Computers and automation have been part of the manufacturing scene for some time – in fact, they were the signature technological development that characterized the 3rd wave of industrial innovation. But then came Industry 4.0 building on what had gone before and enhanced it with smart systems fuelled by data and machine learning.
A key element of this progression has been the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) – which can refer to many scenarios where everyday objects are connected to the internet but the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is where the magic happens. Those interconnected sensors, instruments, and devices – networked together – allows the collection of data that can then be analyzed and exchanged, leading to improved productivity and efficiency.
For those blazing the trail, the benefits of these breakthroughs are being felt here and now while for many others it’s a matter of finding the best use cases for their own individual situation or industry.
Every business has its own set of objects that can provide meaningful information about their everyday operations. By connecting them to the internet, they can begin collecting and analyzing information in ways that are useful for them.
One of the most exciting things about the IoT is the endless possibilities for use.
For example – using sensors to gather data on overall equipment health in a factory or facility – making it possible to predict any equipment failure before it happens. Equipment downtime costs the average factory between 5% and 20% of its productive capacity with unplanned downtime affecting manufacturers by an estimated $50 billion annually. By turning maintenance from something reactive into something proactive – time and money can be saved.
But it doesn’t have to be in a traditional factory setting. In fact, we recently heard about a Housing Corporation which had installed sensory devices into their facilities – it was being used to track among other things room temperature to detect anomalies. Linked to their ERP system – which happened to be SAP Business ByDesign – it was able to capture data that enabled them to detect issues when a certain temperature threshold was exceeded. If the sensors detected that the temperature had got too high then a service request was automatically issued and the relevant staff received an e-mail. The nature of the problem could then be investigated to see if further action was required.
It should be emphasized that this was something created via the flexibility of the
SAP Cloud Platform into the midmarket solution Business ByDesign – so not a huge ERP system – but even at this level you now have the flexibility to build your own applications for your specific business needs, handling your data entirely as you wish. This kind of flexibility is the way things are going to be done in the future.
The internet of things can work very well with a midmarket cloud ERP solution and can be easily scaled up to include a multitude of sensors and to process large amounts of data. The solution will allow you to create detailed reports and analyze your operations with every sensory data imaginable. It can also allow you to spot anomalies in your operations even before they have happened and handle them pro-actively.
So, as you see, the possibilities are endless.
With sensors on the manufacturing equipment reporting back, using some AI/Machine Learning you could enable predictive maintenance on equipment which then be scheduled proactively, minimizing impact to production rather than reactively having the production line halted.
For certain materials used in production in bulk, or difficult to replenish or expensive, via sensors on the storage units the system could capture inventory usage and automatically place replenishment orders to again minimize downtime.
Important for some industries, e.g. clean environments, so ensuring the right conditions are maintained
Remote monitoring of assets in dangerous environments minimizing the risk to employees
Allow production operatives to quickly request items e.g. consumables at the push of a button rather than complex online forms
This technology is not new, but recent advances have dramatically improved the efficacy and functionality available. As IoT platforms mature, the relative cost of monitoring devices has gone down, while the ability to not only monitor, but manage devices remotely has grown remarkably.
As we have seen, the current buzz is around predictive analytics. With enough data over time, algorithms can actually predict when a piece of hardware will fail, which is obviously extremely useful for minimizing downtime. But it is also worth remembering that this is all within the grasp of the growing band of midsized cloud ERP users. With a flexible Cloud Platform like the one developed by SAP, you can integrate data and business processes – to open up a whole world of IoT possibilities!