In just a few short years, small internet-enabled devices, known collectively as the Internet of Things (IoT), have transformed how we live in ways that continue to grow and evolve.
The IoT revolution really began with consumer-facing products – smartwatches, thermostats, and television remotes. While today your IoT-enabled refrigerator might tell you that you need to get more milk or your smart garage door opener may send you a text asking if you meant to leave the door open, the IoT is now set to transform and revolutionize business processes and operations.
While the roots of Industry 4.0 started in the 1990s, it is the rise of interconnected systems communicating via the internet that is truly leading to a revolution in manufacturing. Not only can machines on factory floors communicate more intelligently with each other across physical and geographical barriers, but these smart machines are also able to monitor, detect and predict faults, suggesting preventive measures and remedial action before downtime occurs.
The IoT also allows manufacturing processes to be completely virtually visualized, monitored, and managed from remote locations. Industry 4.0 puts machines, people, processes, and infrastructure into a single, connected manufacturing process, which provides businesses with full disclosure over the entire workings of their manufacturing and production. Using this information makes overall management highly efficient.
Supply Chain Management
Just one way that the IoT will create efficiencies for the world of business, be it B2B or B2C, is in supply chain management.
From factory to shelf, the IoT cannot only make existing processes more efficient, but it can also detect potentially expensive problems in advance of them impacting your business. Picture a small component in a factory. As a ‘dumb’ cog in the machinery, the part could fail without notice, shutting down an assembly line for several days. As a ‘smart’ cog, a similar part could tell engineers that it was set to fail days in advance, automatically place an order for its replacement, and direct staff to its location in the factory to replace it.
The same technology makes it easier for businesses to track inventory around the world, creating opportunities for supply chain and logistics optimization. Connected manufacturing and the IoT provide employees with visibility over company assets worldwide. Standard asset management tasks such as transfers, disposals, and adjustments can be streamlined and managed centrally and in real-time.
Similarly, the IoT has been used to handle logistics for the maintenance of a shipper’s fleet. With equipment requiring regularly scheduled maintenance, knowing where a given truck is on a given day, scheduling it for service, and making sure that there are enough trucks in the right place to cover customer needs. Easier scheduling, reduced downtime, and balanced fleet usage all translate to savings.
Asset Tracking & Waste Reduction
IoT sensors on both vehicles and product packaging can provide insight into where a company’s inventory is at any given time. When a company always knows exactly where their inventory is, they can be agile with moving it to where the need is the greatest. Furthermore, the same sensors are able to detect changes in temperature, light, and other environmental factors, ensuring that potentially perishable items do not go to waste.
With real-time insight into buyer behavior, retailers can stay up to date not only with on-shelf product stocking, but also by tracking which goods are most popular in a given setting, allowing them to increase their profits with efficient sales and stock management.
Frontline workers need access to accurate and up-to-date information in order to solve problems and increase productivity. Access to information, guidance, training, and support which was previously delivered in person can now be delivered directly to the shop floor.
Manufacturers and industrial companies of every size can now access digital transformation initiatives in order to maintain business operations and business continuity. Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) can now be a part of the toolkit available to workers on the shop floor and are crucial to making the most of a workforce that is increasingly spread across the world.
Advanced Analytics & AI
With information coming in from sources as disparate IoT sensors on factory floors, lighting systems, sales data, supply chain, and customer demand, there are massive amounts of data to sift through. Thanks to advances in data and analytics, manufacturers are more capable than ever of using that data to make informed decisions to improve internal processes.
Taking it to the next level, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning can be leveraged to further process your data, using it to reach conclusions that go beyond the obvious. Some examples include forecasting market changes and predicting machine downtime.
Customer Engagement and Real-Time Insights
Stepping outside of the shop floor, as the IoT and its associated cloud platforms become more prevalent, companies will be able to gain deeper insight into how their products are being used, potentially leading to new marketing channels, improved customer service, product improvements, and ultimately, increased customer satisfaction.
Transform Your Business
As the IoT landscape continues to evolve, market research from Gartner and Cisco predicts that the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will grow even larger, improving asset management, operational visibility, safety, and security. With all of these interconnected devices, the amount of data grows exponentially. By partnering with a technology company experienced in supply chain management, big data, machine learning, and data visualization, you can transform your business for the 21st Century.