The Internet of Things, or IoT, is being heralded as one of the most significant technological developments ever. Essentially, it is a catch-all term for everyday devices, like toasters or light bulbs, being connected online. This could introduce added functionality, allow individuals to control their entire home from their smartphone, and introduce yet more data into the world.
Although the vast majority of businesses will be affected by this technological revolution, some industries will be impacted more than others. One of the fields expected to face the biggest changes is manufacturing and you can find out about the predicted developments below.
At first glance, Siemen’s electronics plant in Amberg, Germany looks like any other factory. There are conveyor belts takings products from one stage of production to the next and members of staff working at computers and checking on manufacturing equipment. However, this plant is actually unlike any other, because 75 per cent of the work that goes on here is automated, with humans only involved at the beginning of the manufacturing process – computers handle the rest.
As more and more factories embrace IoT equipment and sensors, the role played by human employees will diminish further. Although this will result in the removal of certain jobs, it will create others, in the field of data science for example. It will also greatly increase efficiency and reduce the number of workplace accidents.
As manufacturing embraces the Internet of Things, disruptions to the supply chain and the number of defective products will decrease. By connecting all of the factory equipment to a central network, computer software and trained staff will be able to analyse performance data and predict where hardware failures are going to occur ahead of time. Instead of suddenly having to halt all manufacturing while repairs take place, the equipment can be isolated and fixed with minimal disruption.
Similarly, there will be less time spent on routine maintenance as staff will actually have statistical insight informing them of when maintenance is required, rather than it taking place after an arbitrary period of time, say every 3 months. This will make for more efficient use of staff time and reduce the likelihood of downtime.
Staying safe and staying secure
The added visibility that the Internet of Things will deliver to factory floor managers also promises to improve safety for their workers. As well as including sensors on machinery to reduce malfunctions, members of staff could also wear IoT sensors to monitor the factory for unsafe conditions.
One of the major challenges for IoT in the manufacturing field, however, is keeping all of these extra online devices secure. Do you have the necessary level of cybersecurity expertise to protect your equipment, data and staff from hacks and data leaks? A security breach for a manufacturing firm could lead to the loss of sensitive information or cause unexpected performance from the machinery, both of which would be disastrous for the company in question.
The Internet of Things promises some exciting developments for many industries, but particularly manufacturing. With the added data and insights it will provide, the future for many businesses will be bright indeed.