IoT For Preventive Maintenance: A Game Changer for the Manufacturing Industry

Ronald Monte | April 12, 2018

An IDC study reported that the global Internet of Things spending would hit $1 trillion in 2020. The manufacturing industry will be one of the biggest spenders, with an estimated spend of $189 billion in 2018 alone. The focus will be on developing solutions to support manufacturing operations and for production asset management. 

IoT use has evolved as manufacturers are investing and reaping the benefits of smart technology. It started with retrofitting sensors to existing manufacturing equipment and improving efficiencies. IoT devices help improve the efficiency and productivity leading to what we know as smart manufacturing operations. 

New age manufacturing equipment, however, now comes with pre-installed IoT sensors marking the progression of its use. A key focus area is preventive maintenance: on how they can prevent problems even before they occur. 

Need for smarter preventive maintenance 

Safety malfunctions on construction sites, factory floors or at various points along the supply chain are unfortunately too common. Emerging technologies can help avert these dangerous and costly accidents. IoT is proving to be a game changer in this regard. They are not just improving working conditions and overall efficiency but enabling better safety protocols and quick fixes to maintenance issues. 

Implementation of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) can help manufacturers optimize efficiency throughout labor, logistics, and operations. These smart devices will ensure maintenance of proper safety protocols and help workers adhere to instructions. Aggregated performance data and real-time analytics drawn from IIoT sensors will offer an accurate forecast of maintenance issues before they occur. 

We have some shining examples in companies like Dewalt. The construction company installed embedded Internet of Things sensors in equipment and tools. They can now monitor each job site to ensure safety compliance, reduce errors, meet safety needs and maintain proper productivity. 

The evolution of IoT in manufacturing 

As industrial operations continue to mature, manufacturers are trying to make sense of the big data and changing industry trends. IoT is one of the key technologies that is helping them stay ahead of the curve. 

Retrofitting machines with sensors is the first step to improving production efficiencies. Businesses have correlated this sensor data with traditional industrial control systems. The need for embedded systems soon arose, but the cost was a deterrent. 

The commercialization of IoT has rapidly decreased costs. Evolution of inexpensive sensors is now monitoring the conditions of assets in real time. This has helped shift the maintenance strategy from reactive to proactive. 

Now real signals coming from equipment enables engineers to troubleshoot issues immediately, leading to efficient predictive maintenance and zero unplanned downtime

Emerging tech like machine learning and AI are helping to make quick connections between data sources and assets. This objective investigation of asset data will assist in forecasting future performance with better accuracy. 

Along with mitigation of potential failures, they will lead to autonomous maintenance and repair. Use of Augmented Reality (AR) has furthered this progress. AR offers mechanics access to real-time information with audio and video in the mix. The addition of high-end remote monitoring provides a new dimension in problem detection that promises to change maintenance strategies big time

How IoT will improve predictive maintenance 

Combined with AI, IoT embedded assets will help organizations monitor, manage and maintain the condition of their industrial machinery. Deployment of smart systems will reduce the need for manual inspections, saving time and money. 

Complex technologies like autonomous robots and AR tools will be used more. They will be enmeshed with IoT to improve the overall workers’ safety and security in the plant. Sensors with more advanced technology and machine-learning algorithms will deliver digital insights for the staff. They can see failures happening in advance and act fast. 

Monitoring of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of health and safety will be easier and more effective. These will include parameters like the number of injuries, near-misses, property damage or loss during daily operations, vehicle incidents, illness rates, short and long-term absences. Lagging indicators will help in proper redressal of health, safety, as well as environmental issues. 

IoT will push more companies to the edge. 

More manufacturers now realize the benefits of the real-time picture of their entire operation. The Annual Manufacturing Report released by The Manufacturer shows that 91% of industry leaders believe that IoT and connected data will help them reduce costs and make informed decisions. 86% think that they can improve customer service through the combined use of digital technologies and data analysis. 

They can now monitor and act upon data flowing from connected machines, systems, and the human workforce. Decisions makers can detect potential faults in the system before they cause injuries or downtime.  

Before 2017, IoT transformed operational areas within a business by optimizing operations, reducing product and service costs and by improving enterprise risk management. Now, the industry is poised to make more of their investments. They are moving towards a disruptive space with IoT. They will soon create new business models to maximize revenue opportunities from unexplored areas and services. 

The smart combination of IoT assets with big data analytics has improved predictive and pre-emptive decisions. In future, we can expect faster, more intelligent and responsive models. Leaders in manufacturing have realized that IoT-led digital transformation is no longer a ‘nice to have’ option. They must start deploying IoT intelligence at the ‘Edge.’ This means equipping the machines on the shop floor with more compute power. 

A look at deployment at the edge 

As Tego’s CEO, Tim Butler put it, whether they are ready for it or not, IoT is pushing manufacturers to the edge. Tego’s UHF RFID is a tagging device that can capture information about the people, systems, and environment that a traditional sensor cannot. It can detect counterfeit processes and validated authentic ones, thereby adding another level to risk management and predictive maintenance. 

Value of IoT 

Global manufacturers need to adapt to new technology and fast. The need of the hour is to digitize assets, and IoT will help businesses manage and use data.  Their value lies in more than collecting and collating information. They make assets smart by enabling embedded intelligence at the source. 

The real value of IoT lies in using the data from the cloud and the edge to get better analytics and understanding of the critical information.  As more manufacturers opt for these smart technologies, they see stronger ROI and rapid transformation of their organization value chain.

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