How Connected Devices are Changing the Manufacturing Industry

Manufacturers are implementing Industrial IoT (IIoT) devices to leverage predictive maintenance, data analytics, and more.

Image of manufactured items

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity that enables these objects to collect and exchange data.

Products with wireless connectivity (e.g. lightbulbs, thermostats, or Alexa) are more present in people’s homes today than not. One report suggests that 79 percent of U.S. consumers have at least one connected device at home.

But the technology actually has its roots in a world that predates the rise of smart appliances: Industrial manufacturing.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) “takes networked sensors and intelligent devices and puts those technologies to use directly on the manufacturing floor, collecting data to drive AI and predictive analytics.”

Robert Schmid, Deloitte Digital IoT Chief Technologist stated, “In IIoT technology, sensors are attached to physical assets. Those sensors gather data, store it wirelessly, and use analytics and machine learning to take some kind of action.”

IIoT is changing the manufacturing industry. It’s transforming traditional, linear manufacturing supply chains into dynamic, interconnected systems. IIoT technologies help to change the way products are made and delivered. They make factories more efficient and safer for human operators. In some cases, they save facilities millions of unnecessary dollars.

Predictive Maintenance in the Workplace

One of the many benefits of IIoT is how it can improve operating efficiencies. For example, if a machine goes down, connected sensors can determine where the issue is occurring and trigger a service request to an engineer. IIoT can also work together with an EAM CMMS where engineers can receive these generated requests on their mobile device and immediately go to the location to repair or assign it to another engineer near the asset.

IIoT can also predict when a machine will likely breakdown or when its useful life cycle is about to end—before it ever happens. It’s taking a preventive maintenance approach to the next level by saving facility owners thousands of dollars on unwarranted repairs or replacements.

A Real Life Example

A facility paying a worker $16/hour to check 16 meters around the property manually once daily will cost $3,840. If this person were to check the same meters once per hour to try and decipher changes it would cost $92,160. Imagine checking the meters every minute or every second; it becomes humanly impossible to do so without the use of IoT and machine learning.

Machine learning can decipher small changes in meters at scale. Workers can then analyze those changes to start that next level of predictive maintenance.

Beyond saving time and money, IIoT can keep workers safe. If an oil well is about to reach a dangerous pressure condition, for example, operators will be warned well before it explodes based on the nature of the sensors and vibration analysis. Sensors can even be used to manage and monitor workers’ locations in case of an emergency or evacuation.

IIoT is Changing the Manufacturing Industry

IIoT is already boosting efficiency, productivity, and safety within the workplace. The future looks bright for several industries. Let’s take a look at how some companies are taking advantage of IIoT technology.

Infrared thermography allows engineers and mechanics to see electrical systems, mechanical equipment, building applications, and fluid systems through the use of thermovision.

Engineers can spot faulty connections, abnormal motors, pipe temperatures and tank levels through this IIoT equipment, which shows different colors without having to touch the equipment. This reduces the risk of engineers getting hurt on the job.

Image Credit: Flex

DAQRI, a company focused on AR technology, developed an AR-enabled smart helmet for industrial use. Engineers can see 4D images above assets in their facilities that prompt them with instructions and also give them a mapping of all asset functionality. This wearable technology allows engineers to discover asset information faster. It also closes the knowledge gap for new hires.

Another company called UpSkill connects the workforce through AR in its wearable technology, guiding technicians in real-time to complete tasks, checklists, work orders, and allowing them to forward media to managers.

This equipment is becoming more prevalent and as more machines become connected to the internet. Approximately 50 billion machines will be connected on the internet by 2020. As the pace of the connectivity revolution increases, it’s becoming imperative for facilities and industries to adopt these devices and make them apart of their facility operations.

CMMS has the capability to provide maintenance management and staff with an automated tool capable of scheduling inspections, preventive maintenance, managing inventory, work orders, and retrieval of recorded asset history.

Technicians can perform actual work with instructions on handhelds, enter how long it takes to complete work orders, filter through past work orders, and close out of the system. All the information is recorded in real-time, so managers can access the information instantaneously.

The ability to track your work, document it, and send it to managers could be paired with wearable technology, like the companies above, to provide engineers with an elevated view of assets through thermal technology or the ability to see instructions on assets and use that data to train new hires and not have to worry about on-boarding.

A CMMS could also benefit from machine learning, using algorithms to monitor assets like meter readings and the ability to calculate readings by the second which would be humanly impossible to do. This will cut down on extraneous labor costs and allow facilities to allocate dollars elsewhere.

The possibilities are almost endless when it comes to how IoT, AR, VR, and machine learning can help facilities with energy savings, labor savings, employee safety, and more. IIoT is changing the manufacturing industry. The future is a scary and exciting thing but ultimately inevitable for change.