“The power of the Internet of Things comes from the ability to collect a lot of data and convert that into useful information.” -Bertil Thorvaldson, ABB Robotics
While that is a very simple concept to understand, manufacturing Internet of Things (IoT) technology into most products can be a significant investment of time and money for companies. As a designer and manufacturer of medical, commercial, industrial, and military products, we are working with many customers on implementing IoT into their products to improve the customer experience and provide an additional revenue stream.
Improving the Customer Experience
The goal with using IoT in manufacturing is to improve the user experience by efficiencies which will lower the operating costs for their organization. Any additional fees incurred for the service of including IoT technology can easily be offset by the added value of faster, more efficient operating decisions made from real-time data.
This strategy already exists in leading industrial organizations, which have shifted to the business model focusing on the service and new revenue opportunity side. This approach often involves the use of larger equipment where down time is extremely costly for the customer, so establishing the customer ROI must be made very apparent. Now we are also seeing this technology being used by disrupters in their industries where there are high volumes of smaller pieces of equipment, established competition is already intensive, and market conditions have been traditionally driven by equipment cost rather than operating cost.
Machine Performance Check with IoT Device
Examples of Customer Focused Applications
Equipment Specific Maintenance
Rather than having either a randomly scheduled or nonexistent preventative maintenance program for refrigerators and freezers in grocery stores, what if the maintenance dispatcher could generate lists based on which machines are not running at their peak efficiency, prompting the maintenance team to focus on those machines immediately before larger issues can occur?
When it comes to electricity spending, refrigeration is by far the greatest expense on average, 56 percent of supermarkets’ electricity goes towards refrigeration. So, increasing the overall efficiency of the equipment by 5% would result in significant savings in just energy costs alone.
Improving Equipment Longevity
Longevity can be increased by having the manufacture monitor usage and critical operating parameters. Many things can be detected remotely, such as if the equipment is being used incorrectly or being overused, which the manufacturer can then review onsite to ensure that the correct training is done or that the unit is serviced more frequently. Greater insights into proper usage help increase the life of the unit and reduce the capital needs of their customer.
Additionally, many applications (hospitals, service companies, etc.) have a fleet of equipment that must be managed and most times 80 percent of the units get 20 percent of the use so, in this instance, that data is used to rotate usage and minimize maintenance on underutilized assets to minimize customer costs.
Once again, the cost savings can more than justify a small fee to provide that service.
Minimize Counterfeit Parts
One of the biggest challenges for equipment manufacturers is when counterfeit parts are being used in their equipment which causes undue wear and tear and other issues. Up until this point, the only way to know if this happened is to visually inspect it for yourself, but now there are better ways for managing the process.Many customers are using RFID tags in consumables for their equipment which are detected by a reader in the main unit. If that RFID tag is not detected, the unit will not operate and the IOT portion of the unit will communicate this event back to the manufacturer. The tag will also monitor the operating parameters of the unit itself, which can detect if any not standard components are installed in the unit which dramatically reduces the warranty costs for this manufacturer.
These are just a few of the applications we are working on manufacturing with IoT as part of our development projects with our customers. These projects not only include developing the hardware to operate the unit, but the hardware to communicate via WiFi or cellular as well as the application to monitor and communicate the data, data warehousing, and data management for each application.While it is a significant investment to start up projects involving IoT in manufacturing, the return on investment and improved customer experience happens very quickly.