In an era where we can control our thermostats remotely with our smartphones, it’s no surprise that manufacturing – which has been using automation systems for years – is following suit.
A trend dubbed the “Internet of Things,” in manufacturing this involves either having the manufacturing machines themselves communicating, or communication between hundreds of sensors measuring aspects such as temperature, pressure, and humidity. The sensors can determine a problem much more quickly than a human. At Raytheon, for example, “if a screw is supposed to be turned 13 times after it is inserted but is instead turned only 12 times, an error message flashes and production of the missile or component halts,” writes the Wall Street Journal.
In fact, companies such as General Electric and Harley-Davidson are reportedly already using the Internet of Things to help make their manufacturing processes more efficient. In Harley-Davidson’s recently renovated York, Penn., manufacturing facility, Internet of Things sensors and associated applications keep track of production, writes Michael Kassner in TechRepublic.“There are sensors feeding temperature, humidity, and other relevant information into a management system that adjusts the appropriate parameter when existing conditions deviate from predetermined set points.” In GE’s Durathon battery factory in Schenectady, 10,000 sensors on the assembly line — plus others embedded in each battery — report components’ status on a real-time basis, reports David Stephenson in O’Reilly Radar.
In addition to the Internet of Things helping with manufacturing itself, it can also help with environmental factors, such as adjusting temperature and humidity of the manufacturing floor to save money and make the manufacturing process more controlled. It can help with maintenance and operations as well. Paint manufacturer Sherwin-Williams found that equipment in its Richmond, Ky., plant broke down after about 10,000 batches, reports the Wall Street Journal. “Sherwin began doing preventive maintenance after 9,000 batches to avert costly interruptions of production,” the paper reports.
Whichever way it’s provided, support for the Internet of Things has potential, writes Lopez Research. “According to a December 2013 survey by the American Society for Quality (ASQ), only 13 percent of the manufacturers surveyed said they use smart manufacturing within their organization,” the company writes in its report, “Building Smarter Manufacturing With the Internet of Things.” At the same time, of those organizations that claim to have implemented smart manufacturing, 82 percent say they have experienced increased efficiency, 49 percent experienced fewer product defects and 45 percent experienced increased customer satisfaction, the report continues.
So as of right now it seems as though the Internet of Things is only impacting larger manufacturers. However, I have a hunch that it will soon make its way to you all – the smaller guys – before you know it. We’ll help you keep an eye on this trend as it may have the potential to help you work smarter and more efficiently, no matter how big or small your business is.
Steve Leavitt, GM of U.S. Cloud Solutions for Exact