Is the Internet of Things changing Manufacturing?

Is the Internet of Things changing Manufacturing?Manufacturing industry has been using sensors and devices in industrial automation for a long time already. It may or may not be over the Internet and it may not be every device on a machine, but in general, industrial automation was ahead of consumer technology adoption.

Whatever the Internet of Things (IoT) buzz is now, the goal for IoT in manufacturing is straightforward. It is to achieve connected sensors and devices, taking plant floor visibility to the next level.

All parts of the manufacturing value chain will greatly benefit from a deep pen­etration of digital sensors that enable enhanced visibility and better control of production processes, as well as increased automation of tasks.

Applications that encompass IoT principles across the manufacturing value chain — from research and development, through sourcing, production, outbound logistics, marketing and sales — offer huge potential benefits.

Using the Internet of Things in Manufacturing

The manufacturing sector increased its operational efficiency with the Internet of Things in its pocket. Introducing machines that could learn their processes, industries are now slashing their manufacturing time and costs to their lowest. Manufacturers are now making their customers well aware of their product statuses, even on the assembly line and are able to deliver products in very short period of time at much lower prices.

In addition to optimizing existing IT-based processes, IoT will therefore also unlock the potential of even more differentiated tracking of both detailed processes and overall effects at a global scale, which it was previously impossible to record. It will also involve closer cooperation between business partners (e.g. suppliers and customers) and between employees, providing new opportunities for mutual benefit.

With IoT, manufacturing companies everywhere are faster transforming the way they do business from a world of product-centric business models to service-centric business models.

For those manufacturing companies that still have not started the Connected Things revolution, here are some use cases with day-in the life experiences of what’s possible through IoT.

Use Case – Plant Floor Control Automation – APOTEX

In order to continue to meet the rising demand for its products, Apotex, a Canadian pharmaceutical manufacturer, realized that it would need to undertake a significant plant expansion of the production capacity at its solid dose facility in Etobicoke, Ontario.
Apotex upgraded its manufacturing processes to automate manual processes and jettison non­integrated systems. This included ensuring consistent batch production (i.e., automatic identification of materials, addition of ingredients at the right time and communication with the assigned operator) by introducing automated guided vehicles, RFID tracking, sorting and process flow tracking. The end result: the company has real-time visibility into manufacturing operations. Linking this revamp to IoT thinking has resulted in increased productivity and bottom-line benefits. Further, the facility was honored with the “Facility of the Year” award by the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering, which is given to global leaders that demonstrate high levels of quality and creativity in facility design, resulting in significant benefits in production, safety and quality while lowering costs.

Use Case – Next-Generation Remote Service to Predictive Maintenance – Sysmex

Sysmex is a global leader in the design and development of high-quality, reliable, and innovative clinical diagnostic equipment and information systems (blood and urinalysis equipment). They generate 10% of their overall revenue through services offerings.

The intense competition in the medical device market, especially in the US, is demanding a higher level of customer service at lower costs.

Sysmex implemented an IoT solution that allowed direct, real-time connections and rapid problem resolution using enhanced collaboration and use of remote and systems data.


  • Improved equipment uptime (through faster decision response time)
  • improved labor utilization through collaborative information exchange

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Use Case – Precision Manufacturing – GE

GE’s Durathon battery factory in Schenectady, with 10,000 sensors on the assembly line — plus others embedded in each battery — report components’ status on a real-time basis, which a manager can read instantly on an iPad as he/she roams the factory floor — data that can also be shared in real-time with others throughout management, product design and other departments.

This and other prototype factories worldwide are building a new era of precision manufacturing that will cut operating costs and resource use, bring about unprecedented integration of the factory with the supply chain and distribution networks, continue companies’ relationships with customers far beyond the point of sale, and even create profitable new revenue streams.

Central to the precision manufacturing transformation is the Internet of Things, which brings two revolutionary changes that will require re-examining long-held assumptions about every aspect of manufacturing policies and procedures:

For the first time, the company can actually know what’s happening on the assembly line to both products and machinery in real time.

That information can be shared, also in real time, with anyone inside or outside the enterprise who could improve their operating efficiency and decision-making with that real-time data.


Key Takeaway

If we do not ignore what analysts, technology vendors and financial firms are saying, the Internet of Things (IoT) is revolutionizing the world around us and of course the manufacturing industry is benefiting from this.

The Internet of Things promises to eliminate massive information gaps about real-time conditions on the factory floor that have made it impossible to fully optimize production and eliminate waste in the past.

While the IoT will allow real-time sharing of data by all who need it, it remains to be seen whether management will move to break down departmental silos to share data on a real-time basis and will choose to give rank-and-file assembly line personnel access to relevant information that would help them work more efficiently

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