The power of IoT and cloud—How manufacturers can improve operations

Deloitte on Cloud Blog

Smart factory initiatives could be the key to manufacturing competitiveness in the future

October 18, 2019

A blog post by Subrata Roy

Many manufacturers face a range of material, resource and quality constraints that impact productivity and revenues on a daily basis. Since many large production floors can span literal miles, one without IoT enabled technology tends to lack complete visibility into each element of the production cycle, making the factory floor ecosystem rife with inefficiencies. Managers often find it difficult to locate parts in real time as they’re distributed throughout the factory floor, employees wait idly while maintenance is performed on a malfunctioning machine, and overall quality potentially suffers as a result.

This was the norm until the manufacturing industry discovered the power of IoT and began its transition to the smart factory. Leveraging smart technology with IoT capabilities, smart factories enable increased visibility, optimized production and improved quality while minimizing unplanned downtime. In fact, a recent study by Deloitte and Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI), which evaluated the impact of smart factories on key business metrics such as manufacturing productivity, found that smart factory initiatives could be the key to manufacturing competitiveness in the future.

Until recently, IoT collected data wasn’t actionable for many businesses. The volume of data produced by the manufacturing segment is so large that it’s been difficult for any company to keep the number of physical servers necessary to collect and store this data. Additionally, combing through data for actionable business insights is time consuming. If the investment is made to analyze IoT data, by the time a company receives data-driven insights, they’re typically outdated. Cloud has drastically increased the value of IoT, allowing organizations to process more information than before, at a much lower cost. While IoT sensors have collected data for years, businesses can now see the value of what they're collecting.

Recently, we worked with a large aerospace manufacturer with a widespread and complicated operation, making it a challenge to locate various parts on the shop floor in real-time. Previously, the manufacturer used a schedule that was only updated once or twice per day, which would create delays when there were production changes. IoT technology, on the other hand, enables the data analysis for every part and every piece of data at every moment throughout the cycle, allowing for the utmost flexibility and agility in resource management.

Through IoT enabled technologies, we placed antennas strategically within the factory as well as on machines that could read each part. Then we designed a cloud-based dynamic scheduling system that provided much more visibility into where specific parts were located during its journey.
Now, if parts are delayed, the team is notified in real time in order to create a new expedited order or move forward with another project first. IoT also provides predictive maintenance on the factory floor – monitoring the health of machines and proactively scheduling maintenance ahead of any issues, based on historic data.

Combining IoT technology and real-time data with data in the cloud, Deloitte, in working with AWS, enabled dynamic scheduling of the production facility to automate materials movement. The result for the client has been a significant improvement in overall factory performance.

If your organization is looking to implement a smart factory and apply IoT with cloud for greater visibility into operations, dynamic scheduling and predictive analytics, I suggest a three-step approach to adoption:

  1. Think big: When it comes to making IT decisions, lean into technology purchasing choices that can evolve as your business grows. Don’t let the technology capabilities you have today constrain your plans for growth because technology and business models are constantly evolving, and you have more options than ever before.
  2. Start small: You don’t have to apply all technology changes to your business operations overnight. Test innovations on small areas of the business first (for instance, extracting data insights via cloud from the existing IoT sensors on your equipment instead of installing new ones) for a proof of value.
  3. Scale fast: Once you’ve proven that the technology you’ve tested is improving operations, scale it quickly. If you’re attending AWS re:Invent 2019, you can learn more about our approach and how we’ve helped companies with manufacturing operations find real business efficiencies with IoT and cloud by visiting our session on Monday, December 2nd at 11:30 a.m. PT.

This blog first appeared on LinkedIn.

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