Manufacturers warned to embrace IoT or lose competitiveness

Posted on 14 Oct 2015 by Jonny Williamson

UK businesses are being urged to embrace the Internet of Things (IoT) in order to remain competitive, as the manufacturing industry continues to evolve at rapid pace.

The rallying cry comes from business solutions provider, K3 Syspro, at a time when the International Data Corporation (IDC) has revealed that the IoT market in Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa (CEMA), is expected to expand 22% by the end of this year, reaching $14bn in total value.

Cathie Hall, managing director, K3 Syspro
Cathie Hall, managing director, K3 Syspro

However, with this industry change comes a host of challenges for manufacturing businesses, including connectivity; cloud storage; automation, and data analysis – challenges that must be overcome quickly if manufacturers are to implement successful IoT strategies.

K3 Syspro’s managing director Cathie Hall, explained: “Whether manufacturing businesses are ready for the IoT or not, it is already starting to be implemented across factories nationwide.

“Many manufacturing businesses already operate predictive maintenance, and have taken steps to enhance the connectivity of their business critical systems inside the plant.

“As the UK moves even closer to the smart factory of the future, it is important that manufacturers board the IoT train quickly, in order to arrive at the next industrial revolution as soon as possible, or risk being left behind.”

The advice from K3 Syspro is for manufacturing businesses to take small steps towards IoT adoption, rather than taking a big bang approach to factory automation.

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Integrating the factory floor to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, and business intelligence applications, can start to better connect suppliers, customers and end users in the value chain.

The latest version of SYSPRO ERP is modelled on Windows 10 technology and highlights the ascendancy of the Internet of Things, with mobility and devices that are all key elements in the application’s roadmap.

K3 Syspro also has its own DataSwitch tool, which can aid Internet of Things adoption by seamlessly integrating data and connecting systems, to generate one single version of the truth throughout an enterprise.

Tin box and canister manufacturer William Say & Co is one business that is already utilising DataSwitch and the Internet of Things, to process data from EDI files and database transactions into its SYSPRO ERP solution for processing, while performing all operations within one single piece of software.

Operations director at William Say & Co, Garth Wilkinson commented: “DataSwitch has been key to integrating our load planning tool with SYSPRO ERP.

“It allows us to save time inputting information into various different systems as it links everything through a single channel. We are able to present and manipulate our own information into the custom panes and then submit it all through DataSwitch with the system producing dispatch notes, purchase orders, and receipts automatically.”

Hall’s advice is for manufacturing businesses to talk to technology experts in order to better understand the beneficial role of IoT in the modern supply chain, and utilise it to its maximum potential.

She added: “Many manufacturers are already utilising the IoT on the factory floor and not actually aware of it. Others are still operating slow supply chains and struggling to integrate disparate systems.

“Wherever your manufacturing business is in its automation journey, it’s worth building an IoT strategy sooner rather than later, to make sure your business remains competitive, as the sector heads even closer towards Industry 4.0.”