The Confusing Topic of the Internet of Things: Understanding what it is and what benefits it brings to Manufacturing
In today’s digital world and ever-evolving future of manufacturing, manufacturers need to be flexible and open-minded in adapting, developing and collaborating to advance their systems. The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the most confusing applications in manufacturing systems but is becoming an increasingly important piece of technology within the sector.
IoT, what is it?
IoT is about connecting physical ‘things’ that have been embedded with sensors, software and/or other technologies to collect and exchange data with other devices and systems over the internet in real-time. IoT applications are now everywhere, from home hubs, smart thermostats to any other app-controlled appliances you have at home or at work. How we use IoT in our everyday lives is becoming more important and the convenience you get as a result of it saves time and money.
Industrial Internet of things (IIoT) is the larger application of incorporating IoT into manufacturing and industrial processes. Optimisation of complex processes and systems through the use of sensors and intelligent devices eliminates steps that do not add value thus improving manufacturing quality, productivity, and sustainability. IIoT can encompass the whole life cycle through connected machines, systems, and devices providing valuable real-time insights and information that would not previously have been available.
What benefits does IoT/IIoT bring?
Integrating IIoT within products, processes, or production lines can have significant benefits for manufacturers. Digitalising manufacturing operations can transform manufacturing production leading to new opportunities, enhanced productivity, and transform supply chain management. Here we outline the four key elements of IIoT:
Data collection can help manufacturers control costs and provide valuable insights into machines and production performance. The value of this data can help business optimise process flows, identify production bottlenecks, increase productivity, and eliminate waste.
Through the monitoring capability of IIoT, machines and environment inefficiencies can be addressed in real-time, revealing opportunities for advancement, saving time, money, and reducing emissions.
The advantage of utilising IIoT within manufacturing is the ability to streamline processes, enabling decision making and real-time control to speed up productivity and efficiency, increasing business performance as well as equipment optimisation.
Automation can reduce the number of defects coming off production lines, resulting in greater control and consistency of product quality. By automating production lines, repetitive work can be done more precisely and in less time but it remains fundamental that human interaction is essential in responding and making decisions on manufacturing operations.
During these challenging times in the manufacturing sector, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for manufacturers to consider digitalising their manufacturing processes allowing for social distancing, remote access, and manufacturing continuity. IIoT, automation, robotics and humans all have a place in manufacturing and are critical to the industry’s recovery and future success.
What is in it for you?
IIoT can be an incredibly powerful addition to a manufacturing business; its incorporation can revolutionise your business practices by becoming more agile and better prepared to face competitors, avoid problems, and enable future growth.
The COVID-19 pandemic has not only identified issues and challenges but identified opportunities for businesses as they adapt to new ways of operation. The growing IIoT infrastructure is also likely to benefit from increased use of machine learning where intelligent devices and equipment will be able to modify behaviour to act on weaknesses in processes they identify from collected data. These models learn, grow, change, and develop independently, in other words, with machine learning, computers find insightful information without being told where to look.
How can ASTUTE 2020 support you?
Collaborative manufacturing creates and adds value. Collaboration is a powerful tool that manufacturers have the opportunity to gain competitive advantages from, exploiting new and existing innovations in areas such as automation to implement change. Through industry-academia collaboration, the ASTUTE 2020 team can support you with research into smart manufacturing, combining cyber-physical systems, simulation, 3D visualisation, sensor technology, data collection, analytics, decentralised decisions, and monitoring physical processes.
Research, Development and Innovation are more critical than ever within the manufacturing sector and the breadth of ASTUTE 2020’s expertise across our Welsh Universities’ partnership offers manufacturers the unique opportunity to embrace future manufacturing technologies such as IIoT, by rethinking every aspect of their manufacturing business from a digital perspective, creating further value, improving efficiency, and allowing the offering of better products, processes, and services to a global market.
The thought of incorporating robotics, smart products, artificial intelligence, or sensors into your products or processes may be a little daunting but with support from ASTUTE 2020, we can address your manufacturing challenges. Collaboration is key and we are here to help you.
ASTUTE 2020 has recently collaborated with The Smart Container Company Ltd. on an IoT device that instantly turns beer kegs into smart containers. The company are developing the KegTracker™, a first-to-market, non-intrusive, one-size-fits-all IoT device that instantly turns kegs and casks into smart containers. This unique collaboration between the Smart Container Company and ASTUTE 2020 has utilised renowned manufacturing systems expertise to research methods of fluid level management and establish the feasibility of energy harvesting methods for powering the IoT device through the use of sensors. The success of the collaboration has encouraged the Smart Container Company to invest in research, development and innovation and, as a direct result, has given investors the confidence in the company to further develop the KegTracker™ and bring this innovative and exciting product to market to revolutionise the keg & cask industry.
To read the full case study on the project, visit the astutewales.com website here.
ASTUTE 2020 can support manufacturing companies across a variety of sectors, such as aerospace, automotive, energy generation, oil and gas, medical devices, electronics, foods, etc., stimulating growth by applying advanced engineering technologies to manufacturing challenges driving cutting-edge research and innovation. ASTUTE 2020 collaborations inspire manufacturing companies to improve and streamline their manufacturing processes, manufactured products and supply chain, generating sustainable, higher-value goods and services and bringing them to a global market.
The ASTUTE 2020 operation has been part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government and the participating Higher Education Institutions.