The Internet of Things (IoT) is having a substantial impact on manufacturing. Online connectivity can give factories and plants an edge when it comes to efficiency and productivity and can allow manufacturing companies to outcompete their unconnected competitors.
Due to the inefficiencies that continue to persist in manufacturing, connectivity can help organisations develop their operations by elevating skills gaps and identifying new business opportunities.
Despite this, there are still relatively few factories using cyberspace to improve their operations, with cost often a sticking point for companies that are trying to save money in their quest to be as financially competitive as possible.
The costs of the system should however be offset against the savings that can be made. King's Hawaiian, the California bakers, were able to produce around 180,000 additional pounds of bread everyday by installing FactoryTalk, software which enables its users to track both historical and real time data related to performance. Through FactoryTalk's implementation, King's Hawaiian have been able to reduce maintenance costs and downtime.
To add to this, there's considerable evidence which points to the fact that connected factories are safer factories. Problems can be identified more quickly and communication can occur far more effectively when an issue arises.
There are of course issues connected to 'smart' factories and plants. If you're online there's always the chance that your data could be attacked by cyber criminals and used against you further along the line. Everything should be backed up and secure and a factory should be aware of the dangers that can come with taking your factory online.
The benefits of smart manufacturing certainly outweigh the negatives. A system may cost a lot of money and it may put a factory at risk from cyber criminals, but through increased efficiency and health and safety, it's likely that tomorrow's most competitive factories and plants will utilise the IoT in some manner.