How the Internet of Things (IoT) is making manufacturing smarter

August 9, 2021 | 5 minute read
Terri Hiskey
Vice President, SCM and Manufacturing Product Marketing, Oracle
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Around the globe, manufacturers are getting smarter about how they run their factories. That’s because they are deploying a new set of tools that are dramatically boosting the efficiency of their factories, adding greater visibility and agility across operations, and keeping their customers more satisfied than ever before.

I’m talking about a new breed of solutions that capture data from machines, satellites, objects, and wearables – anything that can be physically measured – and then process the data using apps such as Oracle Cloud Maintenance and Oracle Cloud Manufacturing pre-integrated with Oracle IoT Intelligent Applications or integrated to third-party manufacturing applications using Oracle Integration Cloud. Adding IoT to the mix helps monitor work in progress, improves product quality, and prevents unplanned downtime. For manufacturers, these intelligent applications are key to deploying a new wave of “smart manufacturing” solutions and strategies designed to drive better business outcomes.

Here’s a simple example. I recently visited a poultry factory where workers oversee the production of thousands of eggs in one plant. Of course, keeping the incubators within the right temperature range is key to keeping production high, so that meant that every hour employees were required to check on each unit, jotting down the temperature on a clipboard. Suffice to say, that’s a lot of manual labor.

That changed when the company installed connected temperature devices in all the incubators. Critical data could be easily ingested, stored and managed, and additional insights derived using AI capabilities. As a result, the company could monitor temperatures within a specific range and set up alerts if certain thresholds are exceeded. Today, the eggs are monitored in real time and more efficiently with fewer people.

Monitoring work in progress

By using alerts, thresholds, and machine analytics from connected devices and machines, manufacturers gain real-time visibility into production operations and maximize production-line utilization, avoiding shipping delays. Factory managers can stay on top of production and react quickly if a piece of equipment is underperforming or if it needs maintenance to avert a breakdown.

Increasingly, manufacturers are using IoT sensors to maximize product quality and help prevent unplanned downtime. Many are setting up sensors to capture images of parts coming off the production line and using IoT Intelligent Applications, processing this data to measure the exact width of each item to make sure they’ll fit into the final assembly.

You can also monitor work-in-progress and quality using AI in real time, embedded in IoT Intelligent Applications. Data from sensors is compared to quality thresholds to detect anomalies, and then with AI, corrective actions can be recommended – before you ship products to your end customer (or to the factory your supplying). This helps prevent downtime at your customer’s plant because you’re not inadvertently sending out faulty components that could bring their manufacturing line to a halt.

Catching quality issues early in the production process can give the customers you’re supplying a heads up when your production plans veer off course. With a view to overall production in a plant, they can now plan more effectively and adjust their factory schedules to match expected part shortages. Perhaps they can direct workers to another project or redeploy other workloads until your “widget” arrives in the size and shape they need. All of this helps drive greater productivity, and ultimately helps drive growth and profitability.

Visibility across multiple factories

When you run a connected factory using IoT working in sync with your cloud manufacturing and maintenance systems, you can expand operational visibility, helping you detect, analyze, and respond to IoT signals across multiple factories and compare performance across sites – all from a central dashboard.

Imagine you’re in Kuala Lumpur and oversee factories in Indonesia and China. Using smart manufacturing solutions you can observe how each of the plants are performing and drill down into the factory in China, for instance, to figure out why its output is lagging. Perhaps it’s a shutdown due to detected COVID-19 cases, or a faulty machine part. These are things that VPs of manufacturing and COOs will want to know.

Revitalizing the factory

This transition to “smart manufacturing” couldn’t have come at a better time – especially for manufacturers in the U.S., which for years have been facing a crisis as fewer young workers gravitate to shop floors and assembly lines in favor of careers in more “glamorous” industries. The truth is, when young people think about where they want to work, factories rarely rise to the top of their list. This can be a big problem for manufacturers struggling to keep their lines running amid a shrinking pool of available workers.

The pandemic worsened the dilemma as tight labor markets threw a wrench into manufacturers’ plans to ramp up the production of essential goods. What’s more, many manufacturers were faced with having to reconfigure production lines to enforce social distancing rules.

Now companies can use intelligent technologies to fill the workforce gap by managing just as well with fewer people. Instead of needing 10 people stationed on the factory line, for example, you may only need one person to monitor the entire production line, using sensor data and machine analytics to track machine performance, and adjust workloads using real-time feedback.

Even better, by revitalizing the sector with leading-edge technology, manufacturing becomes more attractive to the next generation of workers. It will be seen as a place they can upgrade their skills with sophisticated IoT, AI and automation technologies, experiment with the latest advancements in robotics, and master the next wave of machine analytics. Why wouldn’t you sign up for a career in smart manufacturing?

Learn more about how you can unlock the power of smart manufacturing in your business. Stay tuned to this blog series as we dig deeper into solutions made possible by IoT Intelligent Applications including smart manufacturing, connected logistics, connected assets, and workplace safety.

Consider your industry and your primary challenges. Learn about what other businesses are doing in this series of articles spanning an overview of IoT solutions, smart manufacturing, connected assets, workplace safety, and connected logistics.

To learn more, explore the Oracle Cloud SCM Virtual Summit videos.

 

Terri Hiskey

Vice President, SCM and Manufacturing Product Marketing, Oracle

Terri Hiskey is the vice president of SCM and manufacturing product marketing for Oracle, leading the strategic development and execution of supply chain and manufacturing-focused content, programs, and assets. She came to Oracle from Epicor, a global provider of ERP solutions for small and midsize manufacturers and distributors, where she led the manufacturing product marketing team. Previous to that, Terri spent nearly a decade leading various SCM product marketing efforts to promote Oracle’s product lifecycle management, manufacturing, maintenance, and order management solutions. Terri has more than twenty years of technology marketing experience focused primarily on helping customers efficiently design, build, and service innovative products for the right markets at the right time. Based in Austin, Texas, she holds a BA from The George Washington University and an MA from Suffolk University.


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