Manufacturers today face unprecedented challenges majorly on pricing, competition and complex global supply chain disruptions to find newer ways to boost the efficiency of one of the oldest & largest industry vertical.
Almost 50 years ago the world witnessed (frankly not me!) the age of industry 3.0 standards, that era carried long has given the manufacturing its very own edge, but with rise in cost of production, decline in manufacturing and mostly lifeless process has driven the industry to its verge. With communication standards massively innovated in last 2 decades, manufacturing standards had no choice but to sync with innovation which drove the industry to spearhead its journey towards industry 4.0 revolution. The word “revolution” is very specific here as industries will take the help of new age communication technologies to merge it processes & connect machine to machine. Or in layman terms, the intelligent networking of machines and their legacy processes, with Internet of Things (IoT) ubiquitously is industry 4.0 standard.
“..with rising industry protocols customers are over-burdened with plethora technology options, whereas customer only seeks answers and not the process to obtain the answer..”
Having spoken to many end customers (especially industry owners) on adoption of IoT, I realized that with rising industry protocols customers are over-burdened with plethora technology options, whereas customer only seeks answers and not the process to obtain the answer. Just imagine you seeking a resolution to a tooth pain, whilst doctor is busy explaining the origins & reliability of his equipment such as probes, excavators, curettes & forceps, whereas all you want is an “assurance” that the pain will be relieved at specific fix cost with no hidden tantrums when you are on the hot seat.
Before you raise eyebrows on this analogy, I do agree that there are certain specifics a customer would be keen to know but certainly not really deep & wide of it. Hence, I summarize the specifics of their concerns,
The most feared area when it comes to communication, that also plays a key role in their decision for their use-cases, For years we’ve ourselves felt the disconnect over a wireless connectivity, albeit Bluetooth or WiFi, frankly never mind the most hyped HD video on a 4G connection in a cave mouth, seriously that joke went too far ! All they need is data availability & accuracy to be in range of 99.99 & beyond. And honestly they are least interested in your protocol vocab if you trying to grab their attention.
“..For years we’ve ourselves felt the disconnect over a wireless connectivity, albeit Bluetooth or WiFi..”
Convergence of Internet & Operation technologies
Now that we are attempting to interconnect all legacy machines via IoT sensors earlier that worked in silos with their own whims & fantasies, suddenly that would start throwing data about temperature, humidity, vibration, battery, flow etc left & right. Also, over the time manufacturing had an evolving IT processes like Six Sigma, Kaizen etc and with our newly interconnected machines knowing their rights now, there comes a complicated process to understand and integrate new data streams from machines in sync with the operational technologies.
Operational Cost Efficiency
Investment is not a hobby, especially when you are a production owner, you shall consider technology up-gradation only in an phased manner, as funds infused should not be sky rocketing, when we are only digitizing machines not creating a new product. One way to answer this challenge is to target operational efficiency, that can be improved with upgraded supply chain process from in/outbound deliveries, areas like workers health & safety would also raise workforce productivity and less churn that would reduce the overall loss of production hours and chaotic delays. Having said that RoI should be visibly guaranteed and shouldn’t sit on an edge of cliff like a “hope”.
“..must be stored safely over a cloud or a private data center fully secure from the the dark side of cyber world..”
Secure IoT Data Lake
With machine churning out data packets every now & then, that will be used in getting an historic reference on its production which is similar to our health data and records. This must be stored safely over a cloud or a private data center fully secure from the the dark side of cyber world. Likewise, you don’t want to employ an elephant to move a chair neither you want your health data to be sold to insurers that raises your premium overnight. This thought process has to be validated while identifying various opportunities for the customer.
Certainly, there are the tremendous benefits that can be derived from historic & near real-time insights, most importantly predictive maintenance although not limited to. It also allows an invaluable insight that could cost you $$ if not catered on time. This combination of IoT and historic data will allow regular actionable insight to create a holistic view of company’s assets right from machinery, vehicles, inventory & people.
Finally, back on the factory floor, IoT can transform small to large manufacturing industries to a futuristic smart factory, a step taken by leading manufacturers like Airbus to manage aviation manufacturing complexity using IoT technologies such as LoRaWAN.