The Internet of Things, or IoT, is collecting a massive amount of information right now. While the attention has been directed at artificial intelligence, self-driving vehicles, and the smart grid, the greatest benefits will probably be seen in manufacturing, given the sheer size of this market sector and the volume of resources it consumes. Let’s look at how the Internet of Things could supercharge lean manufacturing before predicting the future of lean manufacturing.
Taking Efficiency to the Next Level
The Internet of Things allows for data collection as it is reported by every machine on the shop floor. This will allow those who can mine and analyze the data to find new efficiencies to take advantage of. It gives them the ability to refine operations based on real-world data from every line in the factory and identify increasingly optimized processes and procedures. Businesses can redeploy resources like skilled labor and equipment where it is most effective, or they can sell the equipment that is no longer needed. Now it won’t take up space or represent a lost, sunk cost.
Automated systems will also streamline inspections and process monitoring, freeing up people to deal with problems as they arise and – ideally – before they result in breakdowns or defective products. People will work in tasks that cannot be automated and fix issues with the machine.
The IoT enables lean operations in the rest of the organization, too. It can help firms track the location of workers and equipment, like forklifts in the warehouse, for example. Businesses can determine the efficiency of individual staff and study the best practices of top performers before sharing it with the rest of the team.
Asset tracking can simplify inventory management, because the location of raw materials and finished products are tracked. You don’t have to hunt for a particular spare part for a repair or uncommon item needed to complete a customer order. On a larger scale, businesses don’t have to wonder where their delivery driver is and when they’ll arrive.
The Widespread Adoption of Preventative Maintenance
Preventative maintenance truly comes into its own with the rollout of the IoT. You won’t have to have maintenance personnel wander the shop floor looking for unusual problems. Sensors built into the equipment will inform them when anything is out of line. Increasing temperatures and vibration levels may be flagged by the machine control center and reported to a human, and humans can always check the state of things. They’ll be able to identify potential problems and resolve them before production equipment breaks, shutting down the assembly line. You won’t have to hunt down that strange hum, because you’ll know exactly which motor is having trouble and what is wrong with it.
With the right tools, preventative maintenance won’t simply be replacing filters when the pressure is rising. Instead, they’ll graduate to predictive maintenance based on analysis of their own internal data. Mechanics will know that this vibration pattern in the turbine means that the gears will need to be replaced in a few days before the thing seizes.
The Higher Quality Levels It Supports
The Internet of Things in a business setting provides a wealth of data to quality experts. Instead of setting up experiments to track system variables in the field and studying operations one by one, the IoT will automatically collect this data. Quality experts will be able to determine warning signs that a piece of equipment is out of spec or the incoming materials aren’t coming out correctly before they have a large batch of defective products. Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma projects will be able to monitor the new state of operations as soon as equipment goes online, and they’ll have the hard data to analyze regarding the new performance level. They’ll be able to inspect a product as it moves through the operation instead of inspecting it at the end and possibly scrapping it.
Quality professionals can learn how to take advantage of this deluge of data through a lean manufacturing program. Online programs allow you to attend classes when it fits your schedule while minimizing the time and cost involved. You can Learn a Master of Science Lean Manufacturing totally online, learning the practical application of lean principles and advanced mechanical engineering concepts. You’ll learn how to employee Lean and Six Sigma along with other engineering principles. You can specialize in operations management, supply chain management, healthcare management or global leadership.
The Cost Savings It Produces
The Internet of Things can help businesses save money in a variety of ways. By automating data capture on things like machine uptime and engaging in predictive maintenance, you need fewer people to keep things humming. Accurate, real-time data collection on production rates and quality simplifies the job of quality engineer. Real time data on the consumption of materials and production of end products minimizes the volume of items pulled through the supply chain. You only order what you need, when you need it. Furthermore, the orders may be placed automatically as customers make a purchase and the manufacturing authorization is relayed to the factory.
The detailed data on machine uptime and utilization rates allows businesses to determine exactly how many machines they need to fulfill production orders. Data from the IoT and advanced data analysis makes it possible to know when it is cost effective to replace a piece of equipment instead of repair it, and management can schedule the replacement when it has the least impact on production. Predictive maintenance and more preventative maintenance will maximize the life of equipment.
The Future of Lean Manufacturing
The Internet of Things will result in optimization and cost savings in existing manufacturing facilities. However, its greatest contribution will be to the future of lean manufacturing. The next generation of factories will be designed with optimized manufacturing processes. Automated data collection and smart controlling software minimizes how much human labor is required to maintain the entire system, and the IoT will tell them exactly what needs to be done and where to maintain or repair the equipment. Replacement parts for failing equipment, raw materials for the production line and consumable items used in the manufacturing process are all only ordered as required, but will arrive just before they are needed. This will minimize wasteful bulk buying and mistakes in the ordering process. Close automated monitoring of the production process from the arrival of raw materials to the shipment of the final product will result in a streamlined operation. These facilities will experience less idle time for humans and machines, see fewer defects in any stage of the assembly process, and use as little material and labor as possible.
The Internet of Things supports leaner operations everywhere it is implemented. Moreover, this technology is essential to creating the lean, optimized factories of the future.