Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Making the Internet of Things a Reality at Your Plant

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a giant network of connected “things” (which also includes people – an often neglected topic). The relationships in the IoT include things-things, things-people and people-people.

But what does this mean for manufacturers?

Your equipment can talk to your equipment, to your information systems and to your people (engineers, plant managers, analysts – really anyone). This type of connectivity and data flow can lead to greater efficiency, better-informed decision-making and higher profit margins. To really capitalize on the capabilities made possible by the IoT, manufacturers need to make changes in the manufacturing process and investments in technology.

Phase 1: Identifying Key Metrics and Collecting Data
Companies cannot use data unless they collect it first. Deploying devices that measure data – and the tools to analyze it and yield actionable results – has quickly become a requisite for manufacturers. The first step, however, is to identify which key metrics and data points will help you improve your operations the most.

Phase 2: Investing in Infrastructure and Technology
Most manufacturers cannot build the sophisticated, complex infrastructure needed to truly connect every aspect of their operations overnight. But, as new, less expensive solutions are developed that can be implemented in weeks vs. months or years – the barriers are becoming smaller. A logical place to start deploying this technology is in a plant or warehouse. The next step is to extend that to the supply chain and to customers, eventually building an enterprise level system.

Phase 3: Streamlining Continuous Improvement and Optimizing Operations
Now that the data is being collected and your equipment, systems and people are all connected, it’s time to make that data actionable. Using manufacturing operations management software, manufacturers can analyze data and events in real-time to enable a highly agile and modular approach to operations management and continuous improvement initiatives. This includes the ability to readily scale from small, single plant applications to large, enterprise-level applications. Collaboration and workflow services will support both people-to-people and people-to-systems interactions, enforcing procedures and rules while flexibly adapting to real-time situations, which dramatically reduces the time and effort needed to resolve issues and prevent them from occurring again.

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