The next big revolution in manufacturing is just beginning. The world is getting smaller through technology and communication, and the internet is key in bringing about this transition. Cell phones, cars, watches, home alarm systems, televisions. Devices across the globe are connected, sending data and status updates, controlling what other devices are doing, and providing information necessary for next-step decision making. The interconnectedness of devices and sensors is making its way into the manufacturing processes. Through the use of internet protocols, devices and sensors across the factory lines can track and control product through various stages of development. This control can lead to automated custom manufacturing and efficient made-to-order assemblies. Custom manufacturing will be easier and more cost-efficient through the Industrial Internet of Things.
On a micro scale, being able to track, trace, and control product through the build process leads to the ability to customize the manufacturing steps. This is where the change from linear to dynamic manufacturing lines can be made. Knowing where the product is, as well as where it has been, can control what happens next in the process. At each step along the way, sensors and devices need to be able to push and pull data from a connected hub or intranet. Devices need to communicate with each other or a central hub to report status and quality, and in order to control where the product is going next. A connected set of devices (Internet of Things) is key in building a custom manufacturing line.
Building a computer, for example, can have any number of configurations, so the ability to track the specific item through the process is key to making sure the customer gets what is ordered. Processor choices, display preferences, keyboard languages, and memory needs are all specified by the end-use customer and lead to any number of permutations in the final products. To fulfill the order, the factory line will need to be flexible enough to accommodate the variability of the individual pieces that go into the computer.
On a macro scale, the Industrial Internet of Things will allow for factories to not only adjust for individual products but also overall trends. Allowing devices to communicate both within their own factories but also on a global scale will lead to automated adjustment of production numbers, more efficient allotment of resources, and stronger predictions of future demands. Worldwide communication will allow decision makers outside the factory to monitor the processes, as well as throughput and quality, in real time. Instantaneous knowledge of quality changes or line interruptions will lead to faster response times, and the sharing of data through the vertical supply chain will lead to more efficient allotment of resources.
Adjusting for global trends can aid in the building of computers, for example. Knowing how consumers are configuring their computers can lead to vertical factory chains predicting the demand for individual components. This can provide cost savings, as well as lead to more efficient uses of resources in order to provide the pieces that are in demand. And instead of limiting choices to the customers, the high level companies can allow consumers to customize to their own needs in cost-efficient and timely manners.
The Industrial Internet of Things will pave the way for custom manufacturing. Allowing smart devices to communicate with each other and over the internet will open the manufacturing process to flexible automation. With instantaneous status updates from both the market and the line, factories can adjust resources to meet the demands. By tracking product through the process, factories can reroute and readjust for customized demands and orders. Cheaper cost, bigger profits, more flexibility, and dynamic manufacturing are all potentials of the Industrial Internet of Things.
Do you want to prepare your facilities and equipment for more dynamic and responsive operations, or start leveraging the power of Internet communication in manufacturing? Learn more about the Internet of Things in our recent white paper, "Becoming the Factory of the Future: How to Prepare Now for the Industrial Internet of Things."
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