IoT is making ‘smart manufacturing’ smarter

IoT is one solution that addresses an enterprise problem. It is vital for every organisation today to test the potential of IoT and other Industry 4.0 tools, says Praveen Arora.
IoT is making ‘smart manufacturing’ smarter
IoT is one solution that addresses an enterprise problem. It is vital for every organisation today to test the potential of IoT and other Industry 4.0 tools, says Praveen Arora.
Manufacturing has a very profound impact on the economic status of a nation. Superior manufacturing capabilities has helped nations garner advantage at a global platform such as favourable trade agreements, dispute settlements, loans and special status to its citizens on foreign soil. While all nations acknowledge its importance, there are only a few that have led the industrial revolution through innovation.
The first generation of industrial revolution started in Europe out of necessity and triggered the concept of global markets. While globalisation opens new markets to compete, it also increases competition. As trade becomes more competitive, the market forces build pressure on manufacturers to deliver on both scale and time. It is here that technology like Internet of Things, Big Data, robotics and Artificial Intelligence is playing an increasingly important role.
The advent of new age technologies is helping manufacturers improve operational efficiencies, cut costs, and drive innovation. In a country with a large pool of semi-skilled talent, IoT can make significant improvements in operational processes and enable the deployment of smart manufacturing solutions. Importantly, small and large manufacturing companies alike can leverage the capabilities of technologies like IoT. When utilised well, all these technologies work synchronously to create competitive advantage for the manufacturer. 
While the Internet of Things (IoT) can help manufacturers get real-time information about their plant operations or products and services, artificial intelligence will help machines take a decision on how to react to the information received. An important technology to consider here is Digital Twin and how it’s poised to change the way we run our business. It’s is a key next step in Internet of Things and a powerful idea, which CIO’s and CXO’s can integrate into their digital strategy. The operational and environmental data collected through IoT enabled devices powers a predictive analytic engine, which can forecast faults, schedule preventive maintenance and suggest options in case of a breakdown. This translates to reduced downtime and maintenance costs, which can be significant, especially in industries like Aerospace and Industrial Equipment. 
The implementation of Digital Twin requires a considerable level of technology readiness as the model is built around a confluence of several emerging technologies like Industrial Internet of things, Artificial intelligence, Big Data Analytics and Cloud computing. To manage data for all these technologies across functions, it’s imperative to have a digital thread, which creates a connected value stream and acts as the information backbone of the organization. 
Such Industry 4.0 tools can help manufacturers build more sophisticated products; build new business models; generate new revenue streams; create a safer workplace; reduce wastage and save energy. The choice of IoT solution depends on the manufacturer’s business objectives. In manufacturing companies, where employees are exposed to physically hazardous environment, their safety is high priority while for a component manufacturer, operational efficiency and reducing defects could be the prime concern that they wish to address with IoT.
IoT is one solution that addresses an enterprise problem, but as one digs deeper, there are so many moving parts of heterogenous technologies, coming together to create value from IoT. Given its complexity, manufacturers must invest time to assess utility of IoT solution for their business. Manufacturers can choose to engage with multiple vendors to implement a working IoT solution or choose one technology partner to manage the entire IoT solution. Not only will this reduce CAPEX investment, but manufacturers will have a single window to address any problem. On a closing note, its vital for every organisation today to test the potential of Internet of Things, and other Industry 4.0 tools. At the end of the day, businesses flourish on human relationships. So, the focus needs on human capital and where it matters the most, and manufacturers need to empower the rest with tools and solutions that benefit everyone.
About the Author:
Praveen Arora is VP - Operations and Technology, IoT (Business Unit) at Tata Communications. In this role, he heads operations and new technological developments and partnerships for the IoT business in India, serving enterprise and public customers as well as start-ups.
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