With the increasing prevalence of online connectivity and the recent inclination toward Industry 4.0 as well as the Industrial Internet of Things, manufacturers are using technology to enhance their operations in ways they never before thought possible to get manufacturing efficiency. The IIoT has already proven itself as a highly effective tool in the manufacturing sector, and we’ve only seen the beginning of what this technology is really capable of achieving.
A System of Smart Labels and Sensors To Enhance Manufacturing Efficiency
The smart sensor and label system was established to serve as a replacement for the standard barcode. Existing as a series of black lines of varying degrees of thickness, as well as a string of numbers underneath, the 2-D barcode is used to keep track of everything from packaged items on your grocer’s shelf to raw materials that are being sent on for processing and refinement.
However, as manufacturers, in particular, are finding out, the traditional barcode is simply too limited in the amount of data it can actually store.
Integration With the IIoT
As useful as modern smart labels are, they’re virtually useless without a way to transmit and share data via an on-demand basis. Unlike the niche of big data, which has been booming in popularity as of late, the smart sensor and label system utilizes datasets that are much smaller in size and scope. Instead of maintaining massive stores of data on each label, each device contains information that is specific to the individual item.
Manufacturers are already using smart labels and the IIoT to perform predictive analytics on their production machinery to increase their manufacturing efficiency. Tags that monitor working temperatures, the RPM (revolutions per minute) of hardware or the number of production cycles can be utilized to forecast maintenance needs and resolve future issues before they even occur.
Other applications for the smart sensor and label system include tracking inventories of recently produced goods and reporting the absence of precursor materials or parts.
Usefulness Across Multiple Industries
The aerospace industry has seen tremendous benefit from the use of smart sensors, smart labels, and the IIoT. As the fast movement and frequent geographical changes involved with flight make it difficult to work with big data in real-time, the IIoT is being used to monitor and track data during the flight itself.
Aerospace manufacturers can capitalize on the same kind of technology to automate processes in quality assurance, error-check and self-organize to accommodate for missing materials or other production bottlenecks.
Industry 4.0 and the IIoT have also taken hold among automobile manufacturers. IBM’s Watson super computer, which has been adapted for use specifically in the automotive sector, lets engineers identify and diagnose issues in assembly or production while optimizing their fleet logistics on behalf of their own service vehicles and equipment. The IIoT also benefits the consumer, as manufacturers are able to include highly connected services that are aimed at enhancing the driving experience and increasing overall travel comfort.
The food and beverage processing industry also benefit from the IIoT and smart sensor infrastructure. Smart labels can be applied to incoming shipments as soon as they’re received or, in some cases, before they even leave their point of origin, thereby offering metrics such as temperature, freshness and any expiration timelines. Again, this strategy benefits both the manufacturer and the consumer.
Although that covers some of the industries that have seen the most benefit from smart sensors and the IIoT, the technology has relevant and viable applications across nearly every professional sector. Whether you take advantage of these innovations to benefit your operations as a manufacturer, the customer’s final experience or both, it’s rather easy to integrate these systems into your existing operations.
Gearing up for Industry 4.0
Now that Industry 4.0 is beginning to gain steam, it’s time for manufacturers from every industry to buckle down and prepare themselves for the impending revolution and increase manufacturing efficiency. Ignoring the trend has many repercussions, some of which may be fatal to a company’s bottom line or reputation, and it’s important to act quickly and maintain your competitiveness. For those who are able to do so, however, the road ahead is looking smoother than ever before.