The Internet of Things (IoT) and the connectivity it provides has become pervasive in residential applications. I can adjust the thermostat in my house and monitor energy consumption from my phone. I can also access cameras and other systems for home security (including keeping an eye on what mischief my cats are getting into).  I can be home without being home.

These advances are amazing and likely the tip of the iceberg for IoT, but what about IoT for the workplace, especially the factory?

What if you could connect the data you already collect in your various systems and databases and begin to analyze it? You could start recognizing patterns and predicting events, including doing predictive maintenance on equipment that could otherwise lead to costly downtime.

What if you could know in real time if conditions on the plant floor change unexpectedly or a failure arises? You could know and respond immediately, preventing quality defects and money-losing recalls.

What if you could replicate the movements of the best, most efficient operator in your workforce across the facility? You could increase productivity, standard work and workplace safety.

These scenarios may sound like science fiction, but thanks to the use of sensors, the cloud and big data, any manufacturer can benefit and benefit now from these technologies.

It’s called Smart Manufacturing, and it’s estimated that it will generate almost $400 billion in net global value over the next four years by streamlining design and manufacturing processes and gathering real-time information to help manage supply chain risks.

According to Brian Buntz of Industrial IOT, the AW North Carolina (AWNC) plant is the top manufacturing facility for all Toyota transmissions across the world, and could be considered a microcosm of the future of manufacturing.  In 2017, AWNC completed an overhaul of its IT network to harness the power of Industry 4.0 and IoT and become a Smart factory. Before going Smart, the factory’s network would regularly shut down, halting production for 2-4 hours each month. One hour of downtime cost around $270,000 in lost revenue, equating to a monthly loss of between half a million and a million dollars. The upgrades to the factory cost $1.2 million, but the company said it recouped $1 million of that in the first nine months thanks to maintenance savings.

The efficiency gains led to a wave of hiring, which in turn, improved productivity. As a result, AWNC was able to add a fourth product to its manufacturing line.

AWNC’s journey and the potential of Smart manufacturing are persuasive, but your facility must be ready to make the shift.  NCMEP offers free readiness assessments that determine how close you are to being able to successfully implement Smart Manufacturing, as well as the next steps you need to take.

Visit CESMII to learn even more about Smart manufacturing.