Internet of Things: The Next Big Thing In Manufacturing


Digital disruption has changed the world as we know it. Businesses are finding themselves at the precipice with their capabilities challenged by every innovation. The biggest boon that the industry has seen so far is the emergence of connected devices, powered by the Internet of Things (IoT), which has added more devices to the online networks and shown the way for the manufacturing sector.

An estimate by Verizon stated that the IoT platform market is expected to grow 35% every year and reach $1.16 billion by 2020. The same report further estimated that the biggest growth for the platform will be in business-to-business applications that are expected to garner nearly 70% of its potential value through IoT. If these estimates are to be believed, every industry will witness a ripple effect from boosted IoT connectivity.

The biggest ripple effect has already begun and is ongoing in the manufacturing sector. From processes to new machines at play, the sector has been witnessing a plethora of changes due to the IoT revolution which has triggered new innovations to boost efficiencies. The sector saw IoT investments amounting to $183 billion, making it the topmost sector to maximize the utility of connected devices.

Paving the way for planned decisions

The biggest asset that IoT brings to the sector is data generation and mining through connected devices. With the implementation of technologies like sensors, artificial intelligence, 3D manufacturing and computer-aided design (CAD), the sector is witnessing the link between design and manufacturing becoming more cohesive and seamless. Terabytes of data are being generated through these technologies. The industry is analyzing this data and making informed decisions that consider several parameters simultaneously, including market trends, customer needs and differentiated offerings.

Processes are constantly being rethought to enhance efficiencies, with the biggest focus being the implementation of shop floor to top floor connectivity. The generated data is becoming more accessible through various levels and functions of an organization due to an integrated network, allowing for mass customization. Furthermore, sensors can generate real-time insights that allow flexibility in decision-making to meet a dynamic market ecosystem and changing customer needs.

The future of these technologies will see additional connectivity as more machines are added to the digital grid. By becoming a part of intellectual property, data, will thus become the most crucial asset for companies to safeguard. There will also be an increased focus on endpoints and services that process and store data. A report by Gartner estimates that the expenditure on these endpoints and services will reach $2 trillion in 2017. This figure is expected to increase as more devices get connected to the grids.

Creating smart factories

If implemented to their fullest, these technologies will create smart factories with a hybrid approach to virtual and actual content warehouses that relentlessly innovate to meet dynamic customer demands. These factories will minimize human intervention in the manufacturing process, while increasing the demand for new skills.

These new factories will also witness integrated IT systems that can potentially redefine traditional supply chains. Integration will be key for the digital supply chains of the future, which are expected to boost production by 20%. These supply chains will also have machine learning capabilities, which maintain quality while increasing quantity. Technologies like sensors will limit dependency on human intervention and allow optimal efficiency, accuracy, and workflow. Monotonous or repetitive processes can be passed on to controlled robots, who will ensure that human presence is not needed in unsuitable or dangerous situations.

The need for these new supply chains will also trigger a change in the skills being hired for. Companies in the manufacturing sector will require technical expertise and a workforce that can efficiently leverage new technologies. This trend is already being witnessed with new skills and rising demand in fields such as big data analytics and data-driven decision-making services.

The future of manufacturing

In India, the fields of analytics, data science and big data are estimated to generate $2.03 billion annually in revenues, growing at a CAGR of 23.8%. This growth is expected to double by 2020 with a sizeable chunk due to big data. Additionally, about 12% will be due to advanced analytics, predictive modeling, and data science.

These figures represent the face of a manufacturing sector that is set to be revolutionized with IoT. It presents a new era for the industry with processes becoming more seamless and integrated to keep customers at their center. It will create an ecosystem where customers are paramount, and processes are altered to match their needs and demands as closely as possible. The manufacturing industry is fast-becoming the pioneering sector in leveraging IoT fully and the future will see more traction to boost capabilities.