Production Management and the Industrial IoT

Posted 5 May 2017 by David Spratt

In the first two parts of this series I looked at what the internet of things (IoT) actually is and then at the Energy Management possibilities for businesses competing on the world stage.

In this, part three, of the series we get down to the nitty gritty of Manufacturing Production Management and how measuring energy flows and consumption can inform critical decisions.

I could make this complicated but if we really get down to the basics there are three main categories that require constant attention in a production environment: People, Processes and Technology.

People – Creating Feedback Loops

In the context of production management one of the most important variables is the performance of individual staff members. How someone uses equipment, works within a team, learns to adapt to new systems can make the difference between a highly profitable unit and one that is not.

What drives people’s decisions and actions will often come down to feedback loops. By using the Internet of Things to deliver energy monitoring information we can give people useful data about what is happening on their production line.

For example, if we can demonstrate that the team’s correct use of energy efficiency tools delivers a better product this not only reinforces their behaviour it also opens up the opportunity for them to take this information and find even better ways to improve efficiency.

How we use technology can be directly connected to the energy a unit or group of units consumes. If a lathe is running at full tilt throughout an eight hour shift does that necessarily mean that unit is being properly used? Or is the operator just running it on full because it that is what they were told to do when they first started years ago?

People make decisions at work every day. How you create feedback loops will inform those decisions more effectively and in doing so improved performance, job satisfaction and company results.

Processes

Every experienced Production Manager can tell you that each team on a production line is quite different and that their results vary considerably. The bigger question is “what causes this?”. By monitoring the flow of individual products and components through a production line we can identify bottlenecks, part shortages and defects quickly and effectively. With the Internet of Things we can break down a process into its smallest components, create various quality checkpoints along the way and eventually ensure near 100% accuracy, complete adherence to standards and instant identification of faults and tolerance variances.

Many would suggest that this is already the case in many well-run sites. But what happens off site with the parts we order and the products we ship?

The key to the internet of things is that our production process begins at the point where a component is ordered , right through the creation of unique SCU’s or products and all the way to the end user’s home, office or factory. This is because we can now potentially track billions of components throughout the supply chain at a cost much lower than we ever thought possible.

Technology

Remember the Internet of Things is not just adding an RFID tag to a unit and tracking it. It is about potentially billions of components that communicate. This can be back to a central point, with multiple other components, with the warehouse, the truck and of course with the end user.

By integrating Internet of Things components to the technologies we use in making things we can establish how one production line consumes energy at a fairly constant rate while another’s consumption appears to ebb and flow throughout the day.

In this instance we might have identified human errors, a malfunctioning device or quality issues with the parts or components being used on this line.

For the first time in our history we can easily measure our technology’s performance down to the tiniest detail. We are no longer limited by the number, location or stage of development of any component.

The Internet of Things opens a world of opportunities for us to deliver better quality at a lower cost and more reliably than ever before.

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