These include sensors to make factory equipment “smart” and Internet-connected; “fog computing” or “edge computing” applications for nearby tablets and rugged personal computers to capture, filter and analyze data from smart equipment so that only the necessary data needs to be uploaded to manufacturers’ main systems, and the right data analytics solutions to make the kinds of decisions that help manufacturers best compete. Manufacturers will also likely need third parties to help them integrate all of these moving parts.
With IoT, manufacturers can collect real-time information from equipment, facilities, supply chain partners and logistics providers, and analyze that data to make decisions on new control mechanisms, optimized routings or improved maintenance regimes. The ultimate goal? Better asset utilization, greater operational efficiencies, improved manufacturing quality, and reduced waste, says Alex Blanter, partner in A.T. Kearney’s communications, media & technology practice.
“This is the broad promise of IoT in manufacturing,” Blanter says. “In reality, delivering on this promise is complex, and comprehensive integrated solutions are years away. Therefore, at the present time and in the near future manufacturers need to focus on finding specific-use cases where the benefits are more immediate and obvious, and available IoT solutions are somewhat
Ideally, smart technologies will be integrated into existing automated systems and processes, so manufacturers don’t have to redesign and rebuild everything, says Julie Anderson, a principal at AG Strategy Group in Washington, D.C.
Justin Hoss, principal, advisory at KPMG LLP, prefers to use the term the “Internet of Everything (IoE),” which focuses on a “broader business ecosystem” including people, processes, devices and data. Manufacturers can leverage IoE capabilities to get real-time data for diagnostics, inventory control, supply chain management, cargo container management, geo fencing and other functions, Hoss says. Some manufacturing technology vendors are integrating IoE into their existing automation solutions, while others are not.
“Manufacturers will have to figure out what they are going to do with all of that data enabled by device connectivity, and how they are going to make decisions and provide business insight based on that data,” he says. “So the real challenge is investment in analytics solutions and not necessarily connectivity. Manufacturers will need solutions to help them make decisions on issues as complex as real-time demand signals in supply chains based on autonomous connectivity devices and systems.”