IoT, connectivity & data analytics are transforming manufacturing

Thanks to remote monitoring, predictive maintenance and connected field service, the Internet of Things is reshaping manufacturing and stimulating a host of new opportunities for the sector.

big data analytics industrial internet of things iiot iot - image courtesy of Depositphotos.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a core pillar of the digitalisation of manufacturing – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a core pillar of the digitalisation of manufacturing, enabling manufacturers to monitor and swiftly act upon data flowing from connected people, machines and systems.

Sensors pour data into locally and increasingly cloud-based computers where the information is collated, combined and crunched to almost instantly to provide a moving, real-time picture of your entire manufacturing operation.

This allows decision-makers – be they human or machine – to see potential faults in the system before they cause downtime, or tweak systems to achieve greater efficiency and throughput.

The Manufacturer’s Annual Manufacturing Report 2018 found that 91% of senior industrial executives believe that data from connect machines and people will inform decision-making and reduce costs.

Furthermore, 86% of those senior executives believe that their business will be able to serve its customers more effectively through the combined use of digital technologies and data analysis.

Tellingly, less than 15% believe that their customers would prefer to talk to a person, rather than be plugged in via sensors and the internet.

To learn more about how the opportunities available to manufacturers by embracing more connected ways of working, The Manufacturer spoke with Ruptesh Pattanayak, director of industry solutions for Microsoft.

How did the Internet of Things transform manufacturing operations in 2017?

Ruptesh Pattanayak: Until 2016, IoT and associated technologies had predominantly transformed operational areas within a business, such as:

  • optimising operations by combining and analysing real-time data gathered from people, assets and systems.
  • improving enterprise risk management by proactively identifying risk and compliance deviation areas such as safety and effectiveness.
  • reducing product and service costs through the creation of connected ecosystems.
Digital Transformation Software Technology Computer ERP System BI Data - image courtesy of Depositphotos.
Faster, smarter, responsive models and processes are being realised thanks to predictive and pre-emptive decisions, based on big data analytics – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

In 2017, however, that focus changed. Last year, we saw IoT go beyond creating operational efficiencies to become a more strategic focus. This was achieved thanks to the creation of new revenue streams, elevating the customer experience, and differentiating market propositions.

How do you expect the development of IoT to play out in 2018?

Over the coming months, I expect IoT in manufacturing to further evolve from being strategic to become more disruptive. Industrial IoT will create totally new business models that will maximise revenue opportunities from previously unexplored areas and services.

In support of that shift, we will progressively see the use of faster, smarter, responsive models and processes driven by more predictive and pre-emptive decisions, based on big data analytics.

That will require IoT intelligence being increasingly being deployed at the ‘Edge’ – i.e. bringing as much compute power as possible to where it’s needed most: by the machines on the shop floor.

What is Microsoft doing to support the evolution of IoT?

Microsoft is helping manufacturing businesses embrace connected devices and sensors, and build offerings that evolve with their customers by adding specialised features and services over time.

This fosters brand loyalty by continually adding value and improving your product designs based on real-time and predictive behavioural analytics.

By making our Azure platform completely open-ended in order to accommodate any form of telemetry protocols, we ensure that anything can be connected. We are also providing best in class machine learning and big data tools to generate greater insights into your business.

Additionally, we are ensuring that any and all insights gained are deployed as actions both in the cloud and at the edge through Azure IoT Edge.

Key takeaway for leaders in manufacturing to think about:

Given the challenges that manufacturing businesses face, in large part due to a rapidly changing landscape, IoT-led digital transformation is no longer an option or a ‘nice to have’.

However, the aspect which still needs firming up for business leaders is, ‘What is the most optimised scalping roadmap for adopting digital?’.

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