Chances are if you’re involved in the manufacturing industry, you’ve seen automation take hold and become ingrained in the day-to-day workflow. However, it’s much less likely you’ve seen or heard of the internet of things (IoT) outside of its most well known applications in the consumer market, yet it offers some of the most effective solutions to common issues in manufacturing, with the potential of up to 30% savings in overall maintenance costs. This blog is going to cover some of those issues, and how IoT can be implemented to solve them.
What is the IIoT?
Before discussing the ways in which Industrial IoT(IIoT) can be implemented in the manufacturing industry to develop smart factories, it’s important to understand what exactly it is. Industrial IoT is a subset of IoT, but they both function in essentially the same manner: They connect objects over a shared network via technology – most often sensors and software working in tandem – to allow for the transmission of data between said objects as well as to the cloud. From there the data can be analyzed and applied by the user, or in certain cases by AI to solve problems and optimize processes.
Predictive maintenance makes use of condition monitoring to determine when exactly a machine will require maintenance. This is done via sensors that constantly monitor data such as vibrations or temperature of a machine. The 24/7 access IIoT provides is what allows for accurate predictions to be made, as minor changes in data can be seen and responded to immediately. Being able to know when exactly a machine requires maintenance can prevent unexpected downtime, cutting costs significantly and improving efficiency.
At igus®, we offer our own predictive maintenance system, called i.Cee. i.Cee makes use of the extensive data collected from our 3,800m² testing facility to make accurate service life predictions. These predictions also take into account how the equipment is being used in any particular application to ensure further accuracy.
Worker Safety Improved by the IIoT
Not only can IIoT help monitor and track the status of machines and products, it can also monitor employee health and safety. Using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, individual workers can be remotely identified and located with ease. This can be used to alert workers to any hazards in their vicinity like chemicals or gasses. Additionally, workers can be outfitted with wearable tech that can monitor vital signs and immediately report any adverse changes. Using RFID in conjunction with vitals monitoring ensures any health-related emergencies can be swiftly dealt with or prevented entirely.
Inventory Management using RFID tagging
In large, expansive warehouses, lost or misplaced products are an unfortunate reality. Human error simply can’t be avoided, but with IIoT and RFID technology, it can easily be corrected. As long as inventory is outfitted with an RFID tag, it can be constantly and accurately monitored. If a product is misplaced, lost or erroneously sent out, a notification is sent to the user to alert them of the mistake.
The IIoT Makes Automation Easy
With automation already taking hold in manufacturing, being able to optimize new processes and expand the scope of what can be automated is essential. Thankfully, IIoT offers exactly that. Autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs) and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) can be used to carry out tasks like transporting items, conducting safety checks and other potentially dangerous tasks. IIoT can improve the capabilities of these vehicles/robots via AI and machine learning, allowing AMRs to independently react to unforeseen obstacles, preventing the need for human oversight and letting humans focus on other tasks that can’t be automated.
More traditional robots, such as robotic arms and cobots, can also benefit from IIoT. The consolidation of data stemming from IIoT gives manufacturers the capability to make adjustments on the fly to improve efficiency or create solutions to entirely new problems. Some applications that implement machine learning and AI even see robots doing this on their own. Ultimately this can lead to increased efficiency and service life of the robots, saving money on costly replacements or repairs.
Smart Metering for Smart Manufacturing
While smart meters are primarily used in city infrastructure development, they can be applied to manufacturing as well. Smart meters are simply utility meters that have been connected via IoT to allow for remote monitoring of resource consumption. This eliminates the need to have a technician inspect meters in-person, reducing the time needed to diagnose any issues, along with possibly preventing issues/outages in the first place. Not only that, but data from smart meters can be analyzed and applied to optimize resource usage and prevent waste, eliminating unneeded expenditure. The blockchain can even be utilized to further optimize and improve smart meter systems.
With all these applications in mind, making the shift to automation and IIoT-based technology seems like the obvious choice. Thankfully, igus® has an extensive offering of smart plastic products for use in IIoT systems. e-chain® cable carriers, chainflex® cables, linear bearings and more, all outfitted with our smart plastic technology. Our smart plastic products are already used in a variety of applications, and we’re constantly expanding our offerings to meet the growing needs of our customers.
If you have any questions regarding smart plastics in use with our linear bearings, please contact our smart plastics drylin® expert here. For questions regarding smart plastics in use with our cable carriers and cables, please contact our smart plastics e-chain® expert here. You can also contact us by phone at (800) 521-2747.