How the
IIoT impacts
automation and
factory cost controls 

Author: Poornima Apte

As a result of the ongoing pandemic, companies, especially manufacturers, have been focusing on retooling and energizing their operations in order to secure a solid financial future. Enabling manufacturing automation has become a primary objective because of the cost control measures that can be accelerated due to the new technology being deployed.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) not only can help manufacturers navigate the ongoing crisis but also can help them come out of it stronger than ever by facilitating manufacturing production, supporting supply chain management and protecting employees—all of which deliver efficient methods for factory cost control.

Heavy industry, heavy toll

As the Covid pandemic unfolded, manufacturers recognized that they were going to take a significant hit. During the early months of the lockdown, nearly 80% of the member companies of the National Association of Manufacturers said that they expected to take a financial hit due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The manufacturers expected operational consequences too: More than half anticipated having to change their operations, and more than a third said that they were bracing for supply chain disruptions.

The burden of the pandemic has been particularly heavy on the manufacturing industry, as manual labor is still the driving force of production. As countries continue to cycle through lockdowns that limit the availability of labor, more companies are looking for ways to improve or implement automation for their manufacturing processes to help drive factory cost controls.

Manufacturing automation and the promise of the IIoT

Manufacturers are looking to the Industrial Internet of Things for solutions to ongoing manufacturing challenges and issues in the supply chain and with the labor force. That the IIoT can deliver cost efficiencies is a bonus.

The Industrial Internet of Things can help enhance and/or increase data acquisition from existing machines by equipping them with sensors that relay information to a central data-gathering system. Sophisticated machine learning algorithms process this data and deliver insights that can be leveraged by humans or other machines for better decision making. There are many IIoT use cases, including asset tracking, supply chain management and preventative maintenance, such as condition-based maintenance, which can improve inventory management, cost control and operational efficiencies.

Leveraging manufacturing monitoring

Machines, inventory and parts are all manufacturing assets—and the Industrial Internet of Things can help monitor them.

Sensors embedded in machines can measure a variety of parameters, such as vibration, temperature and pressure. The sensors can capture irregular vibrations and acoustic signals early on and relay that information for analysis. Any pattern that deviates from the norm can trigger an alert to the original equipment manufacturer or the appropriate shop floor staff, who can intervene accordingly. In a manufacturing plant, for example, a sensor can detect an irregularity, send the data to a platform that assesses the situation and communicate the recommended action to the proper staff so action, including preventative maintenance, can be taken to avoid a full shut-down if possible.

Traditional maintenance is preventive, and performed according to fixed schedules. The advantage of preventative maintenance is that it keeps machines running in a proactive manner. The Industrial Internet of Things can optimize machine performance by taking machines offline only when absolutely necessary. IIoT sensors can even detect catastrophic faults before they fully develop.

Supporting supply chain management

IIoT devices can also enhance supply chain management by tracking and monitoring the movement of raw materials as well as goods ready to sell. Sensors can provide manufacturers with data that helps them know where their products are in real-time (whether on a shop floor, in a warehouse or in transit). The sensors can also keep manufacturers informed of the environmental condition of their products (temperature, humidity and other factors that could affect the quality of the product).

The IIoT is a key technology in manufacturing as it enables the most critical assets to be tracked accurately and cost effectively. It derives data in real time and centralizes that information so that manufacturers, vendors and clients can work from one source of truth and make better business decisions. And optimizing assets, whether they're in the supply chain or on the production floor can save money and improve productivity—always welcome news in manufacturing. Most critically, companies can apply IIoT solutions to improve their resilience—ensuring the best outcomes no matter the situation.

Learn how Verizon's asset tracking and management solutions can provide product visibility while in transit and help your operations run smoothly—no matter what's going on in the world.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.