Manufacturers benefit from IoT as far as the eye can see
Henry Ford is widely recognized as the father of modern manufacturing with his use of assembly lines to manufacture cars that the average family could afford. His assembly line increased productivity and introduced specialization. Mr. Ford would be astonished to see how far his ideas have come. How do manufacturers benefit from IoT?
Manufacturing process transformations
The Internet of Things (IoT) takes Mr. Ford’s concepts even further. Machines have replaced many of the tedious and dangerous functions performed by humans, increasing the speed with which the final product can be created. The Internet now connects these machines so they can communicate with one another. Real-time data allows each machine to anticipate workflow, output, stoppages and other performance issues that previously would have required human intervention.
Not only is each step of the manufacturing process itself monitored, but IoT enables monitoring of each component and completed unit throughout the factory floor. Internal supply management begins with a simple chip or bar code identifying each part. With the proper in-house IoT, those initial sensors track the progress from part to product, identifying inefficiencies for correction and increasing worker safety through automatic shut-offs or alarms. Managers can monitor these systems locally on tablets or through a control room that overlooks the entire operation.
Finally, IoT enables swift, accurate analysis of all available data. This data can then be used for simple functions such as price quoting, generating invoices and paying bills. Or the data can be used for more complex issues such enhancing operations, driving sales and marketing efforts and predictive equipment maintenance.
As with the early days of email and basic social media, the Internet is, inherently, a social platform. Just as it allows your machines to talk to one another, it increases communication between your employees and between you and your suppliers and customers.
Even in a small- or medium-sized manufacturing company, different departments are often housed in various parts of the building. With IoT, sales can communicate seamlessly with production to accurately cost bids. Billing can coordinate with shipping to send invoices in a timely manner. Shipping can coordinate with production to anticipate each day’s work. When each department can communicate easily, productivity and profits increase.
Externally, a manufacturer’s relationships with its suppliers can make or break its bottom line. IoT creates an atmosphere of cooperation between manufacturers and suppliers. Change orders are processed with ease. Shipments can be scheduled for just-in-time delivery, cutting down the amount of warehouse space needed for spare parts. True interconnectivity also allows the manufacturer to notify the supplier instantly if defective parts arrive, enabling faster replacement and less downtime on the production line.
IoT also enables enhanced customer relations. For larger companies, this may mean online shopping carts with in-store pick up. For smaller companies, IoT creates a personalized online shopping experience in which the client can customize an order or perhaps even chat with company representatives to see which products will best suit his or her needs. When it is time to check out and pay for items, IoT’s secure environment ensures that all credit card and other personal information is kept confidential. Many programs even allow for easy re-ordering options for repeat customers in which product preferences and payment information are already stored.
In the early 20th Century, the assembly line fundamentally changed manufacturing. Now, the internet of things is doing it again and manufacturers benefit from IoT. From the very simple capability of employees emailing one another to more complex systems in which machines talk to one another and manufacturers can track production from the receipt of each component through shipment of the final product, IoT has increased productivity, profitability and customer relations.