lot of companies make large investments on their manufacturing facilities, to increase yield and in turn, revenue. It is a win-win situation for everyone involved. Many say, in fact, that the IoT was almost tailor-made for manufacturing, as the industry is made up of a lot of independent elements (operations, processes, machinery, staff, etc.) that would work much more efficiently if they were all interconnected and working in synergy. IoT solutions, and more specifically, an integrated software solution like Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations, brings in a raft of advantages and benefits to a manufacturing facility, across a diversity of aspects, including Operations and Field Services.

 

Operations

 

The smooth running of the factory will ensure that yield numbers increase, and the whole process runs efficiently. This may include automation and robotics to fully automate repetitive or dangerous tasks, smart manufacturing initiatives, and asset management.

 

Field Service

 

Manufacturing operations are not restricted to the confines of the factory itself.  You will still be responsible for the items after they are shipped, as sometimes they will be faulty or need attention for one reason or another. The enhanced connectivity afforded by the IoT, in conjunction with Dynamics 365 for Operations’ ERP module, will allow you to schedule servicing and maintenance in real time.

 

Benefits of an IoT solution

 

The potential benefits of an IoT solution extend to many facets of the manufacturing ecosystem. Today’s factories extensively used automation and digital tools to join the ongoing revolution in the industry.

 

The IoT can support the following initiatives:

 

  • Production flow – From raw material to finalized product, IoT can connect every stage of the way to optimize the flow and reduce waste

 

  • Remote management – There is no need to physically be at the site to monitor and manage the equipment. Trained operators can monitor the status of the equipment remotely, saving energy and overall costs.
  • Greatly improved data management – The IoT environment will generate an immense amount of data. Dynamics 365 will help you analyze and handle that data in an efficient manner.

 

Data itself is a key consideration for the manufacturing environment. What you do with the information gathered along the production process will determine in great part the overall success of the IoT implementation initiative.

 

Conclusion

 

The future of the world is digital, and the IoT is one of the main drivers of this transformation. The adoption of IoT across the manufacturing ecosystem worldwide, aided by Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations, will ensure that the transition to a fully digital and optimized smart factory is a successful one.