Staying Ahead with IoT and Connected Manufacturing

By: | Category: Distribution / Manufacturing

How Connected Are You?

In today’s digital world, your competition can emerge from anywhere. Small to midsize manufacturers can establish a global presence, disrupt markets or create entirely new ones. How do you stay one step ahead of competition? By staying connected.

Digital is not only the future, it is the now. In addition to giving more and better data, digital connects devices, processes and data to quicker and better decision-making. The Internet and the Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming many industries, and manufacturing is at the top of that list. Through the IoT, vast amounts of data can be gathered from many different devices, including vehicles, equipment, buildings and other items embedded with sensors, electronics and software used to collect data. But manufacturers have been collecting huge volumes of data for decades, so what’s different about the IoT?

The IoT Affect

The difference is that the data (sensors on the shop floor) collected by manufacturers has been mostly underutilized and has had limited connection to ERP systems used to guide business decisions. The volume of transactional data stored in ERP solutions has presented a challenge to manufacturers for years. Obtaining data has been a much easier task than using the data in a meaningful way. But not anymore. The volume of data in the Internet of Things (IoT) is considerably larger and can now be significantly utilized, and connected to ERP systems!

The question then is, are manufactures effectively maximizing this data? While many manufacturers agree that digital technologies are truly changing the way they connect operations to systems such as ERP, most still struggle to be truly connected. Traditionally, sensors have been used to quantify and monitor factors such as temperature, viscosity, gas pressure and composition – in order to avoid producing out of specifications. At first, this required manual intervention. But over time, more automation was introduced and now basic rules can often be applied through programming of the sensors themselves. But data made available through the IoT is still approached in the conventional way to improve efficiencies and/or quality, when it can really be used to do so much more. But not without connectivity.

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It’s All About Connection

Connecting equipment, devices and products to the Internet is the initial step. Connection back to ERP to aid in strategic decision-making, analytics and intelligent retrieval is also needed to provide a complete picture and make proactive, predictive and pivotal decisions. But it doesn’t end there.

Manufacturers can optimize machine reliability and production, drive the creation of new business models, improve quality and customer service and generate new sources of revenue by connecting devices and/or equipment. For example, if you sell equipment that must be serviced in the field, connectivity allows you to monitor how and how much it is used. If your customer contracts with you to maintain and service this equipment, connectivity can help you anticipate service parts and repairs, thereby reducing costs and improving service. You can also charge a premium for additional proactive and prescriptive services.

There are so many other examples. All you have to do is think about expanding your business in other ways that surpasses producing and shipping more products. Here’s the reality: unless you are a truly connected manufacturer, you are likely to stay behind competition.

Manufacturing and the Cloud

A 2016 survey of enterprise solution conducted by the market research firm Mint Jutras, revealed that 86 percent of manufacturers believe cloud and digital technologies are necessary for survival. Though the shift towards the cloud started slowly it is gaining momentum. SaaS is now the top choice for manufacturers and the cloud is the place to connect.
In today’s digital economy, spreadsheet and/or legacy ERP is not going to make the cut. The Internet has made it possible for any company to compete globally. The most successful manufacturers will emerge as those who have learned how to be truly connected.

To learn more about becoming a truly connected manufacturer we’d recommend these resources or speak with one of our Manufacturing industry specialists.