22 Disruptive Ways IoT Is Driving The Smart Factory Automation Revolution
Manufacturing | 9 min READ
    
IoT or the Internet of Things is the next big thing in industrial automation, ushering in the age of Industry 4.0. According to a McKinsey report, the IoT industry could grow to become a $3.9 trillion to $11.1 trillion market by 2025, with applications in factories, cities, retail, and even the human body.
Shamdutt Kamble
Shamdutt Kamble

Global Practice Director

Digital Manufacturing

Birlasoft

 
Let’s begin by understanding the role of IoT in industrial automation.
What Is IoT In Industrial Automation?
IoT devices are smart devices connected to the internet. They’re equipped with sensors to communicate with other connected devices.
Industrial IoT or IIoT refers to IoT solutions leveraging the potential of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotic process automation in manufacturing, supply chains, management systems, and other commercial settings.
IoT technology in industrial automation is the key to smart manufacturing and intelligent process control as it:
  • Enhances operational efficiency
  • Saves costs and improve margins
  • Optimizes raw material and energy consumption
  • Reduces time-to-market
IoT platforms are crucial to taking full advantage of IoT devices. An IoT platform is cloud-based and manages vast amounts of operational data extracted from IoT sensors in real-time. This capability makes it easier to access all industrial data, run analytics, and draw useful insights for decision-making.
Let’s look at some of the top use cases and applications of IoT technologies in industries.
IoT Applications in Smart Factory Automation
  1. Real-time production monitoring and tracking
  2. Smart glasses
  3. Industrial analytics
  4. Predictive maintenance
  5. Quality assurance
  6. Health, safety, and environment
  7. Reconfiguration and rescheduling for operation performance optimization
  8. Dynamic work instructions and AR for operation execution and process enforcement
  9. Material flow, internal and external logistics, and process tracking for material pull
  10. OEE and energy consumption monitoring
  11. Smart Lighting and HVAC control
  12. Remote and condition monitoring, component-level anomaly detection
  13. Optimal workload planning for improved sustainability and reduce repair cost
  14. Integration with EAM, ERP, SCADA/Historian for asset life cycle performance management
  15. Feed intelligence back into product design and process planning implementing Product Twins intelligencev
  16. Synchronize and optimize asset life cycle process information implementing Asset Twin intelligence
  17. Production performance monitoring and process control
  18. Continuous product improvement through scenarios-based results and analytics
  19. Wearable tech to keep workers safe
  20. Augmented reality and virtual reality in training and remote support
  21. Real-time fleet management for timely last-mile deliveries
  22. Smart warehousing
1. Real-time production monitoring and tracking
One of the top challenges that manufacturers face is the complete visibility of the production floor. IoT sensors on industrial equipment and machinery can paint a full picture of the production process in real-time. Continuous production monitoring and tracking help plant managers know which machines function at capacity and spot the underperforming ones.
2. Smart glasses
Smart glasses are a great way to view instructions hands-free, perform real-time situation awareness, and ensure worker safety. They assist factory workers with real-time tracking, alerts, insights, recommendations, and automated reporting.
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For instance, production floor workers can examine layouts, assemble guidelines, equipment logs, status, and performance on the go without logging into their laptops or tablets. It reduces delays, simplifies work procedures, and improves shop floor productivity.
3. Industrial analytics
Making sense of vast amounts of IoT data is another challenge that manufacturers face. Industrial IoT solutions facilitate data analytics, even on edge devices, to quickly process and interpret operational data. This facet empowers plant managers to make data-driven decisions for several manufacturing plants with no delays.
4. Predictive maintenance
Big data analytics and IoT sensors combine historical data and real-time performance monitoring to send smart alerts or notifications whenever an equipment’s efficiency and health condition drops below a set threshold. Such alerts enable predictive maintenance by helping technicians spot issues like an imminent component failure. It reduces unplanned downtime in factories, which can be costly and lead to missed deadlines.
5. Quality assurance
Quality assurance is crucial to:
  • Maintain an enterprise’s reputation
  • Enhance customer experience
  • Ensure customer loyalty
  • Avoid hefty fines because of regulatory compliance violations
IoT devices can automate quality checks by constantly monitoring the production floor and sending real-time logs to QC (quality control) managers. According to McKinsey, advanced image recognition or AI-based visual inspection can improve fault detection rates by up to 90% compared to human review.
6. Health, safety, and environment
Industrial environments can cause dangerous scenarios or accidents that lead to serious workplace injuries. IoT sensors can continuously monitor aspects such as equipment performance, energy use, environment temperature, and the presence of toxic gases or radiation. IoT platforms in industries can also facilitate automated disaster response systems. Such technologies help guarantee employee health and safety.
7. Reconfiguration and rescheduling for operation performance optimization
AI-based real-time optimization models can improve performance through smarter processes and better operation of heavy machinery. With machine learning models in a closed loop that adjust machinery as per changes in the environment, manufacturers have saved energy and increased operational capacity.
8. Dynamic work instructions and AR for operation execution and process enforcement
Using location-based tracking, shop floor automation platforms powered by IoT can provide dynamic work instructions automatically. It streamlines workflows and enables automatic rescheduling of jobs as per changes in the workflow.
AR-enabled platforms take efficiency a step further by allowing operators to integrate digital mock-ups with actual production environments, making operation execution and inspection quick and seamless.
9. Material flow, internal and external logistics, and process tracking for material pull
IoT devices can help with inventory management by tracking material flow with RFID tags and saving inventory costs with just-in-time logistics. According to McKinsey, IIoT can reduce inventory levels by up to 36% percent.
For instance, IoT sensors can spot container-fill levels with ultrasound. So, the logistics team can track raw material consumption more accurately and coordinate supply and production to reduce the overstocking of inventories and reduce waste.
10. OEE and energy consumption monitoring
IoT sensors can track equipment availability, performance, product quality, and other factors to determine production floor OEE.
The sensors can also track energy and raw material consumption and send alerts whenever there’s wastage. These technologies also help plant managers figure out ways to improve OEE continuously by monitoring processes and workflows and spotting opportunities.
11. Smart Lighting and HVAC control
Intelligent lighting can sense environmental changes and adjust the intensity for visual comfort and energy efficiency.
Similarly, smart thermostats can adjust HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems for comfort and optimal energy consumption by adapting to environmental changes.
12. Remote and condition monitoring, component-level anomaly detection
Improving condition monitoring can reduce maintenance costs by 10 to 15 percent, according to McKinsey. IoT technologies can monitor machine parts and detect anomalies at a component level, making it easier and cheaper to perform repairs. Fixing components is more affordable and can increase the lifetime of equipment by several years. IoT also makes it possible for technicians to monitor equipment across several plants remotely.
22 Disruptive Ways IoT Is Driving The Smart Factory Automation Revolution
13. Optimal workload planning for improved sustainability and reduce repair cost
IIoT platforms are equipped with digital dashboards that track shop floor KPIs in real-time. It allows plant managers to evaluate machine data and gauge factors that lead to optimal productivity levels without warranting extensive repairs.
Tracking efficiency benchmarks also facilitates proactive inspections whenever there are minor issues/bottlenecks. So, you can fix these issues before they escalate into something serious and require expensive repairs.
14. Integration with EAM, ERP, SCADA/Historian for asset life cycle performance management
Smart asset performance management platforms integrate with EAM, ERP, SCADA, and other manufacturing management systems. They collect data from all these systems to unify all information (with context) and maintain a single source of truth. You can access this data anytime, anywhere on smart, user-friendly digital dashboards updated in real-time.
15. Feed intelligence back into product design and process planning implementing Product Twins intelligence
Previously, manufacturers used guesswork and historical data to build products. IoT technologies can gather data on dimensions and potential issues for designing 3D and 4D (animated) product models (i.e., product twins) of plants, equipment, and other manufacturing infrastructure.
You can tweak these digital models using real-time production data for optimal capacity and productivity, which avoids rework and unplanned equipment breakdown.
16. Synchronize and optimize asset life cycle process information implementing Asset Twin intelligence
Just like with digital twins for product models, IoT technologies can help design optimal asset life cycles. Real-time operational data and advanced analytics can help design more efficient business processes (i.e., asset twins).
As a result, manufacturing operations are smoother, maintenance is proactive, and resource consumption is more efficient.
17. Production performance monitoring and process control
Manufacturing operations management systems (MOMs) that integrate with IoT platforms help analyze performance by tracking metrics at the machine, line, plant, and enterprise-level in real-time. Plant managers can use the data gathered for situational and historical analysis of these performance metrics and facilitate intelligent process control.
18. Continuous product improvement through scenarios-based results and analytics
Continuous improvement is one of the best ways to ensure business continuity, grow revenues, and increase margins. Continuously improving product manufacturing processes and eliminating scenarios that lead to waste (time, resources, or money) is the key.
Cloud-based IoT platforms monitor the production floor in real-time and digitize everything from data collection and analysis to reporting. They’re also equipped with enough computing resources to run advanced analytics on even the edge devices. As a result, manufacturers can forecast potential scenarios and assess bottlenecks using predictive analytics (like what-if analysis).
19. Wearable tech to keep workers safe
Wearable tech can monitor employee health by tracking metrics such as body temperature or pulse and oxygen levels.
It helps supervisors spot abnormal health conditions employees and give them required medical attention. It’s also useful to keep production floors safe during deadly pandemics (like COVID-19) by identifying workers who might be sick and isolating them before they affect the health of others on the shop floor.
20.  Augmented reality and virtual reality in training and remote support
IoT technologies make it possible to use AR/VR in training employees and to offer remote assistance. It reduces the need for in-person workshops or field visits, which saves travel costs significantly. With virtual training and support, it’s easier for technicians to communicate and collaborate more efficiently across geographies, enhancing employee motivation, productivity, and skills.
21. Real-time fleet management for timely last-mile deliveries
A huge part of managing an efficient digital supply chain is gaining complete visibility of delivery schedules and ensuring they’re on schedule.
IoT devices can use geotags to track delivery trucks in real-time and suggest optimal delivery routes while monitoring driver performance and vehicle status. As vehicles become more autonomous, self-driving trucks can be used to make last-mile delivery more efficient.
22. Smart warehousing
Autonomous robots can locate, track, and move resources around the manufacturing lines on the production floors faster and more efficiently. It can reduce operating costs and improve productivity significantly. As they become more autonomous (with machine learning algorithms that update constantly), they can perform complex and monotonous tasks. It frees up the employees for more meaningful tasks around planning and operational strategy.
To build a smart factory, manufacturers must tap into the potentials of industrial automation powered by IoT. We’ve mentioned some of the best use cases of IIoT to help you get started.
While these are some of the most well-known use cases, they’re not the only ones. As technology evolves, the list of IoT applications in industrial automation will continue to grow. Manufacturers must keep up with the evolution of the digital landscape to maintain their differentiation and competitive edge.
 
 
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