Internet of Things: Sizing up the Opportunity in Manufacturing

By Avinash Salelkar, Vice President & Head, Manufacturing, Syntel Inc.

Avinash Salelkar, Vice President & Head, Manufacturing, Syntel Inc.

Syntel, Inc. (NASDAQ: SYNT) is a Michigan based integrated technology and business services provider. The company has a current market capitalization of $ 3.66 billion.

We stand on the brink of a world in which billions of devices, objects and machines can sense, share and communicate through the Internet. These devices continuously generate data which can be analysed to provide a wealth of information that can empower intelligent decision making.

The Internet of Things, or IoT, is not a new concept, but it has been gaining steam. The advent of IPv6, low-cost sensor networks, ubiquitous data connectivity, and advancements in cloud and analytics have led to increased adoption recently.  

IoT in Manufacturing

The asset-intensive nature of the manufacturing industry makes it a great candidate for IoT, but today’s manufacturing systems are sometimes referred to as “DRIP” — or Data Rich, Information Poor.

Machines equipped with sensors and programmable logic controllers have existed in manufacturing for decades now, but these networks often exist in silos without fully integrating with enterprise systems. To harness the true value of IoT, they need to be integrated with IT and operational systems through highly-connected IP network structures.

Industry leaders are already implementing many of these smart manufacturing concepts, harnessing IoT, Big Data and Analytics to convert data to actionable intelligence and gain insights that give them a competitive advantage.

The Future – The Art of the Possible

Embedded sensors can generate a wealth of data about a manufacturer’s operations, but IoT cannot exist in a vacuum. There are myriad possibilities when it comes to using IoT in manufacturing — the only limit is the creativity of the team implementing the systems.

The combination of IoT with mobility technology can untether production managers from their offices. With an interconnected network of sensors embedded throughout a production line, managers can remotely view machine status in near real time on a handheld device. 

In addition, analytics can be applied to this data, providing actionable information to enable automated workflows, reduce human intervention and optimize production flows and systems.

Analytics can be performed on machine sensor data to identify patterns and early signs of failure, define a set of parameters, monitor equipment in real time and predict failures before they happen.

This type of predictive maintenance program virtually eliminates unplanned downtime, reduces maintenance spending, optimizes asset utilization, and can prevent collateral damage by taking action before a catastrophic failure.

Going a step further, predictive maintenance can be integrated with warranty management to offer business insights such as warranty period and pricing determination. Analysing component failure data can identify suspicious warranty claims and reduce fraudulent warranty pay-outs.

Predictive maintenance can also be integrated with PLM to perform failure root cause analysis and make automotive design changes that can lower recall rates and reduce repair costs.

IoT has also enabled the connected car concept to become a game changer. Vehicle sensor data can be analysed to determine driving habits, empowering insurance companies to offer Usage-Based Insurance (UBI) that encourages safe driving and enables consumers to control their premiums.

Vehicle data can identify crashes, triggering automatic notifications to emergency dispatchers and first responders, reducing response time and providing faster assistance, especially in remote areas.

Another area of immense interest is Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) and Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) communications. V2V enables wireless data transfer between nearby vehicles — sending information such as speed, location, direction of travel, braking and loss of stability.

V2I enables vehicles to communicate with roadside infrastructure such as traffic signals and sign boards, giving road authorities critical information on traffic conditions that can filter back to drivers as real-time traffic alerts or route guidance.

Together, V2V and V2I can help vehicles intelligently anticipate the road ahead, keep drivers informed, and even empower autonomous decisions such as braking and/or steering to avoid impending danger.

How to Get Started?

At its core, IoT is a highly interconnected network. It’s important for manufacturers to recognize they also have interconnected relationships with network providers, IoT platform providers and IT services firms, which all need to collaborate effectively to deliver a successful IoT solution.

Working with an IT service provider like Syntel can act as a catalyst to begin growing your IoT ecosystem. Manufacturers need to shift from siloed legacy systems and move to a more integrated environment that supports cloud services and automation frameworks.

IT firms can also provide manufacturers with the Big Data analytics skills and solutions to handle the colossal amount of data generated, and implement real-time reporting capabilities.

Forging the Way Ahead

If manufacturers’ IT and business teams collaborate on a defined strategy for IoT solutions, they can reap the immense value that this technology brings. Technology partners should come to the table with a solid IoT value proposition and change their approach from “This is what we can do” to “Here’s your problem and here’s how we can help you.”

IoT will change how manufacturers make decisions, view and design their products and systems, and measure their equipment and product performance — all of which can create a positive feedback loop to transform the business. So why is IoT not in the mainstream already?

The single largest challenge facing manufacturers may in fact be manufacturers themselves. There has been a pervasive cultural inertia that resists implementing IoT solutions, but innovators and early adopters such as GE, Bosch, Siemens, Schneider Electric, Daimler and BMW are now taking large steps towards IoT adoption. It is only a matter of time before the rest of the industry follows suit and IoT becomes a mainstream manufacturing technology.

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