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Industry 4.0: The Influence of Big Data on the Manufacturing Floor

By effectively embracing the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), the manufacturing sector can analyze processes and identify optimization possibilities.

Q3 2018
Although still relatively in its infancy, the Internet of Things (IoT) is having a dramatic impact on society as a whole for consumers and businesses alike. The manufacturing industry is no exception, where the increased connectivity is commonly known as Industry 4.0 or the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

The key driver behind the IoT is the results it creates. Consumer expectations are evolving with significant influence from millennials, and manufacturers must rapidly respond and become smarter in order to meet this evolving demand. As a result, new and existing facilities are being upgraded to be highly automated and ready for the IIoT. Given the growing demand from consumers for insight into the source of their products and the production process, the availability of data direct to the consumer is a trend that’s only expected to grow.

Smarter Plant Operations
According to a study from PricewaterhouseCoopers, the technology associated with Industry 4.0 is projected to increase revenues by 37 percent over the next five years. Business Insider reports global manufacturers will invest $70 billion in IoT solutions in 2020, which is up $29 billion from 2015. The manufacturing sector is expected to spend more than any other industry — $189 billion in 2018 alone.

Manufacturers recognize the positive impact the IoT is having from the beginning of the production process all the way through to distribution. IDC and SAP have found that 60 percent of global manufacturers will use analytics data that is tracked by using connected devices to analyze processes and identify optimization possibilities.

Manufacturers recognize the positive impact the IoT is having from the beginning of the production process all the way through to distribution. Modern plant floors for advanced manufacturing facilities have shifted considerably from the days of Henry Ford’s assembly line. Today’s manufacturing operations consist of technology throughout including sensors, tagging capabilities, controls, and automated capabilities.

“The capabilities provided by embracing the IIoT enable manufacturers to produce more consistent, quality products and adapt to rapidly changing consumer demand. The improvements in speed to market for new products often justify the investment enabling the IIoT for a manufacturer,” says Walker Mattox, managing director of GraySolutions, a new Gray company focusing on industrial automation and enabling the IIoT for customers.

The big data provided from these new IIoT abilities drives manufacturers to greater safety, quality, efficiency, flexibility, security, and optimization for packaging and supply chain. In fact, the previously mentioned PricewaterhouseCoopers study predicts that manufacturing production efficiency would increase some 50 percent in the next several years.

The IIoT Difference
To be clear, the IIoT doesn’t mean that manufacturing operations were inept before Industry 4.0 came along. It does, however, speak to the continuous improvement philosophy many manufacturers embrace. The IIoT allows accessibility to information and data that weren’t previously available and has improved the speed of data collection.

The improvements in speed to market for new products often justify the investment enabling the IIoT for a manufacturer. Walker Mattox, managing director, GraySolutions Manufacturing involves deep levels of complexity, and the connectivity IIoT brings enables increased collection of data, leading to enhanced productivity. Manufacturers also have greater control of their operations.

“Now, plant connectivity is delivering information technology results with an operations technology mindset,” says Don Pearson, chief strategy officer for industrial platform provider Inductive Automation, in a recent issue of the GrayWay. He likens modern industrial connectivity platforms to a Swiss army knife for their ability to provide modular solutions in all manufacturing operations.

Facilities are also taking advantage of the concepts introduced by the IIoT to drive further value from investments in energy monitoring usage, building control, and even LEED certifications.

Big data is changing the world, and the manufacturing industry has more to gain than many other sectors if connectivity is effectively embraced.

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