How the Internet of Thing (IOT) Is Helping the Manufacturing Sector Produce Connected Customized Products

By Geena Binoy, Vice President - Connected Enterprise IT, Tata Technologies

The manufacturing  world  is undergoing a digital disruption. The Internet  of Things  (IoT)  has powered this disruption: a Gartner report in February  estimated  that  the  number of connected  things  would  rise to  8.4 billion at the end of 2017,  further  increasing to 20.4 billion in 2020.

This IoT revolution has already started reshaping the way the manufacturing sector operates. New innovations have been triggered which boost efficiencies. The sector is leading the charge when it comes to this revolution: the manufacturing sector made the largest investment in IoT, estimated at $183 billion.

Real-time data

For the manufacturing  industry, the advent of IoT has helped generate and mine data, thanks to the increasing usage of connected  devices. The  link between  design and  manufacturing  is becoming  seamless due  to  the plethora of new-age technologies like sensors, artificial intelligence (AI), 3D manufacturing, cyber security,  telematics  and process automation. Importantly, companies   can  minimize   surprises and  shocks by constant  monitoring of  the  data  generated.  Analysis of this  data  also  allows  organizations to make informed decisions, while significantly boosting  efficiency and performance rates.

"Manufacturing sector will remain the pioneers when it comes to leveraging the IoT capabilities and becoming a digital, connected enterprise"

There has  been  an increased focus  on the  implementation  of shop floor to top floor connectivity. Customer demand is rapidly moving towards customized products. The Internet  of Things  (IoT)  will allow manufacturing companies to move towards an uninterrupted production cycle  with  minimal  down times, with more flexibility and  efficiency. This  is because  the  generated  data is  available  in  real-time,  accessible at all levels and functions of an organization. Additionally, sensors provide  real-time  insight,  ensuring a dynamic process and leading to greater operational efficiency.

Smart supply chains

The key buzzword for an IoT- influenced  manufacturing  sector is “integration”, leading to smart factories  or  "factories  of  the future".  It  refers to  the  concept  of existing manufacturing  facilities and technologies  connected  very tightly together to produce the specific product a customer wants at a faster speed and at a lower cost. While automation  plays a critical aspect in these smart factories, connectivity and seamless integration  also play crucial roles. Human  intervention will be minimized in these factories with the demand for new skills increasing.

Traditional supply chains will also be redefined through the integration of IT systems. Smart  factories with integrated  IT systems are  expected to boost production by 20%. Thanks to  machine learning   capabilities, the new supply chains can maintain quality while increasing quantity, dynamically. Augmented  and virtual reality will allow increased interactivity between machines and humans, limiting  the   dependency on human intervention and allowing optimal efficiency,  accuracy, and workflow.

As a partner to global manufacturing  companies worldwide, Tata Technologies is supporting companies in these disruptive  times  to  ensure  they have the tools for smart, connected, integrated factories in the near future. The company is focused on defining strategies to digitalize manufacturing beyond product development and engineering, covering the extended enterprise across the value chain.

Improving worker safety

The IoT revolution also provides another  benefit:  an improvement  in worker  safety,  thanks to real-time data. An integrated set-up with connected  devices allows for instant and early detection  of malfunctions. Manufacturing companies  can access and monitor  real-time  data, either  through  video analysis or  by equipping  employees  with  sensors that will flag an anomaly. The safety of  lone  workers  in  manufacturing set-ups  has  also taken  a  great  step forward thanks to IoT.

An  example of  this  in  praactice was seen in Australia where a construction firm fitted sensors on employees working in the hot desert to track their temperature, heart rate, humidity and other variables to detect early symptoms of heat stroke. Thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), organizations  can now  take care of their employees more seamlessly while giving employees additional confidence about their health and safety.  A  similar  solution  has  also been implemented in a leading Indian power distribution company where workers’ vital health parameters and safety are checked with  the  help of IoT solutions.

The future of manufacturing

The rapid changes in the manufacturing sector will also lead to a paradigm shift in the type of skillsets that are required to operate in these conditions. The new-age workforce must have technical expertise and the ability to leverage new technologies in an IoT-influenced  manufacturing sector. The demand for specialized skills such as big data analytics and data-driven  decision  making  is already rising with the trend expected to only grow.

In India, these fields are estimated to  generate  $2.03  billion  annually in  revenues,  growing  at  a  CAGR of  23.8%  annually.  The  CAGR is  expected  to  double  by  2020, thanks to an increase in big data. Additionally, the growth will also be led by advanced analytics, predictive modeling, and data science.

It is quite clear now that the manufacturing sector will remain the pioneers when it comes to leveraging the IoT capabilities  and  becoming a digital, connected  enterprise. The near future will see an environment where customer demand has become far more customized, with processes integrated  and  seamless, helping  in greater productivity.

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