Building Connected Factories with IoT Enabled Smart Manufacturing

June 04, 2021 by Stefanini

Factories enabled by the connected capabilities of IoT devices continue to expand Smart Manufacturing possibilities. Read our latest Trends blog to learn more! 

The digital transformation continues to push the industrial sector to redesign factories and take on smart capabilities. Smart factories or smart manufacturing plants are enabled by the convergence of connected technologies that work together to optimize manufacturing processes, redefine supply chain logistics, assist operators while improving worker safety conditions, and create new opportunities for automation. One of the core forces driving these Industry 4.0 transformations is the Internet of Things (IIoT). If you want to learn more about how Industrial IoT can serve as the foundation of smart manufacturing, then read on.

Internet of Things in Smart Manufacturing 

The Smart Factory is driven by several technologies including Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices, robotics, data analytics, big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. In particular, IoT in manufacturing contributes dramatically to the adoption of digital capabilities. This network of internet connected sensors and devices enable manufacturers to manage, update, and analyze increasing amounts of data, while cutting costs and reducing downtime.

The initial pain point for manufactures looking to acquire smart capabilities is the challenge of converging existing informational technology (IT) departments with their operation technology (OT) counterparts. Information needs to be shared between departments readily before larger IoT solutions can be deployed. It becomes necessary to define and enact mergers between existing IT/OT process workflows, software, data, and physical equipment. This requires changes in company culture that can be difficult for employees to navigate without the provision of educational tools.

As these organizational infrastructure concerns are addressed, manufacturers must then work to determine the key data points that drive optimization and then deploy sensors, cameras, or drones to collect said data. In some cases, old OT needs to be retrofitted for internet connectivity. IoT enabled devices then provide real time data analytics on performance throughout the production process, leveraging cloud services, edge computing, and AI to transform big data into meaningful insights.

In transferring existing data bases from servers to a distributed cloud network, manufacturers can then develop a digital thread, baseline dimensions of each physical component throughout the production process, to begin the construction of a digital twin. 3D modeling then allows the digital twin to operate as replica for the existing production line.

The collected data from the digital twin enables managers to analyze the effectiveness, efficiency, and accuracy of their system while testing for flexible conditions. This can help detect potential bottlenecks in production while promoting product quality. Additionally, digital twins streamline asset management and equipment failure scenarios by forecasting performance against established deadlines.

7 Features of IoT Enabled Smart Manufacturing Infographic

7 Features of IoT Enabled Smart Manufacturing

Several features that define the IOT enabled Smart Factory are:

1.     Automated Processes

While the use of collaborative robots to automate factory processes is certainly not new, the sophistication of modern day machine learning powered through cloud connectivity continues to revolutionize what robotics can achieve.  AI enabled processes allow operators to manually move robot joints in order to program more sophisticated actions. Likewise, predictive maintenance schedules can leverage additive manufacturing, also known 3D printing, to automatically produce replacement components for quick repairs.

2.     Predictive Maintenance

IoT sensors track the condition of equipment by providing either periodic or continuous condition monitoring. In doing so, maintenance schedules are planned for when it is most necessary and cost effective, reducing unnecessary maintenance and downtown associated with equipment failure.

3.     Reduced Energy Cost and Minimized Waste

Connected devices enable efficient energy usage by optimizing asset equipment. Vertical and horizontal integration make it easier for the Smart Factory to connect with every end of the supply chain. This provides flexibility as AI and automated processes track disruptions while enacting measures to ensure that the line keeps running.

4.     Customized products

Flexibility in the production process also provides more opportunity for specialized production runs. This connects customer demand with factory processes by creating automated measures that allow for customized product designs. As additive manufacturing becomes a regular feature of the Smart Factory, the possibilities grow.

5.     Supply Chain and Warehouse Management

Perhaps the most practical feature of the Smart Factory is the use of IoT-connected devices to distributed inventory. Asset tracking through cloud-based GPS and cost-effective Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) sensors provide instant updates on resources and cargo, even while in transit, allowing for real-time tracking that evaluates transportation performance while searching for delivery route inefficiencies. This improved visibility eliminates the waste of misplaced goods while creating a responsive systems that can detect supply chain disruptions and make adjustments as needed.

6.     Faster Time to Market

IoT empowers direct communication between employees and network components, significantly enhancing productivity. Real-time data insights further enables swift decision-making and contributes to improved responses to market fluctuations. New products quickly move from concept to commercialization, contributing to significant time savings.

7.     Security and Worker Safety

The large amount of devices used to create IoT connectivity does create more opportunities for cyber-attacks. While cyber-security mesh solutions can assist in defending the network, monitoring device lifecycles and vulnerability becomes vital to keeping company data secure. However, IoT devices may also serve to provide sustainable security measures such as biometric screening, controlled access points, and heightened factory floor observation.

Industrial IoT devices are a necessary feature behind the development of Smart Manufacturing. These technologies continue present massive opportunities for growth that will touch every corner of the Industrial sector. 

Build IoT Enabled Smart Manufacturing Capabilities with Stefanini

Developing Smart manufacturing capabilities requires a careful examination of the existing components and features that make a production line successful.

Stefanini is ready to bring the latest and best digital tools needed to optimize your operation.

Our team of experts will examine your processes and use their knowledge to find the technology that meets the unique concerns of any production line. Ready to get started? Contact us today to speak with an expert!

Stefanini is ready to bring the latest and best digital tools needed to optimize your operation.