In 2016, Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, introduced the term ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)’, announcing the beginning of a new chapter in human development powered by extremely advanced technologies.
4IR is based on demolishing the boundaries between physical, digital, and biological worlds and merging them to create value for the world driven by data.
IoT is a main pillar in the fourth industrial revolution by employing sensors, AI, and other technologies to boost manufacturing efficiency and quality while reducing costs, downtime, and negative environmental impact.
This article will explore the impact of various IoT applications on the manufacturing field.
1- Process Automation and Mass Customization Production
IoT-enabled machines combined with other technologies like RFID, deep learning, AI, and voice recognition could redefine your whole manufacturing process via automation. Automating manufacturing is not a thing that happens overnight. It might take years and a lot of resources depending on the complexity of your module. However, the results are remarkably worth it. With every process you successfully automate, huge improvements will occur in different forms like quality, accuracy, cost, time, workforce, or combined. In 2015, Hugo Boss, the famous fashion brand, announced that they had started to convert their largest production unit into a smart factory. Fast forward to 2019, Erkut Ekinci, their head of Information Technologies, stated that the smart factory’s success had exceeded their expectations, and they have managed to cut costs and the complexity of production sequences while increasing the quality of products. For instance, they can now accurately take their whole stocks in one hour using an RFID solution instead of many hours, saving them time, effort, and resources.
Automated processes are all monitored in real-time for efficiency and interconnected together. You can also send any parameters to any procedure in your factory remotely, which enables you to utilize resources and increase the quality, and also opens the door for new potential revenue streams like the luxury of mass customization production. Process automation is applicable in almost all manufacturing fields, from oil to fashion.
The ROI of process automation is high. A famous real-world example is Harley-Davidson, the leading motorcycle manufacturer. In 2016, they declared that IoT technologies helped reduce the time needed to produce one bike from 21 days cycle to 6 hours. It is hard to believe that the optimization didn’t stop there. They kept refining their production cycle using the available data until they could produce a new bike every 89 seconds!
2- Predictive Maintenance
Downtime is part of manufacturing that you can’t completely stop, but it’s crucial to reduce and control it. The cost of downtime is high. According to Analyst firm Aberdeen Research, Unplanned downtime in manufacturing can cause a factory to lose up to $260,000 per hour. That’s an average; the cost could be higher depending on the field and the complexity of the manufacturing process. The indirect financial losses include reputation, trust, new opportunities, data, and more!
Machines equipped with smart sensors and IoT technologies are monitored 24/7. Their performance and operational health information are transmitted in real-time to AI engines that can analyze their status and alert maintenance teams once a prospective repair is needed. According to the US Department of Energy, implementing a predictive maintenance strategy can eliminate 70-75% of breakdowns and Reduce maintenance costs by 25-30%.
In part two, we’ll discuss how IoT technologies can enhance data security and the work environment.