I’m sure this sounds crazy. In fact, I know it does. Given the trajectory of the industrial market, everyone in the manufacturing world knows that a connected enterprise is likely the future of most — if not all — manufacturing businesses. So why on earth should a manufacturer in this day and age ignore the industrial IoT? Shouldn’t they be doing the opposite? Shouldn’t they be investing resources, assigning teams, and building plans around their IoT strategy? I don’t think so and I’ll tell you why…
At some point, you have to stop with the hype and look pragmatically at what the next era of the industrial market will require from manufacturers. It will require greater accuracy, better quality, and more precise scheduling. Lean manufacturers are already trying to accomplish these things. This is nothing new, and the term IoT is being used to present some kind of new generation of technology that will allow manufacturers to magically lasso these challenges and provide immediate solutions. Those that have been in this industry know this is not the case; nor could it ever be.
Ahead of the IoT curve
Most manufacturing businesses are actually on the forefront of the IoT. Many have had connected machines for over a decade. Manufacturers were some of the first types of businesses to incorporate connected devices into the workplace. So, why all of a sudden is the IoT being touted as a solve-all solution for many of manufacturing’s greatest challenges?
The truth is that IoT technology is evolving and the innovators in the industrial technology spaces are providing better software, better sensors, and more diverse options for shop floor connectivity than ever before. The problem is that many of these new solutions are expensive and complex to configure.
A sober and pragmatic evaluation of practices
Realistically, small-to-medium sized manufacturers know that it will be difficult to invest in some of the infrastructure needed to connect their enterprise in the way that many on the innovative side of technology are talking about. Complex MES systems, B.I. software, and integrated ERP systems are really sexy to talk about at conferences and in boardroom meetings, but those charged with executing these plans know that for their organization these initiatives will be too expensive, difficult to execute, or simply won’t help them accomplish more than they already can today.
Even the most progressive small-to-medium sized manufacturers will have some difficulty positioning these types of IoT projects internally to support new business objectives. The cost and complexity of implementing new programs like this can be staggering, and most businesses this size don’t have the staff or wherewithal to execute. This is where expensive consultants come in, and to justify these costs, manufacturers need sound project plans to ensure these stay on course.
If we’re all being honest, most manufacturers this size, look at their business’ IoT plan as something they will just talk about for the next 3-4 years. They are most interested in improving quality, scrap-rates, scheduling issues, and other things that impact their ability to stay lean and serve their customers. The executives will always worry about what competitors are doing to potentially get ahead in the industry, but ultimately, it is too risky to go out of pocket on an innovative IoT project that may not offer a quick payback.
What manufacturers will do instead
The smartest manufacturers in the market today are already aware of this dynamic. They understand the market and what they need to do to enhance lean principles and impact their bottom line. Their biggest issue is the data. The data they need to execute on these things — in many cases — is the kind of data that can only be pulled from the costly, complex setups we discussed above. Nevertheless, they are looking at work cells one at a time and manually collecting as much as they can off of machines to make cost-savings adjustments.
These smart manufacturers know that they can ignore a lot of the IoT hype by focusing on what outcomes rather than the technology that delivers them. As nice as B.I. software can be (if it’s configured and setup properly), it still requires someone to evaluate the data and make changes before any kind of cost-savings or business alteration can be achieved. Manufacturers should be seeking to avoid the IoT hype and looking at the outcomes that these types of setups can provide.
Getting quick wins
The best way to avoid the IoT hype and focus on the outcomes is by looking for quick wins inside the business. The most intelligent manufacturers I’ve worked with all know what data could offer the biggest cost-payback the fastest. Things like; better understanding scrap-rate.
Getting quick wins will allow manufacturers to save money and invest in new projects that will allow them to tackle more complex challenges. Identifying what data you need to improve your business is not difficult. Finding ways to collect that data and finding the right people to interpret it is traditionally the hard part.
Collecting and interpreting data
Intelligent manufacturers have a good idea of what kinds of outcomes could be affecting their business, but collecting, interpreting, and acting on the data they need can be a difficult, costly, or time-consuming process. That’s really why companies like SensrTrx have emerged. SensrTrx is a non-invasive manufacturing analytics platform designed to allow all job roles inside of a manufacturing business the ability to collect and view data in relevant dashboards that allow them to act in real-time.
By being able to collect and act on all the data from the shop floor in real-time, manufacturers can effectively improve quality, performance, and scheduling without the implementation of a B.I. software system or integrating any kind of software with their ERP. And since all the data is pre-loaded into dashboards that are designed for each job role, it is simple to evaluate, decipher, and act on.
The data without the hype
Manufacturers that know what data can affect business outcomes in their organization will allow them to avoid the IoT hype. Most small-to-medium sized manufacturers want the data without the hassle of costly implementations or lengthy projects.
The challenge for these businesses will be finding ways to collect, decipher, and act on this data in meaningful ways. Issues with staff and bandwidth will always make this difficult. That’s why many are turning to tools like SensrTrx to simplify these efforts. Ultimately, manufacturers hate spending more money on technology without fully understanding what they will get out of it in the end and that’s reason enough they should be ignoring the IoT until they can define what it means for their business and their customers.