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Optimizing Automation with the Internet of Things (IoT)

By OTC Insights Team on October 19, 2023

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OTC Insights Team

Established in 1963, OTC Industrial Technologies is one of the largest industrial distributors & service providers in the United States. We're committed to seeing industrial operations advance through expert technical solutions & unmatched support using our years of experience.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is revolutionizing manufacturing automation.

Companies recognize the benefits of IoT and automation, connecting physical devices to the internet and collecting and analyzing data in real time. But your automation and data efforts shouldn’t be a one-and-done project. The goal should be continual improvement and optimization.

In this article, we’ll look at how the Internet of Things (IoT) connects with and supports automation, and how manufacturers can think outside of the box and better use data, information, and remote connectivity to overcome business challenges and drive sustainable process improvements.  

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The Internet of Things and Automation for Manufacturers

There isn’t a “playbook” for automation or improvement strategies. But there are opportunities to leverage existing technologies, including IoT and automation, to work smarter and more efficiently.

If you want to implement more efficient automation, you need better information, more real-time data, and a way of connecting the automated systems that need the data to the devices that are collecting it.  

You likely already have the tools in place to reach your goals. Depending on your experience with digitization and automation, you have IoT devices on the plant floor. They are feeding data to control systems that collect the data, analyze it, and then distribute it to the automated systems or the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems.  

At this point, it’s time to consider how else you can use that data. What more can you do with automation? How can you leverage the capabilities you have to increase or generate revenue? There isn’t a playbook, so you’ll need expertise, innovation, and outside-the-box-thinking.

Optimizing Your Manufacturing Automation Strategy

Start your optimization efforts by looking at the data you have. Consider what it can tell you about your operations and how that can be used to optimize business outcomes. Generally, data falls into categories that reveal potential business and process opportunities:

  • Asset tracking: You can enhance production visibility with IoT devices. Track the location of assets and raw materials to optimize inventory levels and streamline your supply chain management. Better control production with real-time work-in-progress updates. Consider upselling customers, providing them access to their WIP orders to further enhance JIT deliveries. Finally, track finished goods to improve warehouse and shipping operations.
  • Remote monitoring: Monitor the performance of equipment in real time with IoT, even in remote locations. This data can be used to identify potential problems so that corrective action can be taken before they cause downtime. If you sell machine use, can you provide uptime guarantees to customers? IoT devices can also be used to control equipment remotely so it can more quickly respond to change, acting on decisions and improving overall efficiency.
  • Maintenance and repair: The data collected from machines and equipment can be used to predict when maintenance is needed. Use the machine data to know when uptime is at risk to prevent a shutdown. Look at implementing a maintenance system based on predictive reliability, which combines machine intelligence, smart asset management, and end-to-end repair services using analytics and feedback loops. With predictive reliability, you can expect to reduce downtime by as much as 80%.
  • Quality control: Your manufactured products can also be monitored by IoT devices. That data can be used to identify defects early so corrective action can be taken, improving overall quality. If you are collecting failure data on your assets, consider adjusting your warranty terms and management based on real-world data, rather than speculation and guesswork. Look at integrating product tracking during shipping to identify when and how damage occurs once it leaves the warehouse.

In your analysis, you may find questions or gaps in the data collected, or opportunities to further connect your automated systems toward an eventual goal of fully lights-out manufacturing. With a proactive strategy, automation and IoT benefits can quickly scale and deliver increasing dividends for your company.

Don't Wait to Improve Operations and Business Outcomes

The ideas above are just a start, a taste of the possibilities with an optimized production strategy based on IoT.

Rather than waiting until there is a crisis to evaluate and adjust your production strategies, consider bringing in additional expertise now to see how much further you could optimize and improve. Identify and evaluate opportunities and determine a potential return for the improvement investment. Target specific processes with a clear ROI and the return for that work will fund future investments.

Technology will continue to adapt. New systems are continually being introduced to the market, with new opportunities to increase efficiency and optimize production. 

Rather than waiting, contact the experts at OTC Industrial Technologies to discuss your options. Work with them to set goals and develop an automation strategy, whether it’s a small-scale project adding new sensors to a legacy machine or a full-scale IoT data management platform with multiple integrations. 

We’re ready to help you drive efficiency forward.