For manufacturers considering Industrial IoT, investing in maintenance monitoring comes second only to exploiting automation opportunities. The idea is one of many to be found in a survey – commissioned by Microsoft and Intel – of 500 senior and middle managers based in North America (40%), Europe (35%) and Asia Pacific. (25%). Regions. Participants were familiar with industrial IoT and were responsible for digital transformation in the production of automotive, electronic, pharmaceutical and other products. Nicknamed ‘IoT Signals: Manufacturing Spotlight‘, the report highlights areas where Industrial IoT has delivered significant performance gains and identifies future growth targets.

Return on investment

Scenarios such as predictive maintenance, which uses smart monitoring to minimize downtime and replacement costs, continue to pay dividends for smart factory operators even when financial markets are tough. Manufacturers are looking closely at metrics such as return on equity or return on capital employed when considering future investments, and IoT-enabled systems that increase revenue from assets are highly prized.

IoT Analysis, a Germany-based group that worked with Microsoft and Intel to compile and analyze the data for the report, cites Foxconn as an example. The company – a manufacturer of electronic devices for major companies such as Apple and other well-known brands – has invested in numerous machine sensors at its Shenzhen factory, which can record the performance of machine equipment. production for analysis. “By aggregating historical data and using AI algorithms, machine failures are predicted well in advance, increasing equipment efficiency by 17%,” writes Philipp Wegner of IoT Analytics.

Monitoring overall equipment efficiency was rated an important or very important key performance indicator (KPI) by more than 86% of surveyed experts. The result shows that although many elements combine to push manufacturing performance to the next level, some markers are stronger than others.

Geographically, North American factories are more likely to have implemented a smart factory strategy, or be in the process of doing so, compared to sites in Europe or Asia. However, adoption rates remain high across the board, with at least two-thirds of respondents in the Microsoft-Intel study (rising to 80% in North America) responding positively.

Digging a little deeper into factory KPI numbers helps signal manufacturers’ enthusiasm for deploying IoT on their production lines. Over the past three years, factory KPIs have improved by 15.3%, based on figures reported by survey respondents from Microsoft and Intel. And that could just be the start of a rewarding trend for adopters. By 2025, operators predict a 66% improvement in plant KPI growth seen so far.

Cyber ​​savings

Looking ahead, manufacturers point to reducing the number of cybersecurity incidents and shortening the mean time to detection (MTTD) as two related KPIs that offer ample room for future improvements in security operations. smart factories. Other areas include optimizing energy use, assuming high supply prices persist, and reducing waste, which has operational as well as design inputs.

There is also other good news on the subject of sustainability. The survey found that the KPI with the biggest increase in ambition is the desire of smart factory leaders to reduce the carbon footprint of their operations. This indicates an acceleration in future activity as companies are bound by the combination of stricter environmental legislation and growing customer demand for more environmentally friendly operations.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that sustainability improvements may require making KPIs easier to measure and visualize so shop floor workers can better monitor the environmental consequences of any changes to production processes (which emissions calculators can help).

Feet on the ground

While it is certainly open to new ideas, the manufacturing sector is necessarily pragmatic and the authors of the survey note that the uses of augmented reality and digital twins were at a relatively early stage with projects in the proof-of-concept phase. (PoC) or development. In terms of future investments, spending is expected to be above average for digital twins and below average for augmented reality, based on respondent submissions.

Before an idea becomes fully operational, it needs to move from PoC to pilot projects, where it will be evaluated against a number of metrics – including return on investment – ​​and then deployed, if the evidence shows that the goals can be achieved. Projects that have gone through this pipeline include cloud-based quality management systems (with 50% of companies surveyed having solutions fully or partially deployed) and AI-based machine vision (39% fully/partially deployed). In contrast, only 20% of respondents were using augmented reality to help guide enterprise-wide assembly, with most implementations still at the PoC stage.

It’s not just pragmatism that’s a factor – skills gaps can also be an issue, with new technologies such as the use of digital twins to visualize, simulate and forecast manufacturing operations. However, as adoption increases, it follows that integration challenges – which are exacerbated by a lack of qualified personnel – are likely to subside.


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