As one of the key technologies included in the 4th Industrial Revolution, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is radically changing manufacturing. Thanks to the availability of IoT-enabled robots like the Meca500 from Mecademic, coupled with low-cost sensors and wireless connectivity, manufacturers can now collect, analyze, and use data for transformative results.
IIoT benefits for manufacturers
Industry 4.0 and the IIoT aren’t just hype; the associated changes are showing tangible benefits such as minimizing downtime, and helping to address the workforce shortage. The 2022 Advanced Manufacturing Outlook report from Plant revealed that the top-cited benefits manufacturers have seen from IIoT and Industry 4.0 are “increased throughput (37%), increased quality of product (33%), reduced staff requirements (28%), and reducing downtime (27%).” Much of these benefits are reaped through the ability to collect new data points that can inform future decisions and predict business outcomes.
Much of these benefits are reaped through the ability to collect new data points that can inform future decisions and predict business outcomes.
If the benefits aren’t enough to pull manufacturers toward Industry 4.0 advances, the negative effects of not adopting these new technologies might make them do so. The 2022 Advanced Manufacturing Outlook report from Plant listed manufacturers’ biggest concerns about not investing in Industry 4.0 tools as: “falling behind their competition (69%), pricing pressures as a result of automation (50%), and customer losses (33%).”
Why the IIoT is important for SMEs
A white paper issued by the World Economic Forum entitled, Accelerating the Impact of Industrial IoT in Small and Medium‑Sized Enterprises: A Protocol for Action includes a worrisome trend for SMEs: “Worker productivity of large companies has outpaced SMEs significantly, in part driven by their ability to invest in Fourth Industrial Revolution technology.”
However, advanced technology is not limited to large enterprises that can make significant capital investments. Small and medium enterprises can also implement Industry 4.0 solutions in a way that makes financial sense.
How the IIoT creates value in manufacturing
Why automation is an important technological step
Although the IIoT benefits of data analysis are enticing, factories can’t leap straight to machine learning and AI without first having a foundation. Collecting data is at the base of the foundation, with analysis and insights layered on top. Automation can be an important step in the direction of an advanced IIoT solution by enabling data collection. Robots and robotic arms are an excellent example of an automated solution that can easily be right-sized for SMEs. The ease of integration and programming, and simplicity built into many of these robots can make them an ideal bridge into the Industry 4.0 world.
Companies with automated solutions that relieve humans of repetitive jobs will also be better positioned to attract and retain workers in the midst of the labor shortage. Deloitte cited the workforce shortage as a manufacturing industry trend to watch in 2022, with an estimated shortfall of 2.1 million skilled jobs by 2030. The Deloitte analysis says, “Shrinking the industry’s public perception gap by making manufacturing jobs a more desirable entry point could be critical to meeting hiring needs in 2022.”
“Shrinking the industry’s public perception gap by making manufacturing jobs a more desirable entry point could be critical to meeting hiring needs in 2022.” —Deloitte
How manufacturers can achieve IIoT business objectives
In an Industry 4.0 issue, Plant magazine suggests that, for manufacturers that want IIoT benefits, “the technologies they are looking for need to be manageable, appropriate to the task, and supported by a workforce that has to know how to operate them in order to deliver desired business results.”
That description can easily be applied to implementing right-sized robotic solutions such as this robotic system used for precision assembly of surgical microneedles, pictured below.
The SEYMOUR TRI-21 is an example of an assembly system making use of the IIoT. This microneedle assembly system uses three IoT-enabled robots from Medacemic.
In the microneedle assembly example, the robotic semi-autonomous machine is both manageable and ideal for the task, which requires extreme precision via machine learning. Using a robotic solution with a trained worker reduces the labor needed, optimizes space in the cleanroom, and delivers impressive business results: a 400% increase in throughput!
Using a robotic solution with a trained worker reduces the labor needed, optimizes space in the cleanroom, and delivers impressive business results: a 400% increase in throughput!
In support of IIoT objectives, the robotic solution provides remote monitoring and operations data, and will support remote operation. This example is just one of many that demonstrate how IIoT solutions such as robotic assembly systems can deliver transformative results.
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