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Factories offer strong market appeal for IoT

Posted: 26 Oct 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:IoT  sensor  M2M  manufacturing  robot 

A 2015 McKinsey report has revealed that nearly 40-50 per cent of equipment being used on manufacturing floors will have to be replaced over the next decade. The report also projected that factories will be the next "fertile ground" for Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and technologies that will allow smarter, more automated machine to machine processes that streamline operations, relay data on performance and machine "wellness" for purposes of preventive maintenance, and deliver smarter robots that can assume responsibility for a number of functions.

The news should pique the interest of electronics manufacturers that supply the sensor markets. The growth of the global sensor business between 2011and 2016 has been a robust 9.1 per cent annually, according to Intechno Consulting, a Swiss-based industry research firm. Much of this sensor uptake is in vehicles, ships and planes. However, a robust amount of activity is also centred in the manufacturing and process industries, with Europe, Japan and the U.S. leading the way.

As a frontrunner in the development and deployment of embedded information, communications, and technology (ICT) systems, machine and process automation, IoT manufacturing, intelligent monitoring and autonomous decision-making processes in manufacturing, Germany put forth its Manufacturing 4.0 initiative in 2011, developing completely new business models and tapping the potential to optimise performance in the areas of production and logistics. Other countries are following suit.

However, if electronics companies that develop and deliver sensors to manufacturers are going to optimise their own revenue performance, they need to help manufacturers overcome some of the barriers to entry.

"There is a big gap between operational technology and information technology," said Chris LeBeau, global IT director of Advanced Technology Services (ATS). Operationally, factories are used to seeing output from their equipment for the raw materials they process, but there historically has been very little done when it comes to monitoring machine health for purposes of timely maintenance so you can avoid downtime. Even with a CNC machine you can plug in a laptop to monitor for maintenance, but how do you get this information to an expert?"

LeBeau and others believe that IoT and modern sensor technology can help solve these problems, but that some initial hurdles must be overcome first.

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