May 5, 2017

Sustainable Manufacturing with the 'Internet of Things'

What Is It?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a relatively new term used to describe a connected system of embedded computing devices whose infrastructure is internet-based. It is often used to collect significant amounts of data/information from these connected devices and can also be used to control individual or groups of devices. Manufacturers can exploit IoT in order to collect larger amounts of data, and coupled with analytics and decision support tools, convert this data to valuable business information. Sensors, providing real time data, can be placed on fielded products or manufacturing equipment to collect performance data. Information extracted from the data facilitates system-level analyses can be used to improve product quality, increase production efficiencies, and resource utilization.

How Is It Used?

A 2011 case study by Rockwell Automation describes the benefits observed by a business in Australia that deployed advanced process monitoring and control technologies in their milk processing plant. Instead of manually controlling temperature and moisture levels in their milk drying operation, advanced sensing and model predictive controllers provided real-time automatic optimization of process parameters. The company realized significant reduction in process variation (52% on a key process parameter), increased throughput, and significant reduction in energy costs.

Why Does It Matter?

As Internet of Things technologies and markets advance over time, deployment of large numbers of sensors and advanced controls will become more and more cost effective. IoT technologies will increasingly make their way into more industrial and commercial products with resulting benefits to customers (e.g., improved performance and reliability) and manufacturers (e.g., increased connectivity to products and customers, service opportunities). Improved cost effectiveness of sensing and data analysis will also enable advances in Predictive Maintenance as highlighted in our November 2014 Newsletter.