Over the past few centuries, American manufacturing has experienced several sweeping changes, from the dawn of modern bulk material handling to Henry Ford’s game-changing assembly line, to today’s robotics and the rise of Industry 4.0. Yet we have only begun to scratch the surface of how a manufacturing ecosystem can benefit from incorporating the network of connected devices that create IoT.
The number of IoT devices is projected to amount to 75.44 billion worldwide by 2025, which is a fivefold increase. Many of these will be in the manufacturing industry, which is where the foundation for IIoT was laid more than 20 years ago. Many of today’s most advanced IT asset management initiatives still use the manufacturing execution system infrastructure that has helped business owners manage shop floor controls for decades.
Because these existing systems have made it easier for manufacturers to implement IoT compared with other industries, they’ve jumped headlong into IoT investments. U.S. manufacturing companies could account for as much as 15% of the country’s total IoT purchases through 2020, and those that have already invested have been reaping the business benefits of real-time data.
Using real-time data for manufacturing asset management
Beyond simple data collection improvements, IoT transforms collected data into usable, relevant and actionable insights that support more informed business decisions, making asset management programs one of the biggest opportunities for IIoT. IBM found that pairing IoT with asset management programs can help reduce costs in production, drive revenue growth and speed up time to market across three primary IIoT use cases:
- Operational tasks: IoT’s constant data feedback will create new levels of efficiency in manufacturing environments. By combining IT asset management (ITAM), performance monitoring and planning strategies, organizations can not only optimize existing opportunities, but also uncover brand-new ones that would have been impossible to identify otherwise.
- Production and maintenance tasks: When combined with AI and machine learning, IoT can monitor production rates, track inventory levels and even perform predictive maintenance functions. For example, a motor outfitted with smart sensors wirelessly sends a continual stream of real-time operational data to condition-based asset monitoring software. This helps plant managers see which machines need maintenance long before anything fails, which increases uptime.
- Field service tasks: IoT creates competitive advantages for product-oriented efforts that fall outside the traditional manufacturing environment. Remote employees can generate immediate and accurate customer pricing quotes based on global inventory levels and current raw material costs, in addition to uncovering real-time market trends and behaviors; thus accelerating go-to-market strategies.
Of course, to achieve this triple whammy of benefits, all these smart, connected devices must be supported by additional upgraded business intelligence and ITAM capabilities.
Solving the challenges of IoT in manufacturing asset management
Because implementing IoT will lead to an explosion of endpoints, manufacturers must look to sophisticated, centralized management strategies to manage all of them and ensure the safety of business-critical processes and data.
Any device with connectivity — by definition — is a mobile device and must be managed and treated as an endpoint, which ultimately changes the principles of manufacturing IT asset management. Both the quantity and the types of devices will add complexity to how an organization manages all the endpoints on its network, leading to the potential for security, spending and inventory gaps.
Additionally, this more complex digital ecosystem will require manufacturers to implement ways to maintain control and visibility over their inventory, as well as ensure all IoT devices remain up and running to prevent downtime. When looking for a platform that can manage IoT devices, as well as every other technology asset within a manufacturing environment, manufacturers should bear in mind these three tips:
- Simplify technology management across the entire manufacturing ecosystem by managing all assets, such as sensors, mobile devices, smart machines and cloud services, in one single platform.
- Incorporating IoT will often mean manufacturers can do more with fewer technologies and save on costs. With a way to see all technology expenses in one place, manufacturers can find ways to streamline assets, manage contracts and vendors, and eliminate redundancies.
- The beauty of IoT is the sheer amount of data a connected environment creates. A platform that can translate all this data into actionable reporting will help manufacturers identify trends, areas of overspend, performance gaps and opportunities for optimization, which ensures valuable insights aren’t lost within those mountains of data.
Managing IoT endpoints will be a critical part of the new manufacturing ecosystem, helping manufacturers reach new heights of efficiency, productivity, innovation and profitability.
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