3 ways putting IoT into action enhances the manufacturing process

An industrial worker using welding equipment

By Justin Slade, Director, Channel Marketing

Digital transformation is sweeping across industries – from changing business models to enabling data-based decisions. The manufacturing industry is no exception as companies look for opportunities to increase profit margins by streamlining operations and reducing unplanned downtime. At the heart of this transformation is the Internet of Things (IoT).

By combining industrial IoT (IIoT) solutions with machine learning, predictive analytics and AI technology, manufacturers can create digital factories of the future that enable both increased productivity and a stronger customer experience. An additional benefit is an increased level of security by combining these solutions above to gain visibility of access patterns and network anomalies. Below I highlight how manufacturers are currently putting IoT into action while leveraging Azure services and platforms. Meet us to learn more about how IoT solutions enable smart manufacturing at the IoT in Action Solution Builder Conference in Mumbai on June 18, 2019.

Improve product quality

Manually ensuring all products meet quality controls can be costly and time-consuming. Additionally, human error during the review process can mean that a defective product lands in customers’ hands, which can damage the brand’s reputation. By using IoT sensors to collect data on product specifications and other metrics, manufacturers can determine which products meet quality specifications and which need physical inspection. Manufacturers are increasingly turning to IoT solutions to ensure products meet quality standards.

Piramal Glass produces glass containers in a continuous manufacturing process that is very complex because of the numerous parameters that can impact quality. Plant personnel previously captured the data in paper-based logbooks, which proved difficult to analyze and did not provide timely insights to improve production. Piramal Glass now uses the Microsoft Azure IoT platform to get real-time visibility into its manufacturing operations and analyze defects at various stages.

Using Azure IoT Hub, data from equipment and high-speed production line sensors is pushed to the cloud for further analysis. The real-time feedback loop has led to a 1 percent improvement in production efficiency and 5 percent reduction in defects, which translates into better quality and enhanced predictability of delivery timelines for Piramal’s customers.

Minimize unplanned downtime

Factories used to react when machines stopped working or started performing poorly, which meant trying to make repairs and get production back up and running as quickly as possible. Often this involved technicians interrupting their workflow or working extra hours to troubleshoot and resolve mechanical issues. And if the necessary parts weren’t in stock, this could also result in unexpected costs, delayed production schedules and missing promised deadlines.

Now the use of IoT-enabled solutions is allowing factories to move to a predictive maintenance model that allows them to anticipate and resolve potential equipment issues before they impact production. One example of a company successfully implementing IoT to transform manufacturing operations is the Power & Marine Division of DEIF, which supplies diesel generator controllers used in mission-critical applications like ship propulsion, oil rigs, offshore stations and more.

Instead of continuing the traditional reactive model of stopping production for machine issues, factories are significantly reducing unplanned downtime by moving to a proactive model. A majority of DEIF’s diesel generator (DG) set controllers are used by customers who rent gensets for short- or long-term needs such as special events, seasonal shortages, construction power and emergency power needs due to major breakdowns or natural disasters. A combination of Azure services spread across Azure Functions, Service Bus, Azure IoT Hub (future), Event Hubs , Stream Analytics, App Service, SQL Azure, Table and Blob Storage, enabled DEIF to turn its Diesel generators into an assembly of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) machines which they could remotely monitor and control. After deployment, DEIF proactively diagnoses performance issues with DGs to reduce breakdowns, decrease downtime costs, and enhance customer satisfaction.

Increase security and efficiency

Many of the manual actions, such as packing boxes or assembling parts, performed in a factory can decrease productivity and efficiency. Additionally, the employees performing those actions cannot simultaneously work on other projects and tasks that require human insight. Factories can begin shifting to a digitally enabled factory by revising their current processes and identifying all data collection points.

By using IoT sensors to collect and transmit data instead of manual processes, employees can focus on other tasks requiring human judgement and decision making. Factories can also gain visibility over the production process and can further increase production efficiency. Piramal Glass has analyzed more than 200 million data points from the 4,000 IoT sensors connected across its production units. The use of IoT technology has allowed the company to reduce manual data gathering by 40 percent, resulting in a 25 percent improvement in employee productivity.

However, access to large amounts of data presents a new challenge – securing the information. By using a platform that supports creating individual identities and credentials for each connected device, companies can retain the confidentiality of both cloud-to-device and device-to-cloud messages. As part of its development of a new data center to deploy smart LEDs that constantly gathered information about their working conditions, Samudra LED, a consortium partner of EIPL, began using the Azure. Because Azure is built keeping security at its core and complies with most international security protocols, Samudra LED no longer has to worry about the security of their data.

By using IoT to improve the production process, manufacturers ultimately improve customer satisfaction through increased availability, higher quality products and faster shipping times. With an IoT-enabled digital factory, manufacturers can provide a higher level of product and service to gain an edge over competing businesses.

Effective IoT solutions start with the right partners

Creating and scaling IoT solutions begins with finding the right partners and customers for your needs and opportunities. Meet us at the IoT in Action Solution Builder Conference in Mumbai on June 18.  We will be discussing the latest IoT topics, deepen partnerships with industry-leading companies and unlock the transformative potential of intelligent edge and intelligent cloud solutions.

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