Production equipment delivers sensor data to PCs within Flex’s facilities that act as edge devices, transmitting the information to the cloud, where it’s processed using algorithms.
“That’s a really big benefit of IoT and connectivity to the cloud,” Doiron says. “You’re starting to collect data across production, so you’re not requiring an engineer to go analyze each individual machine.”
IoT Has a Favorable Future in Manufacturing
Deploying an onsite IoT solution doesn’t require an inordinate number of components — typically, just a gateway device, sensors and wired or wireless networking capabilities. That’s why businesses will continue to integrate IoT creatively into manufacturing, maintenance and other processes, O’Donnell says.
Investment in IoT solutions will reach an estimated $1.2 trillion by 2022, according to IDC.
Still, companies should decide early in their IoT journey what data they want connected sensors to gather, and how it will be used, says Nick Barendt, executive director of the Institute for Smart, Secure and Connected Systems at Case Western Reserve University, and co-director of the IoT Collaborative, a joint initiative of Case Western Reserve and Cleveland State University.
“We’ve seen some companies put sensors on everything, collect all of this data and plan to figure out what it’s used for later,” Barendt says. Instead, he suggests, “really try to be thoughtful about the business problems you want to solve and what data will help solve them.”
“In the last year, we’ve seen companies move away from the generalization of IoT to more clear and definitive use cases,” says Ravin Sanjith, program director of intelligent authentication at Opus Research. “As long as it’s a problem you can state, technologists and engineers can solve it.”
One problem frustrating Standard Textile was machine maintenance, but that’s no longer an issue.
“The predictive side of the system will say, ‘We detect a vibration in a certain part of the machine a human being can’t hear or see; from experience, we know the last time there was a vibration like this, a major motor went out,’” Heiman says. “Our technicians can then fix it, which will take 15 minutes, rather than having a major breakdown three days in the future.”