How The Internet Of Things Helps Manufacturers Solve Problems Before They Happen

How The Internet Of Things Helps Manufacturers Solve Problems Before They Happen
Consumer Goods

PSFK interviewed Bill Moffett, Global Industry Senior Product Marketing Manager at Microsoft, about the Future of Manufacturing

  • 20 july 2017

Gathering and analyzing feedback from vendors, consumers and members of a manufacturing organization is crucial to a successful supply chain. Connected devices and real-time data have allowed for proactive supply chains, which is to say it is now possible—and an important competitive advantage—to identify issues before they occur in the form of a customer complaint. On the manufacturing side, IoT-enabled devices can monitor manufacturing assets and alert the maintenance team that a part is wearing out before it actually breaks.

In our Future of Manufacturing report, a collaboration with Microsoft, PSFK spoke to Microsoft’s Global Industry Senior Product Marketing Manager Bill Moffett about the game-changing technologies enhancing the modern supply chain.

The excerpt below is a snapshot of the analyses provided in the Future of Manufacturing report. Click here to download the full free report, which includes expert insights, key scenarios and enabling technologies.

How important is it to incorporate feedback from different levels of the supply chain—from customers to global engineering teams? What technologies enable this?

Obtaining and then understanding feedback is critical whether it’s with vendors, customers or even within your own organization. The insight gained from that feedback not only provides significant gains within the supply chain, but also within your own internal manufacturing operations. Whether it’s improved and expedited delivery modes, changes in packaging or even various forms of product innovation, timely and quality feedback is the core to the overall ability of a manufacturer to not only provide what the market wants, but also to anticipate market changes.

This is where Microsoft’s ability to leverage the “Internet of Things” gives manufacturers an advantage. By using equipment and supply chain operations feedback from IoT-enabled sensors, manufacturers can effectively monitor the efficiency and effectiveness of their processes. The technology to monitor feedback is available—now it’s up to manufacturers to make the business decision to actively analyze that data and leverage those insights gained from that feedback and process monitoring.

Customers are increasingly on the hunt for customizable products that they can mold into their lifestyles. What are the difficulties of introducing this level of modularization into the supply chain? How can manufacturers achieve customization at scale?

Customers are more informed than ever before.  With access to the internet, customers have options available to them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  This means that retaining customers is becoming more difficult to do.  As customers become less loyal, manufacturers must seek ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors. One of the ways that manufacturers are adapting to this is by offering more customizable products. Customizing the product has been the traditional answer as it can be as simple as adding new color options, different forms or features. Unfortunately, this can add a significant burden on the supply chain in the form of additional components, tight turnaround times and quality challenges.

Another way that we’re seeing manufacturers address the need for customization is in the form of “servitization.” When a customer identifies the need for something different than what is currently being offered, that means that there’s been an inherent breakdown in what the marketplace desires and what manufacturers are providing. It can be as simple as the manufacturer not responding quickly enough to changing trends or simply that the customer is seeking a tighter relationship with their suppliers that can give them flexibility to adapt and change to the marketplace that the customer is a part of. The customer’s desire for something to be customized may simply be a reaction to a new market trend that they’ve identified earlier than their competitors.

I feel that within manufacturing there is a shift from simply focusing on building products as standalone offerings. Now manufacturers are looking to provide services that enhance existing products. These services offerings open up new customer outcomes and relationships. What you are getting is not only a product that works, but now you are nurturing a relationship—a partnership that is built on feedback and trust.  This gives all parties involved an ability to scale knowing that it will be mutually beneficial to the team as a whole.

At any stage of the supply chain, there are factors that might lead to unpredictable circumstances that can set back production schedules. How can manufacturers react or adapt to unplanned events?

Unfortunately, problems and challenges do occur within supply chains. The key is to identify these as quickly as possible and then react and work to fix them. Traditionally, these problems make first make themselves known in the form of a phone call or email from the customer saying the shipment is late—or if you’re lucky it may come from your own team when they identify the problem early on. Either way, it’s a very reactive way to handle things. What advanced manufacturers need is a way to be proactive in identifying potential issues before they happen.

At Microsoft we have Remote Monitoring solutions built on the Microsoft Azure platform that allow your assets to talk to you in real time. With live data streaming in from connected devices, manufacturers have visibility into what is happening and can then respond as conditions change. This ability to see what’s happening in real time, storing the data and then analyzing that data gives manufacturers an opportunity to predict potential outcomes. With this kind of information, they can then put in safeguards and plan more effectively for problem resolutions.

With an increased use of data-collecting devices, manufacturers are able to have more concrete knowledge of their day-to-day factory operations. What actionable insights can be derived from this data collection?

The use of IoT sensors on manufacturing assets is a game changer especially when you consider the impact of asset maintenance. Devices can now be monitored in real time and compared to their optimal operational settings. This means that we can see, with a mathematical degree of certainty, when a part is worn down and needs servicing. No longer do you have a department built to reactively fix things after they break. Instead, you have a department that is focused on the proactive resolution of issues before they occur. With Predictive Maintenance on the manufacturing floor, you’ve just enabled a much more effective manufacturing planning cycle, improved your ability to respond to customer needs and prevented costly problems before they happen.

The 30+ page report includes:

  • Insights into the evolving manufacturing landscape and how to prepare for increased supply chain pressure
  • 5 forward thinking scenarios illustrating the digital landscape
  • 10 trends shaping connected manufacturing
  • Four industry disruptors influencing makers
  • Actionable takeaways for business and information technology decision makers

In partnership with Microsoft, PSFK presents the Future Of Manufacturing report, an opportunity playbook that explores a new era of supply chain management and the technologies that enable faster, more agile manufacturing operations. Tune into for a 10-week in-depth look at expert insights, key findings and detailed scenarios, or download the full report here.

Lead Image: Industry 4.0 factory IoT integration AI web computing concept via Shutterstock

+Bill Moffett
+consumer goods
+Customer retention
+future of manufacturing
+internet of things

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