No two factories are the same. They vary in size, in the products they make – from high precision devices to commodity products – and in the volumes they produce. But all manufacturers, who want to stay competitive, share the challenge of needing to incorporate the Internet of Things (IoT) into their products and facilities, and enabling their staff to use and exploit it.
Preparing your facility to be flexible and adaptive will allow your organisation to use new manufacturing methods that are created, managed and continuously improved by a skilled workforce that is both IIoT and IoT savvy. There are three core pillars – think of them as legs of a stool – that need to be considered in your planning strategy to ensure balance and stability.
Prepare your facility by considering that the products being built in your factory will need be operated the same way your customers will be using your product. This implies a proper set of secure networks that can protect your factory equipment from intrusion and at the same time provide access to external products and services that will be used during manufacturing and testing of your products. For example: If your IoT enabled product relies on satellite communication paths, you may need to provide satellite signal transparent areas or repeaters inside your factory to support in line testing after configuration.
Prepare your processes and infrastructure by considering that your products will most likely be tailored for specific customers or applications. The product options and configurations may be changing with each order. Managing and tracking configured products in your factory that look almost identical will require innovative approaches. Managing an inventory of firmware or software that goes into the product and the matching the factory equipment software needed to load and test each individual item will bring new challenges.
Prepare your people to work with the new products that are very different from your current products. Invest in “feeder” programs to create a pool of resources that can support both your factory equipment and can work with the products being built. Engage your people in organizing and assembling your factory to be nimble and technology enabled (not technology controlled). The bottom line: If you create a strong and flexible manufacturing strategy that embraces both product and Industrial IoT technology, you will have created a factory that is adding to your bottom line and is building top quality products for your customers.
Building a Strategy is like building a product. Expect adjustments for changes in the environment and new requirements and plan for a continuous process. The success of your Industrial IoT Strategy depends on your staff adopting – not adapting to – your Industrial IoT technology and supporting processes.
The typical manufacturing floor still isn’t quite awash with connected devices, augmented reality devices and smart sensors collecting and transmitting data for smarter business insights. The IoT has huge potential for industry – but in many manufacturing settings it hasn’t quite caught on yet. Why? And how can your business make industrial IoT happen?