Smart Manufacturing Report: Solving the ROI Puzzle for IoT in Manufacturing

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According to International Data Corporation (IDC), worldwide spending on the Internet of Things (IoT) to grow 16.7% year over year in 2017, reaching just over $800 billion. The IoT use cases that are expected to attract the largest investments in 2017 include manufacturing operations ($105 billion), freight monitoring ($50 billion), and production asset management ($45 billion). Smart grid technologies for electricity, gas and water and smart building technologies are also forecast to see significant investments this year ($56 billion and $40 billion, respectively).

IoT, for a typical manufacturer is a complex buzzword often lost in the clutter of countless vendors and big jargons. The manufacturer of today, is pushed into a corner by forces like globalisation, rising competition, stringent compliance and legal to-dos, all while balancing the price and the quality of the final product. The new age factories work in silos, not just due to disparate locations but also due to the standalone nature of interdepartmental operations, which leads to the usage of derived data. On the other end at the shopfloor, there is a multitude of heterogeneous machines ranging from legacy to the modern systems, sensors which are on different control systems, communicating on different protocols that pose a great challenge for information aggregation. In the age of collaborative manufacturing, the extended enterprise is a reality and the competition is now between one supply chain and another instead of just a product vs another, hence your supplier’s and logistics partner’s processes also are now responsible for your quality and productivity.

On analyzing, the solution to all these disparate issues, points to a critical need for data: real-time, historical data that provides a single representation of truth for all the shopfloor metrics. By data, it does not indicate a dump of terabytes of random data points, but a representation of relevant business information, that can talk to the manufacturer about optimising man, machine, methods of the factory. IoT is the scintillating promise of doing just that- where your data can now revolutionize every factor of production and offer the manufacturer a window to enhance the output and track it. The potential for digital transformation from IIoT in manufacturing is limitless. From quality to productivity, health & safety to EHS, every function on the shopfloor stands to be revolutionised with Industrial IoT.

On the shopfloor, where the manufacturing plants have a mix of manufacturing assets ranging from legacy machines to modern state of art machines with heterogeneous mix of control systems, protocols and outputs, it is impossible to stream data from these to a single platform. Most of these plants run in departmental silos with hardly any data and information being shared across the value chain. Most of the data generated in the process is very local to the operator or engineer working in that area and is used mostly for monitoring, leading to very limited actionable insights. This is where Internet of Things technology (IoT) fits in. IoT helps to connect these heterogeneous set of assets across the complete value chain and get data on a common platform and break the information islands on the floor. It helps to establish a single source of truth from the floor in terms of operational, machine and quality performance. It invokes a completely new paradigm and unravels hidden opportunities to Management to transform their operations. Aided with the right set of analytics tools, the data can be used to build models for predicting machine and process failures and do a more data oriented root cause analysis of quality problems.

But despite of all the above benefits, adoption for IoT in factories has not been smooth. For any enterprise, the expenditure companies incur is expected to deliver a measurable, hard-dollar ROI—and to deliver it quickly.There are thousands of ways in which IoT can help in manufacturing- but which usecases are the most useful for achieving your goals? Every enterprise who has invested in IoT as well as the ones that are contemplating it, is puzzled with the question:Why should I go for IoT? What’s the RoI for IoT projects? The answer to this question is critical to steer the IoT initiatives in the right direction from enabling the creation of business case to tracking and utilizing the achieved results. The absence of an industry benchmark about the possible use cases, budgets needed and the payback period to achieve ROI results in manufacturers shying away from adoption of IoT. In long term, this move results in a huge loss, due to the missed opportunities. (Cont.)

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