How The Internet Of Things (IoT) Is Helping The Manufacturing Sector To Produce Connected, Customized Products

Geena Binoy, Vice President ­ Connected Enterprise IT, Tata TechnologiesAn ambitious and competent industry expert who has been excelling in business management and leadership

The manufacturing world is undergoing a digital disruption. The Internet of Things (IoT) has powered this disruption: a Gartner report in February estimated that the number of connected things would rise to 8.4 billion at the end of 2017, further increasing to 20.4 billion in 2020.

This IoT revolution has already started reshaping the way the manufacturing sector operates. New innovations have been triggered which boost efficiencies. The sector is leading the charge when it comes to this revolution: the manufacturing sector made the largest investment in IoT, estimated at $183 billion.

Real-time Data
For the manufacturing industry, the advent of IoT has helped generate and mine data, thanks to the increasing usage of connected devices. The link between design and manufacturing is becoming seamless due to the plethora of new-age technologies like sensors, artificial intelligence (AI), 3D manufacturing, cyber security, telematics and process automation. Importantly, companies can minimize surprises and shocks by constant monitoring of the data generated. Analysis of this data also allows organizations to make informed decisions, while significantly boosting efficiency and performance rates.

There has been an increased focus on the implementation of shop floor to top floor connectivity. Customer demand is rapidly moving towards customized products. The Internet of Things (IoT) will allow manufacturing companies to move towards an uninterrupted production cycle with minimal downtimes, with more flexibility and efficiency. This is because the generated data is available in real-time, accessible at all levels and functions of an organization. Additionally, sensors provide real-time insight, ensuring a dynamic process and leading to greater operational efficiency.

Smart Supply Chains
The key buzzword for an IoT-influenced manufacturing sector is `integration', leading to smart factories or `factories of the future'. It refers to the concept of existing manufacturing facilities and technologies connected very tightly together to produce the specific
product a customer wants at a faster speed and at a lower cost. While automation plays a critical aspect in these smart factories, connectivity and seamless integration also play crucial roles. Human intervention will be minimized in these factories with the demand for new skills increasing.

Traditional supply chains will also be redefined through the integration of IT systems. Smart factories with integrated IT systems are expected to boost production by 20 percent. Thanks to machine learning capabilities, the new supply chains can maintain quality while in-creasing quantity, dynamically. Augmented and virtual reality will allow increased interactivity between machines and humans, limiting the de-pendency on human intervention and allowing optimal efficiency, accuracy, and workflow.

Manufacturing sector will remain the pioneers when it comes to leveraging the IoT capabilities and becoming a digital, connected enterprise

As a partner to global manufacturing companies worldwide, Tata Technologies is supporting companies in these disruptive times to ensure they have the tools for smart, connected, integrated factories in the near future. The company is focused on defining strategies to digitalize manufacturing beyond product development and engineering, covering the extended enterprise across the value chain.

Improving Worker Safety
The IoT revolution also provides another benefit: an improvement in worker safety, thanks to real-time data. An integrated set-up with connected devices allows for instant and early detection of malfunctions. Manufacturing companies can access and monitor real-time data, either through video analysis or by equip-ping employees with sensors that will flag an anomaly. The safety of lone workers in manufacturing set-ups has also taken a great step forward thanks to IoT.

An example of this in practice was seen in Australia, where a construction firm fitted sensors on employees working in the hot desert to track their temperature, heart rate, humidity and other variables to detect early symptoms of heatstroke. Thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), organizations can now take care of their employees more seamlessly while giving employees additional confidence about their health and safety. A similar solution has also been implemented in a leading Indian power distribution company where workers' vital health parameters and safety are checked with the help of IoT solutions.

The Future of Manufacturing
The rapid changes in the manufacturing sector will also lead to a paradigm shift in the type of skill sets that are required to operate in these conditions. The new-age workforce must have technical expertise and the ability to leverage new technologies in an IoT influenced manufacturing sector. The demand for specialized skills such as big data analytics and data-driven decision making is already rising with the trend expected to only grow further.

In India, these fields are estimated to generate $2.03 billion annually in revenues, growing at a CAGR of 23.8 percent annually. The CAGR is expected to double by 2020, thanks to an increase in big data. Additionally, the growth will also be led by advanced analytics, predictive modeling, and data science.

It is quite clear now that the manufacturing sector will remain the pioneers when it comes to leveraging the IoT capabilities and becoming a digital, connected enterprise. The near future will see an environment where customer demand becomes far more customized, with seamlessly integrated processes, helping in greater productivity.