Why Manufacturing is Primed to Benefit the Most from the IoT

Mark Dohnalek  |   October 04, 2017

The Industrial Internet of Things, or the IIoT, is truly the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Supercomputing, big data, interconnectivity – all these revolutionary technologies are changing the game in hundreds of industries, including manufacturing.

However, the consensus among many experts is that manufacturing is uniquely primed to benefit from what the IIoT has to offer. I would agree – and here’s why.

Manufacturers have been embracing innovation from the industry’s beginnings.

The manufacturing industry thrives on innovation – in fact, it was a massive, civilization-changing innovation that got the industry started in the first place.

As technology has advanced from the mechanical, human-powered machines that were in the world’s first factories, to the electricity-powered, human-run machines of the 20th century, and finally to the robots and automated machines of today, manufacturers have eagerly been on the frontlines of every new adoption.

That’s because there’s a clear competitive advantage to embracing what’s next in technology. If a factory is not making a part or product as efficiently, reliably, and of as high a quality as their competitor, there’s no doubt about what will happen.

The IIoT is just the next innovation in a long line of innovations, as incredible as this particular innovation may be. Manufacturers have already started to adopt IIoT principles and capabilities, moving toward making “smart manufacturing” the norm, instead of the exception.

Using data to inform decision-making is standard practice in the manufacturing industry.

For manufacturers, using the data we have available is to make better business decisions is standard practice.

Manufacturing is, by necessity, a data-driven industry. We need data to tell us how our products are performing. We need it to tell us how many units of a part we need to produce this quarter, compared to last quarter.

The availability of big data, through the IIoT, is a boon to all of us in the industry. In this way, we have an advantage over other industries that have traditionally relied more on the power of ideas and intuition, like marketing, PR, etc.

Perhaps more than any other industry, manufacturing can reap the greatest benefits from real-time information.

One huge innovation that has come as a result of the IIoT is the ability to obtain data about our manufacturing processes in real time.

This is huge for manufacturers. Imagine what this could mean for a medical device manufacturer, for example. If one of their robotic machines detected even the slightest aberration in a part’s length, or any other quality, it could – in real time – alert the technician to pause production and immediately fix the issue.

That could save a manufacturer thousands, even millions of dollars.

Manufacturers are in an optimal position to benefit from AI, thanks to the many years of data their facilities usually have on individual processes.

Since manufacturers have collected data on numerous processes for decades, they’re in an optimal position to benefit from AI and machine learning.

AI, and more specifically, machine learning, works by analyzing past data to create new predictions. This, of course, is how AI-enabled devices learn.

When a manufacturer obtains AI software, it almost certainly can feed that software years’ worth of data. While a typical non-AI system could analyze that data to create an algorithm or mathematical model – which manufacturers have been using for years – an AI system could learn to factor in more uncertainties and more potentialities. What’s more, it can do this with greater accuracy.

The IIoT, with all its many implications, possibilities, and promises, will prove exceptionally useful for manufacturers everywhere. For more on this topic, read “3 Key Ways the Internet of Things is Reshaping Manufacturing.”