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Where are my machines and what are they doing? Realizing the benefits of IoT

Industry 4.0 and Smart Factory concepts are becoming pervasive in large manufacturing companies. Manufacturing giants have sophisticated IoT strategies and are moving steadily down the path of realizing value for their efforts. The top 100 manufacturing companies in the US have over $36B of revenue and are compelled to explore Industrial IoT capabilities to stay competitive at scale. However, the US also has over 60,000 manufacturing companies with 20 or more employees. How can small growing companies start realizing the benefits of IoT?

Industrial IoT benefits can be grouped into two main categories: Operational and Strategic. Operational benefits build efficiencies into the manufacturing process while strategic benefits build out new business models and revenue streams. The first goal for midsize manufacturing companies moving towards developing an IoT strategy should be to visualize their machines, either factory floor machines or finished products, so that they can better understand their machine inventory and build in valuable efficiencies. Asset Tracking and Status functionality implements both strategies. Machine generated sensory data is used to identify the location of the machine and how it is running. This information can be visualized and merged with logistics plans to create an efficient process to make sure the machine is at the right place at the right time. In addition, information on how the machine is running is the basis for building more sophisticated strategies for condition-based and even predictive maintenance.

Starting the journey with Asset Tracking and Status achieves two ancillary benefits. Firstly, it builds the fundamental IoT stack that will be the foundation of many more applications. Understanding how to enable the machines, implement edge computing, build out IoT gateways, consolidate data in the cloud and build value-added applications is the core of any IoT strategy. Implementing Asset Tracking and Status functionality also allows manufacturing companies to implement Command and Control applications. Once we know where the machines are and how they are running we can build applications that can configure the machines, synchronize the machines, enable and disable the machines, etc. These fundamentals are necessary for more sophisticated strategies.

Not only large, established manufacturing companies can take advantage of valuable IoT strategies. As small manufacturing companies grow, they need to take small steps towards utilizing IoT to drive growth and efficiencies and maximize the value of their companies. Understanding the whereabouts and status of the machines is the first step towards creating a sophisticated IoT strategy that can differentiate a company from its competition.

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