Technology · July 23, 2020

How Automation and IoT in Manufacturing Are Transforming Production

Cutting-edge technology is making manufacturing operations more efficient than ever. Even traditional manufacturers have begun to embrace the transformative power of automation and the Internet of Things, or IoT. These companies aren't aiming to replace the human factor in their processes but rather to optimize a combination of core elements, including human power, machinery and robotics.

Companies that successfully integrate these elements can achieve greater efficiencies, transforming their businesses and bringing the customer experience to new heights.


Understanding automation

There are billions of intelligent devices out there connectable to other devices and systems through closed and open networks. Cell phones, package scanners, vehicle trackers and equipment sensors are some common examples. Besides being on a network, these intelligent devices can perform tasks and share information with other devices and systems. This connectivity what we refer to as IoT.

Using software and strategic process planning, manufacturing automation systems can take advantage of this connectivity to:

  • Discover and automate repetitive or labor-intensive tasks
  • Improve the efficiency of business processes and their management
  • Adapt faster to shifting dynamics in the market, supply chain and production

Use cases

IoT in manufacturing can help improve a range of operational areas. With IoT, you can remotely monitor equipment and production, collect data for autonomous manufacturing or engage in predictive analytics for better performance and asset management.

Supply chain management is known for its complexity and dependency on timely access to information. Using IoT, companies can keep track of raw materials, inventory and other assets in real time and with less human error. For example, GPS tags, sensors and scanners can make ongoing cycle counts as products leave the assembly floor. Temperature thresholds for perishable goods in inventory or within the supply chain can be monitored via devices that report power losses and refrigerated transport delays.

With cloud-based analytics, sensors inside robotics and other high-tech machinery can anticipate mechanical failures or alert workers of improper use. Companies can use automation to optimize plant functionality by creating separate profiles for each part of a plant. For example, environmental sensors and controls can help save energy costs and keep areas comfortable for workers while turning the HVAC off to avoid waste when the area is unoccupied. Connected technology can also control access to parts of a facility or even a specific piece of equipment based on which employees are authorized.

On the consumer side, automation and IoT can improve the customer experience and strengthen brand loyalty. Geofencing technology, for example, can offer personalized recommendations and incentives based on a customer's location or even their proximity to a competitor. Manufacturers can also include features that allow customers to control, track check or re-purchase products using smartphones.

The journey toward more efficient processes

Many types of automation technology can improve efficiency in a variety of manufacturing use cases. Deciding where to start can be a challenge. Automation is typically an ongoing process, partly because incremental changes tailored toward specific operational areas are more manageable than wide-scale transformation. In addition, technology and business needs can change, requiring new approaches.

Consider targeting devices and systems with flexibility in design, movement, reusability and interconnectivity. As your business relies more on the integration of subsystems and modular components, those device features will continue to help improve overall efficiency and reduce costs down the road.

What's most important is the way your business uses these technologies matches its needs and strategy. A sound financing strategy is a key component for making manufacturing automation systems work best, especially if robotics and other high-priced technologies are needed. If you aren't sure about the details, reach out to your banking partner for guidance.

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