The IoT Is Underutilized in Manufacturing

Posted by Rebecca Skubish on Feb 9, 2022 5:41:11 PM

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a powerful tool when users have what they need to be successful. Unfortunately, finding the right tools and resources to integrate existing equipment into the IoT remains challenging for many - particularly in the manufacturing space. 

In this article, we discuss why the IoT presents a huge opportunity for manufacturers and how to make the two come together.

Why is the IoT Underutilized in Manufacturing?

The question of why the IoT isn’t used much in manufacturing is one that has a few answers.

According to Accenture expert Wolfgang Decker in an article on HP, on average, industrial equipment is 20 to 25 years old, but some equipment will be far older. The Bureau of Economic Analysis via Reuters reports that machines are around 10 years old - which is apparently the oldest machines have been on average in 80 years.

To think that machines are going to magically be replaced because the IoT exists is a far-fetched idea. Legacy equipment with its high maintenance costs also makes it harder to purchase new machines when the machines themselves are expensive.

It’s clear that new equipment is not the solution for integrating the IoT.

Connecting to the IoT for manufacturers is increasingly more important than ever and the need is only growing. 

Connecting legacy manufacturing objects to the IoT can provide more information on how they work. Sensors can also monitor these objects to ensure their functions are running smoothly. 

Connecting manufacturing objects that are part of a chain to the IoT could result in improved quality control. By collecting data throughout this chain, manufacturers will be able to determine when an issue occurs and where it happens along this chain. This helps when trying to identify triggers related to issues when they're happening, allowing for faster responses and reduced downtime.

IoT connectivity in manufacturing has been shown to positively impact a number of processes in the industry. Manufacturing reportedly experienced a productivity loss from 2010 to 2019, with many manufacturers experiencing lost revenue due to this issue. 

Manufacturers lose revenue from factors such as machine downtime being unplanned - 800 hours on average. This is something that the IoT can help alleviate, for example.

Additionally, when IoT connectivity is implemented throughout the internal supply chain, it helps drive more accurate demand planning and production scheduling. This can reduce underproduction and overproduction by creating schedules based on up-to-date information.

The IoT could also potentially eliminate common material issues related to transportation, storage, or recycling. Sensors make it possible for equipment to be monitored closely, resulting in less waste at any given time for raw materials. Connecting legacy manufacturing objects to the IoT can provide more information on how they work.

Many legacy objects and existing devices remain disconnected and isolated. New approaches are required to connect them securely to the cloud since waiting for a complete infrastructure replacement to get the benefits of IoT is unfeasible.

The IoT can solve all of these problems and more. It’s imperative that manufacturers integrate their legacy equipment into the IoT to take advantage of these benefits.

Why Legacy Equipment Is Ready for the IoT

Legacy equipment is generally not capable of supporting internet connectivity. However, this does not mean that they cannot be connected to the IoT. The first step toward connecting these machines is having a communication protocol between them and your control system or manufacturing management software. This will allow for information sharing within the facility.

Legacy equipment is ready for the IoT because of the benefits offered by having connected machines. The benefits are of key importance to any manufacturing company that wants to implement the IoT into its operations.

When this equipment is monitored by sensors on the IoT, it is possible to gain real-time operational intelligence. For example, if a machine is not working properly or needs to be serviced, the IoT will help your company identify this sooner rather than later.

Imagine you are running a manufacturing plant with legacy equipment that has sensors built-in at certain key points throughout the manufacturing chain. In these key points, you can gain valuable data that could improve productivity and help avoid downtime altogether. 

With sensors on all of your equipment, you can monitor every point within the system through factory floor data collection software. This allows you to gain operational intelligence and turn it into actionable information.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is creating a revolution in monitoring technology that will allow industrial equipment to communicate and generate data that can be used to improve productivity and efficiency. The IoT will also identify problems or malfunctions much sooner, allowing you to adjust operations as needed to avoid costly downtime. 

Three Examples of Legacy Equipment Utilizing the IoT

Imagining legacy equipment utilizing the IoT is one thing, but real-life applications are happening now. Here are three examples of how IoT technology has been integrated into legacy equipment.

Bearing and Motor Monitoring

In manufacturing facilities, bearings and motors are extremely critical parts of machines. These components require regular inspection to ensure they are working correctly at all times in order for the machinery to function properly.

Previously, bearing information could only be read through visual inspection or by using ultrasonic methods that were neither accurate nor fast enough for today's manufacturing processes. For example, if a belt broke or came off the track and the device wasn't connected to the IoT, the motor would continue to drive it, causing more damage and problems.

With the IoT attached to these machines, data is transmitted directly to the cloud, giving operators the opportunity to assess whether or not maintenance needs to be conducted. This allows companies to save money by finding potential problems before they turn into larger issues that affect productivity.

Installing sensors on the equipment's drive wheels can detect bearing temperature, vibration, and impact abnormalities when the belt detaches from a wheel or comes to a halt.

HVAC Monitoring

HVAC monitoring helps companies ensure that the equipment is kept at optimal operating temperatures to reduce energy costs. If there are issues with HVAC systems, it can lead to higher utility bills and slower production. The IoT provides a full system overview, allowing companies to spot problems easily. 

By retrofitting the HVAC equipment with sensors to monitor environmental and operational parameters, companies can ensure that the equipment is within its ideal operating range. Atoms provide temperature and vibration data, allowing the manufacturer to gain insights into machine operation and the unit's location, ultimately monitoring and ensuring the equipment is performing at optimal levels.

Industrial Machinery and Equipment 

Most manufacturers have a fair amount of legacy equipment. These essential pieces of equipment help control the flow and temperature of products in various stages of production, from raw materials all the way to finished goods. 

Manufacturers and warehouses like Amazon, want to be able to monitor their operations remotely without having to send an engineer on-site. Remote access can provide real-time information about equipment operation that allows manufacturers to efficiently train personnel who work in other locations or gather data that will help them improve processes. 

Additionally, it is often possible for manufacturers to gain insights into machine operation and location through this remote monitoring by tracking temperature and vibration within each unit's environment. For example, Atoms provide temperature and vibration data, allowing the manufacturer to get insights into machine operation while it is running.

The value of this type of remote access has already been demonstrated with machine tools, but the use cases go beyond individual machines. For example, by monitoring many different machines in one area (such as a manufacturing facility), it may be possible to identify trends that help drive production or logistics decisions. 

Conclusion

Connecting legacy equipment to the IoT is done with sensors, gateways, and cloud-based software. This allows for decisions to be made on the production floor or facility level which is where the work gets done.

The IoT can give you access to information that would have been impossible to collect before. That information gives manufacturers better insights into how their equipment operates. 

To connect legacy equipment to the IoT, Atomation enables monitoring and analysis of legacy object activity, giving operators insight into the status and unusual activity (power outage, elevated temperature, tilt, impact, etc.).

Sources:

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