Guest Column | July 22, 2015

6 Uses For IoT Sensors In Equipment Manufacturing

By Joanna Rotter, content marketing specialist, MSI Data

IoT Sensors In Equipment Manufacturing

It seems you can’t read any technology-related news these days without hearing about the potential of the Internet of Things to revolutionize the way we engage with the world. The reason? It’s a really big deal! The IoT promises to be the most disruptive technological advance since … well …. the Internet.

There’s no denying, the future of the IoT is upon us, and manufacturers stand to benefit more than most by using IoT to focus on warehouse productivity and safety, as well as strengthen field service programs.

IoT sensors built in equipment along with the tools to analyze incoming IoT data give manufacturers the information they need to get ahead in today’s increasingly connected world.

6 Ways Equipment Manufacturers Can Use IoT Data To Improve Product Support

Having access to machine data is only the start. With detailed performance information coming from connected equipment, manufacturers need to figure out how they’ll use all that data to inform business decisions and automate service processes. Here are a few ways you can make IoT work in your manufacturing business:

  1. Analyze Performance Data To Design Better Equipment And More Efficient Manufacturing Operations. With access to data from IoT sensors, manufacturers, service departments, and customers can see into the once-closed window of equipment performance. For example, service managers might see success rates of service visits or the profitability of a service contract, while a manufacturer portal might display profitability metrics, and a customer portal might show equipment efficiency and energy output.

    The ability to analyze key performance indicators can inform equipment production best practices and guide manufacturers to establish more effective preventive maintenance and service programs. In their article, article, “How the Internet of Things is Transforming Manufacturing,” Forbes quotes vice president of market development at Rockwell Automation, John Nesi, saying IoT hardware and software built into the equipment of one of their manufacturing customers resulted “‘in faster time to market, improved asset utilization and optimization, lower total cost of ownership, workforce efficiency, enterprise risk management and smarter expenditures.”
  2. Manage Equipment Self-Diagnostics. IoT sensors built into equipment provide a continuous data stream and can also signal alerts to the manufacturer when a part or component isn’t working right. It tells you where the potential problem is and what is, or is about to, go wrong. With access to equipment information before they’re dispatched to the field, field technicians can get all the tools and resources they need to do the job the first time. Not only will customers love that your team of field techs doesn’t need to go back to the office to retrieve a part or find out how to fix what’s wrong, techs will also  spend less time diagnosing equipment and more time fixing it, which means more billable time and larger revenue streams for the manufacturer.
  3. Automate PM Work Orders. As equipment becomes enabled with built-in sensors, service companies can automate service and preventive maintenance based on IoT data and alerts. The IoT promises to automate equipment maintenance by triggering a work order and scheduling and dispatching a technician without any human interaction. Service departments will enjoy simpler maintenance management with faster, more accurate service visits, less equipment downtime, and longer equipment lifespans to meet today’s growing customer demands.
  4. Track Vehicle Fleets. If you have a fleet of vehicles you’re responsible for operating and maintaining, you can install IoT sensors in each vehicle to collect information about how well they are functioning, which parts need replacing, and measure fuel efficiency and driver behavior. With this information, you can initiate company-wide driving codes, which not only improve technician safety and decrease the risk of accidents, but also cut down on the wear and tear of driving too aggressively.
  5. Improve Warehouse/ Jobsite Safety. According to the Forbes article, IoT helps improve safety in the warehouse and other dangerous work environments; for example, “Sine-Wave, a company that focuses on technological solutions for businesses, has created a customized IoT program that resulted in increased safety and communication in mines. According to their website, they designed a browser-based application that allows users to communicate with the workers, operators, and machines in the mine, as well as ‘see a real-time view of all activities underground [including] custom mapping of each mining operation.’ By knowing what’s going on in the underground mines in real time, users can avoid safety hazards and respond to emergencies quickly.”
  6. Automate Inventory Management. Over or understocking parts or equipment is a big expense for manufacturer inventory departments. Through the IoT, sensors connected to parts in the warehouse can trigger alerts when you need to stock parts so you always have exactly what you need.

    You can also connect sensors to parts in the field so you never have to worry about misplacing expensive or necessary parts. Think about the cost of a worker losing a tool. With IoT, you know exactly where all your parts are and how they’re being used. 

Preparing For An IoT Revolution

Sophisticated machine telematics technology and the data it produces often stands in stark contrast to the largely manual, paper-based means of delivering and tracking field service for many manufacturers.  With greater focus on collecting equipment information through IoT sensors and an investment in mobile field service software to deliver and analyze that data, your service department will be poised for success this year and beyond.

Joanna Rotter is the Content Marketing Manager for MSI Data, creator of field service management app, Service Pro. In addition to managing the MSI blog, Rotter has contributed dozens of articles on field service and technology topics to industry publications, including: Business Solutions, Manufacturing Business Technology, and Connect with her on LinkedIn.