The Internet of Things

Five ways UK manufacturers have used the IoT to improve business performance

Five ways that the Internet of Things (IoT) has benefited the manufacturing industry

In ten years it will be hard for us to remember a time when we didn’t have the internet of things. For those of us who grew up before mobile phones had been invented, it’s difficult to believe how we got by without being so instantly connected. Whilst some might say that being so accessible has become burdensome, when it comes to getting access to the goods, services or information we need quickly, few of us are complaining.

Whilst the ordering of goods used to mean flicking through a paper catalogue, posting a form and then waiting weeks for our order to arrive through Royal Mail, we can now order an item online and get it delivered within an hour. Technology has powered business to such an extent that it’s become an expectation that everything can, and must happen as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Nowhere more so does this apply than in the manufacturing sector. With Cisco predicting that fifty billion devices will be connected to the internet by 2020, we take a look at the different ways in which manufacturers are already reaping the benefits from IoT.

Complete visibility across the supply chain

Sensors or tags mean that parts and products can be now tracked throughout the supply chain from manufacturer to retailer. Cloud-based GPS and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technologies can monitor everything from the identity of a shipment, its location, transport time and even temperature, giving us a real time view of what’s happening across its journey. This information can be used to reduce future assets loss, plan journeys that are more fuel efficient and prevent food from perishing whilst in transit.

Planning and decision making

With sensors placed across the supply chain, from product development and tooling to materials sourcing, human resource, transport and even what happens to a product before and after sale, this has given us unprecedented access to useful data. This ‘big data’ can be interrogated using analytics tools that will give us valuable insights into how to plan better, work smarter and make better decisions that will drive efficiencies and reduce costs.

Safer working environments

Wearable technology means we can analyse the impact of the working environment on the human system. We can now track the amount of time workers spend walking, standing and performing repetitive tasks. The collection of this data allows us plan the layout of working environments in a way that will reduce the incidence of strain injuries and work-related illness.

In more extreme working conditions, sensors attached to helmets and clothing will provide advanced warning about an increased exposure to chemicals, noxious gases or irritants such as dust. In hotter climates, temperature sensors can be used to monitor the wearer’s biometrics and warn managers about the risk of heatstroke.

Wearable technology that connects the wearer with surrounding machinery can aid in avoidance of human-to-machine collisions, preventing serious injury and the risk of fatalities.

Machine and equipment breakdown

When it comes to mechanical breakdown, the costs to an organisation don’t just come in the form of reparation costs, but also in the resulting downtime whilst a machine is out of use. Intelligent sensors and big data now allow machines to accurately detect when they might be at risk of failure, diagnose the problem and even order replacement parts automatically. This predictive maintenance helps reduce operational delays, limits losses in productivity and can also maximise the lifetime value of those machines.

Reduced impact on the environment

Sensors can detect when machinery or tools are least likely to be used and automatically put them on standby, saving power. At the same time, internet video surveillance and wearable tech allows systems to switch off lighting and lower heating and air conditioning in areas where it is least required.

The IoT has also helped to reduce travel time. Operations across multiple sites can now be managed from one location. Drone filming and remote cameras can produce real-time imagery and even allow inspections and repairs to be made without a physical human presence. Video conferencing and collaborative tools have reduced the need for both road and air travel, reducing transport emissions.

Learn more about IoT technologies in manufacturing in our 16 page guide that can be downloaded here.



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