In this age of technology, progressive manufacturers are buying into the concept and seizing the benefits derived from the connected enterprise. These benefits include more control of costs, improved operations and better customer satisfaction. Here are a few ways manufacturers can achieve these goals using the Internet, and how some manufacturers are already making the most of it.

Using The Internet Of Things

The Internet of Things, referred to as IoT, represents the ability of machines and equipment to communicate with each other and with enterprise business systems using the Internet. While pundits have joked for years about home appliances calling the repairman automatically, this idea is not far from reality in manufacturing. Companies are using IoT to improve everything from maintenance and repair planning to shop floor data collection.

Enterprise Asset Maintenance (EAM)

Manufacturers want to keep equipment running in peak condition to improve efficiency and throughput and to ensure that the company has the necessary agility to service customer needs quickly. Machines equipped with sensors monitor operations and alert the maintenance team when certain process parameters are breached or the number of parts produced reaches a predefined threshold.

This enables the team to respond quickly to schedule a preventive maintenance or a quick repair order so that the equipment continues to run without unnecessary and unplanned downtime. The early warning about potential imminent failures allows the maintenance department some leeway in scheduling maintenance so that it occurs at the least disruptive time.

The next level in this process is for the machine to notice the possible need for maintenance and to contact the company’s EAM system and schedule the work order itself. Eventually, it may even requisition its own necessary repair components.

Customer Support

Companies that supply capital equipment or crucial items such as medical devices are offering additional support services to customers. Installed units monitor their own performance and alert the manufacturer when the unit is due for service. The devices may also order consumable and disposable supplies based on usage so the company never has to check supplies or worry about running out.

Visibility into the entire global supply chain is critical for manufacturers.

In the event of a necessary service call, equipment sends the likely cause information to the manufacturer’s service engineers, who arrive on site with the right parts and repair manuals to ensure that they can complete the service call in a single visit. This improves customer satisfaction and helps to control maintenance and service costs.

Shop Floor Data Collection

Machinery and material handling equipment equipped with sensors can automatically transmit information to a company’s information system to keep status information up to date without requiring manual intervention. Sensing devices may update shop floor data so that work order status is always up to date, while other equipment may automatically process material movement transactions. Both types of transactions reduce errors from human interaction and increase system accuracy for more efficient operations.

Supply Chain Visibility

Visibility into the entire global supply chain is critical for manufacturers, especially those in highly regulated industries such as medical devices, tightly scheduled industries such as automotive or food processing, and manufacturers who rely heavily on outsourced production. Each of these industries will benefit from enabling visibility using the Internet.

In The Spotlight

The Internet simplifies communication of order and shipment information, cutting non-value-added steps and unnecessary time out of the process. Removing wasted time reduces lead times and improves customer satisfaction.

In addition, the Internet simplifies collaborative forecasting, enabling customers, partners and sales agents to provide input that improves forecast accuracy and helps to reduce inventory and smooth production schedules for more efficient operations.

Many manufacturers rely on portals for communication and supply chain visibility, while others use it for rapid transmittal of EDI transactions. Still others may grant access to their in-house ERP systems so customers and vendors can access information directly, or request access to supplier systems so they can check status or receive updates automatically.

Cloud Computing

One of the ways manufacturers are using the Internet most effectively is by moving their enterprise systems to the cloud. SaaS (Software as a Service) enterprise applications are available for most aspects of a business, from ERP and CRM to banking and payroll.

Using SaaS systems allows manufacturers to focus on their core competencies while leaving IT operations to others. Cloud solutions offer high availability, predictable costs and strong security. They are particularly effective for companies with remote employees or sites in multiple locations.

Manufacturing has been profoundly changed by the Internet. These are just a few of the ways that manufacturing companies have adopted the Internet to improve operations, control costs and increase customer satisfaction.


Tom Bonine
About The Author Tom Bonine
Tom Bonine is president of National Metal Fabricators. The Chicago area firm, established in 1944, offers custom fabrication, angle rings, welding, and bar milling services.

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