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This blog covers numerous topics on industrial automation such as operations & management, continuous & batch processing, connectivity, manufacturing & machine control, and Industry 4.0.

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AI and IoT Drive Efficiency and Innovation in Modern Manufacturing

Manufacturers know they must adapt to changing conditions to stay competitive. Many look to artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) to meet that goal in a continually demanding landscape. Below, we'll look at some specific ways to use AI and IoT in manufacturing to maintain productivity and stay innovative.

Tapping Into IoT Data to Pinpoint Slowdowns

Modern manufacturing facilities contain a wealth of valuable information. IoT sensors help tech-savvy leaders access it and obtain actionable data about what’s going well and where improvements must happen. For example, IoT data could show which assembly lines are most productive and at what times of the day.

In cases of manufacturers having multisite presences, IoT data could show them which facilities have the highest outputs. People can then narrow down the potential causes of discrepancies, working toward better consistency.

Perhaps newer team members need more training or outdated equipment is to blame for inefficiencies. IoT sensors can often get to the bottom of things, provided the people using them take the time to analyze the data.

Consider the case of an Indian subsidiary of an automotive manufacturer based in the United Kingdom. It makes full vehicles and components. However, the company dealt with a slowdown due to its legacy systems being 20 years old. Leaders invested in an industrial IoT solution to find and fix process bottlenecks.

One step was to upload time-based data from each manufacturing step into a dashboard that provided further analysis. People could also use the dashboard to monitor and optimize all shop floor equipment. It even has a color-coded design to show whether key metrics are within ideal parameters. Since this IoT tool is cloud-based, authorized users can easily access data from anywhere.

There’s also a built-in digital twin feature. Utilizing it allows the manufacturer to test various approaches before applying them. They can then feel more confident about making operational changes without encountering unpleasant surprises. Overall, the technology enabled a 15% improvement in a paint shop line. Representatives also said the real-time data from the IoT sensors helps them prevent downtime.

Using AI and IoT in Manufacturing to Learn What Customers Want

Browsing retail shelves reveals an incredible assortment of possibilities. However, it’s not always easy to determine which of those items will become rapid sellers or flops. Developing new products is so resource intensive that people cannot afford to leave everything to chance. That’s why some manufacturers are using artificial intelligence and the IoT to take much of the mystery out of figuring out what people are most likely to buy.

For example, a major e-commerce brand unveiled a new smart speaker feature in 2022. It allows brands to answer the questions potential customers ask most frequently and direct them to dedicated e-commerce storefronts. When a smart speaker user asks something like, “How do I get pet hair off my carpet?” they might get a suggestion for a specific vacuum cleaner. The seller can also link to where they can buy it.

Sellers can also log into a portal showing customers' most common questions. If a company manufactures and sells its products, those queries could reveal people’s pain points and how businesses could solve them with new or existing items. In another case, a food brand with more than 150 years of history has turned to AI to accelerate its innovation efforts.

Coming up with tantalizing flavors can be a great way to keep people interested in buying, but it’s also complicated. The company tracks billions of data points to find product inspiration. This approach also accelerates the overall time frame for bringing those items to market. If a potential new flavor seems particularly likely to succeed in one region, a manufacturer might focus on it first.

These are just some of the many ways to rely on AI and IoT in manufacturing. Using both simultaneously can give excellent results.

Keeping Equipment and Production Running Smoothly

Manufacturing leaders often deploy AI and the Internet of Things to avoid production stoppages or prolonged periods of decreased output. Those events can be prohibitively costly and erode customer confidence. Fortunately, it’s increasingly possible to find products that give manufacturers better visibility so they can steer clear of problems.

For example, one smart valve positioner gives continuous diagnostics in three categories and sounds alarms when performance problems arise. When people get immediate alerts about potential issues, they can address them quickly, making equipment shutdowns less likely.

Many people also combine AI and the IoT in manufacturing by capitalizing on predictive analytics. In such cases, IoT sensors continuously collect data and AI algorithms analyze it to check for abnormalities. Besides warning people of operational problems, such setups can help companies limit emissions. They give carbon footprint snapshots of overall resource usage.

Consider a case where a manufacturer notices a particular machine suddenly uses up to 30% more energy than its counterparts in the same factory. A closer examination might reveal the main difference is the piece of equipment using more power is nearly a decade older than the others. Upgrading it could curb excessive emissions while reducing the chances of breakdowns.

Some companies use AI and IoT in manufacturing by relying on robots to perform preventive maintenance using measuring devices. One business was losing $75,000 per month from compressed air leaks. Leaders believed having a robot roam around while carrying an instrument to measure them could help the organization tackle the problem. Using robots for maintenance and inspections is also beneficial when a machine is within an area too small for humans to access safely or includes other hazards.

How Will You Use AI and IoT in Manufacturing?

The examples above are just some of the many exciting ways people can deploy AI and IoT in manufacturing. Let them inspire you about how to use these technologies, too—possibly at the same time.

Before diving into the process, think about some specific challenges for your company to overcome, as well as potential ways to make progress using technology. If you need more help, consider partnering with a technology provider that can suggest the most beneficial ways to get the desired results while staying within budget.

Emily Newton
Emily Newton
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, an online magazine celebrating advances in science and technology.

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