Internet of Things and Industry 4.0 together are changing the face of the manufacturing industry, making manufacturing processes smarter and more data driven. Prior to these getting introduced, manufacturers were tied up with daily operational tasks with limited time to spend on strategies. A lot of data was gathered around vendors, customers, product demand, supply chain and related important sections but to utilize the data to get sight full results wasn’t easy in absence of Industry 4.0.
Moreover, low efficiency, high supply chain-related costs, and the lack of innovation was an add on. These concerns are now a thing of the past with Industry 4.0 transforming processes and IoT makings its way onto the production floor. Machine-to-machine communication is digitizing factories and production floors by decentralizing control, while IoT-enabled sensors are automating the workflow through smart IoT devices. Moreover, the industrial assistance systems are now being added, which use intelligent communication and Augmented Reality /Virtual Reality to offload the burden on human resources by enhancing production efficiency and driving productivity. It should be noted that decentralizing production has caused a paradigm shift in the manufacturing sector. Today, floor and factory equipment are not simply products; they are intelligent, smart products that can communicate with each other, provide instructions, and share information.
IoT and Industry 4.0 share a mutual connection: Industry 4.0 always uses IoT or Intranet of Things for digitizing the manufacturing processes. All devices, equipment, robots, tools, and simulations used in Industry 4.0 have IoT-enabled sensors that regularly communicate and exchange data. Therefore, automation and IoT work in tandem, but the ambit and the range of possibilities, IoT introduces to automation are limitless. Though the flooding of new technologies can prove overwhelming for many, sorting and selecting the key automation goals can be very beneficial for manufacturers.
A quick glance into history will affirm that automation and IoT are not new for manufacturers. They have already been using robots and sensors connected to servers to automate tedious and monotonous manufacturing processes, but today, technology has moved beyond simple data gathering. Manufacturers are now working in a digital, connected environment. This near-real-time insight for optimizing processes is new for manufacturers. They can work this arrangement to their benefit by leveraging the data generated from smart, connected systems to distinguish their services and recognize new revenue opportunities. Data from machines on the shop floor can be fed into cloud-based Manufacturing Operations System (MOM) to manage manufacturing operations more efficiently. Real-time data analysis by MOM/MES will offer complete visibility into, control of, and sync between inventory and production, thereby guaranteeing quality is always maintained.
Complete Manufacturing Visibility
Smart factories are now a reality, but it doesn’t stop there. Manufacturers still have plenty to gain by becoming more in tune with machines and devices. The greatest potential for IoT in conjunction with Industry 4.0 will be complete supplier visibility: Information about every component or product can be easily tracked, right from the manufacturing start to the final destination.
IoT-enabled sensors in automated systems can be used, instead of the human judgment, to monitor the performance of floor equipment and machines. Sensor data generated from different parts of the manufacturing floor can be leveraged to track equipment condition. Machinery data can be used to adjust workflows, remove inefficient practices, monitor capacity erosion, and eliminate line performance bottlenecks. With predictive maintenance, sensors can inform when machines need servicing to prevent breakdown, and in the event of a breakdown, data can be analyzed to find out the root cause and prevent similar occurrences in the future.
When machines and equipment are operating efficiently, quality and production get augmented as up-time is higher, equipment are effective, scrap is less, rework is minimal, and operating costs are low. Floor operators are more engaged, and front-line workers and management have all the necessary information for greater responsiveness, accountability, and ownership, thereby ensuring complete manufacturing supply chain visibility.
IoT and Industry 4.0 can be combined to create the digital twin of a manufacturing plant. Data from all sensors can be gathered in a big database of IoT Platforms, and a new enterprise software system can be developed basis the data. The software system, replete with alerts, dashboards, and reports, would provide a clear picture of the current status and operational efficiency of each machine & manufacturing process. Data and reports can also be used to drive continuous improvement across the manufacturing plant. We employed the same technique for a leading client from the injection molding industry, and it resulted in enhanced process efficiencies for our client.
By connecting automated production technologies and smart manufacturing processes, IoT and Industry 4.0 are building a new manufacturing landscape, which is smartly automated and all set to transform the manufacturing value chain and business model in the days ahead.