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Smart Factories Could Usher in a New Age of Manufacturing

The Internet of Things is poised to transform manufacturing and factory processes in drastic and exciting ways.

Manufacturing has been the bedrock of the U.S. economy for decades. Now, new technology holds the potential to usher in the next era of mass production.

For the manufacturing industry, machines and networks built for environments that include the Internet of Things offer deeper insights for decision-makers, higher levels of productivity for workers and improved safety for all.

But this journey is only beginning. According to a 2015 IoT report by DHL and Cisco Systems, during the next five years, people will more than triple the number of “things” connected to the Internet, from 15 billion today to 50 billion by 2020.

By that time, the report states, computers (including PCs, tablets and smartphones) will represent just 17 percent of all Internet connections; the other 83 percent will result from the IoT, including wearables and smart-home devices.

Companies are taking note. More than 80 percent of firms surveyed by Forrester and Zebra Technologies agreed that IoT solutions will be their most strategic technology initiative in a decade. And Forrester found nearly 65 percent of surveyed global firms have deployed or are in the process of deploying an IoT solution.

The Evolution to a Connected Factory

The dream of the connected factory has become a reality for SugarCreek, a family-owned food processer based in Cincinnati. The 49-year-old company recently opened a new 400,000-square-foot connected facility in Cambridge City, Ind.

The plant runs the latest smart-factory technology, including radio frequency ID–tagged bump caps to track employees and a network of 260 cameras designed to boost process efficiency, product quality and operational visibility. A few months into operation, the benefits of the new facility look promising for the $600 million company.

“I’ve been at this for 40 years, and the changes I’ve seen over that time frame have just been incredible,” says SugarCreek CIO Ed Rodden. “We have visibility in almost everything.”

For more, read or watch the video on SugarCreek's smart factory below.

Nov 25 2015

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