Making changes to future production systems: the impact of the Internet of Things
Posted: Dec 04, 2018
It is no small choice for a company to change its production system. For manufacturing companies, the investment in capital equipment and potential loss of production for ‘down time’ while changes are made, tested and calibrated, can mean that the benefits may have to be considerable for widespread changes to be adopted. This is especially the case where multiple production lines or systems need changing. Yet IoT technologies and their ability to provide industrial IoT solutions to challenges that companies face will change future production systems and, more widely, how companies and their staff operate.
Continuous improvement is not new
World-leading companies undertake continuous improvement initiatives on an ongoing basis. With the intense competitive environment in virtually every field of production, the need to pries maximum efficiency and quality from production systems is essential. Companies that are able to do this consistently and on an enduring basis build considerable reputational and competitive advantages.
Traditionally, improvements have been determined by a post-production examination of a product or system. What worked? What didn’t work? How can these aspects be improved? How can we eliminate these flaws? There was a strong logic for this: how a system worked as a whole could normally only be determined by the quality of the production output at the end of the system. And insight into the individual stages of production was often limited. But a continuous refining of production process and systems helped create high levels of quality.
Accuracy and Adaptability, Insight and Speed
IoT based solutions and services do not challenge the fundamental concept of continuous improvement practices: rather, they super-charge it. One of the major advantages that IoT technologies bring to industry is the ability to much more precisely monitor and measure every stage of the production process. It is this gathering of information at a more granular level, in real-time, and in a manner that allows it to be disseminated more widely that will reshape future production systems.
Being able to monitor individual aspects of a production system in real-time enables them to be changed or for processes feeding into it to be amended much more swiftly than when post-production evaluation was the only option. The decision-making process is improved and speeded up. Gathering data at every stage of the process enables the identification of where errors may be creeping in or where certain tools or aspects of the system may be able to be used more efficiently. This allows changes to be made with greater insight and certainty as to the resultant impact.
Getting Buy-in: the Challenge of Change
One of the major benefits that IoT can bring, if utilized appropriately, is in gaining buy-in to changes. Reshaping production systems – as with any change process – can be disconcerting to some. For any change, buy-in is needed from those who work with the system on a day-to-day basis, otherwise the system is likely to operate at less than optimal efficiency. This is coupled with the potential impact on staff morale or motivation.
Traditionally, change process have often been ‘top-down’. The resultant feeling is, unfortunately, often one of"management has come up with some new way of doing things that they’re imposing on us". This is often linked to a failure or inability to share information as to why things are changing.
The way the internet of things works can help solve this challenge. Being able to see how part of a system is working and for that information to be shared with everyone involved in working on or with that part of the system can make the need for change much more understandable and accepted. Industrial IoT solutions can bring information out of the management office to those ‘on the floor’ so they can react to it and see the need for changes. Driving awareness of how the production system is functioning as deep down within the production chain as possible in effect has an empowering impact, enabling workers and staff to be more connected to the changes that are made and more invested in the success of the changes.
The individual perspective
Given the ability to share information through IoT solutions, it becomes much easier for production facilities operating in different locations to share and compare knowledge and solutions. An element of competition between plants or facilities within the same company can help drive efficiency and improvements in processes. The ability of IoT tools that could be developed and deployed to make this relevant to the individual and their involvement in the overall process represents a change in production systems. Seeing how another plant in a group is doing is one thing: seeing how your direct counterpart in that plant is doing is another thing entirely, and one aspect that can be much more motivating.
In sum, as IoT solutions are developed and begin to be deployed throughout the stages of future production processes, the possibilities for greater improvements and efficiencies are considerable. It will take time for individual or bespoke tools to be developed but once they are, the potential for impact is stronger given the nature of IoT that enables information to be shared far more widely than was previously the case.
With extensive research and study, Simon passionately creates blogs on divergent topics. His writings are unique and utterly grasping owing to his dedication in researching for distinctive topics.