Smart manufacturing, Industry 4.0, big data, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) — however you refer to the advent of cloud computing, affordable sensors and connected machines and devices, they are changing manufacturing in profound ways. This blog will outline some of the top use cases of IoT on the plant floor and examines how IoT devices and software will be leveraged for productivity in the future.

What are the Top Use-Cases in Industrial IoT?

The 3 top uses cases of IoT manufacturing are:

1. Remote Monitoring and Operations
2. Predictive Maintenance and Smart Asset Management
3. Autonomous Manufacturing


How to use IoT Sensors & Machine Data for Remote Operations

IoT has opened the door for a flood of big data with sensors collecting everything from part counts and downtime to motor vibration and temperature. For manufacturers to take full advantage of this, they will need to invest in visualization software. Thankfully, cloud-based solutions like SensrTrx make this investment accessible and easy to implement. What once required thousands of dollars, months of implementation time and costly consultants can now be done in a few days with minimal technical skills.

IIoT shouldn’t be confused with big data all the time, although many think of them as synonymous. A few data points can provide a lot of visibility on the plant floor, so it’s not strictly necessary to have complex IoT platforms and edge computing or even to manage huge datasets. Most IoT analytics needs can be met with business analytics software like Tableau or Power BI these days, but historically ERP and MES have been leveraged to transform the data into something meaningful. Nowadays, purpose-built analytics software like SensrTrx significantly reduces the investment cost of this foundational IoT pillar.

How to use IoT for Smart Maintenance & Asset Management

The standard method for machine maintenance for years has been “run to failure”, with the idea that a certain amount of downtime when a machine was being fixed was acceptable and indeed unavoidable. With IoT however, remote monitoring of machines and conditional reporting means the machine can provide fault warnings and provide your maintenance team with advanced warnings of issues.

Better maintenance using IoT can be viewed in this order:

  • Conditional Monitoring
  • Predictive Maintenance
  • Predictive AI-Driven Maintenance

Our friends at Fiix Software have provided some context to the path to better asset management with this graphic:


Courtesy of FiiX Software ©

How to use Remote Monitoring and IoT for Autonomous Production or “Lights Out” Manufacturing


 Another futuristic application of IoT and industry 4.0 promises to provide fantastic productivity gains through remote management of the plant. The benefits of this IoT marks a breakthrough but requires a huge investment in Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) fed by data and manned by tech-savvy operators.

If discrete manufacturers can reliably produce products 24/7, similar to the way some process manufacturers work, they could conceivably produce more goods with fewer people. For most manufacturers, this will require significant investment in things like predictive maintenance, condition-based monitoring as well as robots and co-bots run by software or as a part of a highly automated cell.

With this set-up, so-called “tombstones” or pedestal-based manufacturing allow robots to handle complex part manufacturing and assembly without the loading, unloading, and re-tooling typically requiring operator intervention. To reduce or eliminate the need for human workers, a highly automated factory requires IoT sensors, smart asset management, programming skills, and new equipment, but the productivity gains and lowered costs will be significant.

 To see an example of Lights Out in action, check out the Lego Factory. Even there though, workers are required to manage and maintain robots, write software, and conduct some quality checks. Still, what they were able to do in ’08 can give you an idea of what can be done in 2018.


Other Use Cases of IoT in Manufacturing

Here are a few other use cases we might dive into a bit later in another blog:

  • Automated Quality Control — How do I use IoT to lower scrap and increase quality?
  • Block-chain Supply Management – How can I use IoT to track my supply chain?
  • Asset Tracking on the Plant Floor – How should use IoT to find and track my inventory?
  • Sustainability and Energy Savings – How can we use IoT to reduce overhead, keep costs down?
How is IoT Useful in Manufacturing?
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How is IoT Useful in Manufacturing?
This blog outlines the top use cases of IoT on the plant floor and examines how IoT devices and software will be leveraged for productivity in the future.
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