The COVID-19 pandemic has sent shockwaves through global manufacturing and supply chains, forcing business leaders to reconsider the resiliency of their operations. This represents a shift from the recent emphasis on production and distribution efficiencies alone. Predictive intelligence, agility toward crisis response, and the successful application of smart devices throughout manufacturing and distribution processes have taken new precedence.
But manufacturers must resolve key questions if they want to thrive in a new manufacturing environment and maintain themselves during future wide scale crises. That means not only resuming operations in a safe and responsive way, but setting the groundwork for long-term resilience through the successful integration of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) systems.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is critical to this transformation. Now a critical part of modern manufacturers’ Industry 4.0 transformation, the IIoT features the use of sensors to connect manufacturing equipment to IT systems, driving valuable insights about manufacturing operations and performance. With the proper sensors and analytics tools, manufacturers can capture and analyze data from every point in the manufacturing process, driving business benefits.
Although manufacturers were already undergoing this transformation at the start of 2020, the disruption of COVID-19 has accelerated this adoption for many of these companies. Even those who are only now considering the IIoT must look into new use cases to protect them and thrive at the onset of another global crisis.
The IIoT can be a powerful tool for protecting business continuity, employee safety, and economic security during such disruptions. What is the function of the IIoT in a new, post-COVID-19 manufacturing environment with these possibilities in mind? Discover how collecting data from connected machines can reduce errors and waste while increasing productivity and efficiency as well.
Benchmarking the IIoT in Modern Manufacturing
The IIoT is characterized by systems of smart sensors, machines, and software that collect data from machines inside and outside the manufacturing process. Companies pass this data to cloud-based analytics platforms for deep analysis and insights that help them (a) benchmark operational performance to identify improvement areas, and (b) make predictions and proactive responses to future operational outcomes or industry-wide events.
Even before COVID-19, the IIoT had provided massive benefits to manufacturers. McKinsey estimates improved performance management through IIoT can provide a 5% boost to overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), for example, among a wide range of other improvements to productivity, efficiency, and safety.
The IIoT extends beyond the manufacturing floor as well, which is critical to its role as a protector against future industry disruptors. Cloud analytics tools maintain connectivity to both manufacturing and supply chain data, helping manufacturers anticipate disruptions and respond accordingly. Here is a look at some of the operational and business benefits that successful adoption of the IIoT can provide.
Warehouse Inventory Control
Enabling inventory management with the IIoT has the potential to boost overall operational efficiencies and productivity; it also allows for greater agility and remote capabilities that will be critical at the onset of future widespread crises. Companies can quickly reduce inventory and free up liquidity within the manufacturing environment. They can track outgoing products and incoming resources throughout the supply chain as well, helping them anticipate future disruptions and adapt their manufacturing environment accordingly. The result is an inventory management mechanism that is more responsive and synchronized with real-world supply and demand.
In a post-COVID-19 environment, improved warehouse inventory control helps companies respond to dramatic market changes more quickly. The sooner manufacturers can optimize inventory levels in response to dramatic shifts in supply and demand, the more protected they become to otherwise catastrophic losses due to overproduction and exceeding inventory capacity.
Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) and Overall Labor Effectiveness (OLE)
The use of wireless sensors in manufacturing environments makes it easier for companies to collect and analyze real-time performance metrics about their equipment and labor. They can leverage this data using cloud-based analytics tools to improve quality and efficiencies at hundreds or even thousands of touchpoints in the manufacturing process.
With these insights, companies can eliminate equipment downtime, anticipate wear and tear, and optimize sequences of jobs on an ongoing basis. In a post-COVID-19 environment, that means optimizing the use of labor and equipment no matter how shifting business requirements might otherwise make maintaining OEE and OLE more difficult. Companies may also uncover hidden problems within their manufacturing environment and supply chains, including vulnerabilities that might add risk in the event of wide scale industry disruption.
Production and Product Quality Analysis
While production and product quality are always critical to business success, crises cast a new light on these two factors in manufacturing environments. This is true among manufacturers whose products are on the front lines during wide scale crises, such as medical device manufacturers; but it’s true of companies who witness dramatic drops in demand for their products as well.
The IIoT can increase transparency into production and product quality, helping companies scale productivity and adapt to shifting regulatory requirements without overtaxing existing resources. McKinsey estimates improved performance management from the IIoT can boost labor productivity by 20% to 40%.
Emerging Stronger Post-COVID-19
In the wake of COVID-19, manufacturers must embrace a business environment where their focus can no longer be on efficiencies and cost-effectiveness alone. End-to-end digitalization that boosts responsiveness and resiliency has emerged as an even greater business consideration. That means many manufacturers must engage in nothing short of a reformation of their operations, including using IIoT solutions.
Fortunately, companies who adopt these technologies successfully will be not only better equipped for future crises — they will be better equipped for ongoing improvements to efficiencies, agility, and quality under all other industry conditions as well. The IIoT contributes to these advantages, enabling companies to discover new information and make informed, predictive decisions about their operations and supply chains.
It’s now more important than ever to start your journey to a more agile, secure and productive manufacturing future. Radley Corporation has built our expertise through decades of support for global manufacturers. Our holistic software, hardware, consulting, implementation, and training solutions can bring the IIoT together to maximize on your data.