How IoT Promises to Enable Better Product Maintenance for Manufacturers

Tractor is just one example of IoT enabled equipment

By staying continuously connected, manufacturers are transforming the way they support and maintain their products

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been touted in manufacturing when it comes to preventative maintenance. Too often, people associate the IoT with electronics, but countless equipment brands come made with these powerful data driven sensors. The International Data Corporation 2017 release stated that the manufacturing industry was forecasted to invest $178 billion in IoT technology in 2016. IoT solutions can be integrated into existing products and pre-installed in new products. Commercial devices commonly have sensors that record material and supply data, while mechanical devices with sensors track factors like RPM, speed and temperature.

What is the IoT?

IoT sensors that are embedded into products send and receive data on product use via the Internet. Also known as “connected devices,” IoT enabled products range from consumer goods to machinery. Sensors track factors like location changes, fuel levels, battery life, and conditions that cause failure. More and more businesses implement IoT technology each year to gain more consumer insight. Forbes stated that the global IoT market will be $14.4 trillion by 2020.

Some manufacturers that take advantage of IoT technology today include:
• Automotive
• Industrial equipment
• Food and beverage
• Electronics

The IoT makes product maintenance easier in the following ways:

Reduces downtime and repair costs

Gone are the days where equipment must be serviced on a set schedule. IoT technology helps suggest maintenance based on product use. Cloud based machine analytic sensors detect damaged parts and hardware before failure, which extends the product life. This ensures that over-used products receive maintenance sooner than later, while lightly used products aren’t serviced unnecessarily.

Service technicians gain instant access to products they work on thanks to the IoT

Woodside Capital Partners predicts value added services will grow to $120 billion in 2018, meaning manufacturing companies can boost their revenue by also offering maintenance. For example, Phillips was previously just a lighting manufacturer, but now also maintains thousands of light fixtures in Washington, D.C.


Empowers field service jobs through data and technology

Products with IoT technology require little user interaction. When field techs are dispatched to repair a product, they can simply view product data over a Smartphone. This IoT generated data ranges from barcode and serial number to technical specifications. Field techs more often finish jobs in one visit when they have instant data access, which pleases customers. Once IoT becomes the norm, repairmen will perform more preventative services. With IoT technology, techs are alerted of potential product issues sooner. They can contact customers before severe damage occurs, which saves on repair costs.

It’s not certain how the Industrial IoT will change field service job growth, but evolving technology is expected to create higher skilled jobs. Since product maintenance is becoming so data driven, the data science job demand may increase. And since baby boomers are retiring, more field technicians are needed in the Millennial workforce. With the new devices, apps, and other field service technology available today, the younger workforce will be productive in installing, repairing and maintaining equipment.

Improves inventory management

Cloud based inventory systems do everything from scanning a product to tracking once shipped. Companies know exactly when products will be delivered based on this data. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags give each product a unique ID and monitor factors like weather, traffic and temperature while shipping. Supply chain workers can change fleet routes based on traffic and weather problems, which speeds up product arrival time. Even better, an IoT enabled GPS reduces the chance of theft or lost items.

Improves product design

The IoT not only simplifies product repair, but also improves product design. Digitally manufactured products can store years of data, which provides insight for better design. For example, engineers may consider redesigning a product if sensors prove that parts fail in certain temperatures.

In engineering, 3D prototyping is almost an industry necessity which evolves with IoT. For example, many companies utilize 3D prototypes for additive manufacturing of electronic devices. KPMG predicts that over the years, IoT and 3D printing will be among the top technologies to change how people work and live. As a result, 3D printing and IoT could expand to new markets, such as metal based medical implants and IoT based apps that use sensors and circuits.

Increases worker safety

Though manufacturing companies mainly spend on IoT for operations, worker safety is a smaller share. Technicians that do rugged work today stay safe by wearing devices that track environmental conditions. For example, Honeywell and Intel’s “Connected Worker” device has sensors that monitor posture, motion, heart rate and toxins in the air. Field managers typically use IoT based wearables to mitigate potential hazards and track safety trends like collisions to improve the work environment.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that the IoT is transforming the way OEMs and field technicians perform preventative maintenance. Systems with IoT technology are becoming more accessible and affordable, which empowers OEMs of all sizes to renovate their plants and factories. Implementing smart IoT solutions is not easy, but there is a machine analytics solution for every companies’ needs. Technology is constantly evolving, and there is no better time to start than today.

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