In manufacturing, IoT, or Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is revolutionizing business efficiencies. The cost of bringing devices online has never been lower while the combined power of big data analytics and machine learning is at an all-time high. The efficiency of product output makes or breaks manufacturers; now is the time to start exploring IoT.

IoT will revolutionize manufacturers’ operating models, but only if done the right way.

Today IoT is being used to eliminate waste by enabling real-time predictive maintenance — replacing parts only when needed, instead of preventative maintenance on scheduled intervals. Imagine if instead of changing your oil every 3,000 miles, your car could sense the precise moment it would need an oil change. Your ability to go 5,000 miles between servicing could save you thousands of dollars over the lifetime of your car — in manufacturing it’s saving millions of dollars every day for companies entering the era of industry 4.0.  

Optimize worker safety

IoT is not only being used for preventative maintenance; it’s also being used to optimize worker health, safety and productivity. For example, IoT can identify the area of a line prone to overheating and let managers know when it’s time to replace a critical part to eliminate workplace hazards. IoT can also enable manufacturers to optimize work schedules and tweak their energy usage to slash spending on unnecessary costs.

Success stories in IoT catch the eyes of leadership in manufacturing, but the onus is almost always on IT and floor managers to develop the implementation strategy. This process isn’t always easy and expectations are often unfair. As with any new technology, IoT comes with a steep learning curve and companies should budget for implementing multiple iterations before realizing a return on their investment.

Have a plan

Ultimately manufacturing businesses need to make sure their organizations’ IoT investment has a solid business case and a strategic development plan. In order for manufacturers to ensure they’re efficiently investing in IoT they should keep the following in mind:

Revolutions don’t happen in 6 months or a year: A good strategy for implementing IoT always starts with a proof of concept. Pick a line or a division of the business with a clearly identified problem, and deploy the solution there. It’s easier to measure results on a smaller scale, and a smaller deployment is less disruptive to the business as a whole. Also, identify a core group of trusted employees to help test the solution — their feedback will be invaluable in validating whether a larger deployment is the right choice.

There’s no reason to go it alone: Often, manufacturers hire in-house IoT teams before they know what solution they need to build – not unlike building an Olympic team before you know what event you’re competing in. Instead, companies should be looking to form partnerships or work with consultants who can accelerate their path to learning. Given the expanding number of IoT technologies in the current market, the right partner should have broad IoT experience and a long list of successful deployments with measurable impact to a business’s bottom line. In the future, it will undoubtedly make sense to hire internally to support these IoT enabled solutions, but money is better spent investing early in someone who has been there before and can optimize your desired outcome.

IoT will revolutionize manufacturers’ operating models, but only if done the right way. By keeping these considerations in mind, manufacturers can ensure their investments are going toward a solution that will provide serious return.