Loosely defined, the Internet of Things (IoT, for short) is the concept of connecting everything imaginable to a network so that information can be quickly and easily shared through network connections with everything else. Today, there are more devices connected to the Internet than there are people in the world, resulting in a vast collection of data that can be analyzed, communicated and acted upon.
Let me give you an example: Based on traffic conditions and whether you need gas in your car, your alarm clock could either wake you up earlier, or let you catch a few extra Zzz’s. Your car would start warming up in anticipation of your departure and your coffee machine at work would be preparing a fresh cup of coffee as you pulled into your parking space. Sound exciting (and perhaps a little frightening)? The sky is the limit when it comes to the potential of the Internet of Things.
So how does the Internet of Things translate to the manufacturing industry? Rather easily. In fact, it is almost like the Internet of Things was designed for the shop floor. A big segment of the Internet of Things is data collection and factory floors already excel in that area. Production data has been generated for years through automated tools such as sensors, programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and PC-based controllers that talk with your robots, work centers and machines. Granted, we are generally collecting in small silos or islands of automation, but that is about to change.
Through highly connected IP networks, shop floors can now connect outward at the enterprise level. With extended enterprise-based systems such as MES and ERP solutions, data can be shared in real time to factory floor workers, managers, suppliers and vendors across company lines for analysis and problem solving. The value of the Internet of Things for manufacturing is impressive:
- Reduced intervention by factory floor operators for greater accuracy
- Communication with the entire supply chain, including vendors and suppliers
- Faster information flow and identification of issues before they happen for quicker, more proactive decision making
- Increased access to information for greater efficiency, traceability and productivity
- Improved overall equipment effectiveness (OEE)
- Multiple plant connectivity for data across your entire enterprise
Fortunately, you don’t have to wait to take advantage of these benefits. IQMS’ RealTime Process Monitoring solution is a two-way communication system that operates using IP-based connectivity. Through PLCs, our Process Monitoring solution can connect to any device on the shop floor to exchange information, control parameters and monitor production in real time.
High value production equipment has been instrumented for some time in closed, hard-wired environments. Industrial controllers, sensors and networks are expensive to upgrade, so existing facilities with lots of legacy equipment have been slow to take advantage of the vast benefits of the Internet of Things on the plant floor. IQMS has developed a full line of low cost PLCs and sensors that can easily be setup to monitor and control any type of manual or automated plant floor equipment. The PLCs and sensors have pre-configured connections to the EnterpriseIQ RealTime Process Monitoring platform to enable machine-to-machine and machine-to-people communications.
After collecting critical production details from an array of different devices, Process Monitoring then sends the data to the ERP solution for thorough analysis in the Statistical Process Control (SPC) module or through powerful user-defined graphs, gages and reports. The Process Monitoring solution is also available on your mobile devices, delivering the information you collect on the shop floor right to your fingertips anywhere at any time, for faster response time.
The Internet of Things is a game changer for the manufacturing industry. Through new technology that allows you to connect an unlimited number of devices on your shop floor, gather data from those devices and communicate that data to an enterprise-based system (such as ERP and MES solutions) for analysis, manufacturers can secure a competitive advantage.