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The Internet of Things, commonly abbreviated as simply IoT, is a term that is used to describe a vast digital network that is connected to physical objects, or “things.” Meant to facilitate a quick and secure method of transmitting, collecting and exchanging data, the IoT has already made a huge impact in the manufacturing sector. While the majority of IoT-based functionality revolves around data collection, process and storage, the future potential of the IoT cannot be denied.

In fact, according to some recent studies, 35 percent of U.S.-based manufacturers are currently utilizing smart sensors, which rely on the IoT, in order to collect and apply logistical and organizational data. Furthermore, 38 percent of manufacturers are currently embedding data sensors into their products. Finally, 34 percent agree that the adoption of an IoT-oriented workflow is “extremely critical” to the daily operations of manufacturers within the U.S.

Bolstering Day-To-Day Operations

One of the biggest advantages of the IoT comes in the way of enhanced automation functionality. This ultimately paves the way for a number of other benefits, including greater flexibility in production, improved quality control and heightened productivity. In fact, the team with Stanley Black & Decker has been able to bolster throughput by 10 percent while raising labor productivity to a total of 92 percent at one of their plants through IoT integration.

Meeting Today’s Energy Standards

Another benefit to the IoT is greater energy efficiency, which, apart from accommodating today’s standards in energy usage, could amount to a substantial reduction in costs on behalf of nearly any manufacturing facility. Siemens’ own Energy Analytics program, for example, is able to lower their clients’ energy costs by at least 20 percent. At a Siemens’ plant in Germany, 75 percent of their value chain is now being handled through process and control automation via the IoT.

Improved Maintenance Scheduling

Some manufacturers are using the IoT as a means of introducing predictive maintenance strategies to their day-to-day workflow, which serves to identify and rectify potential issues before they occur. According to recent studies, effective use of the IoT can reduce machine breakdowns by as much as 70 percent while simultaneously lowering maintenance and repair costs by up to 30 percent.

General Electric currently offers such services through its own SmartSignal service, which utilizes the analytical and predictive capabilities of Predix. In fact, average customers of GE’s SmartSignal solution experience full ROI within a period of 12 months. Some clients achieve this in as few as six.

Fleet Management

Finally, the IoT can also benefit shipping, transportation logistics and fleet management. While UPS already uses the IoT to complement their own fleet, their proprietary IoT-based software, ORION, is expected to save the company as much as $400 million a year when it is introduced. The software serves to optimize delivery routes on behalf of drivers, ultimately saving time while improving the accuracy of shipments. UPS is certainly the exception and not the rule, however. According to recent studies, only 25 percent of all fleets in operation today are taking advantage of the IoT.

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