Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized Magazine. She has over three years of experience writing industrial topics for the manufacturing, energy, and supply chain industries.
The Internet of Things, also called IoT, collects, processes, and transmits data by design. It enables many opportunities, from automation to more informed and data-driven decision-making. In industrial settings, like manufacturing or logistics, it can revolutionize operations through efficiency, productivity, and cost enhancements.
One area where IoT can help manufacturers improve is waste management. Facilities have a vested interest to reduce trash, improve efficiency and generate higher levels of output. Doing this would lead to cost savings and improvements to the bottom line, not the least of which is better products and delivery.
How can industrial IoT reduce manufacturing waste to help supercharge lean initiatives? What does that mean for the industry as a whole?
Understanding Wasteful Habits
In general, we tend to look at waste as a byproduct of processes and operations, but there’s more to it. It can also come from consumption or utilization. For example, businesses might send materials or products in multiple trucks instead of optimizing the truck’s square footage to maximize what they ship. Alternatively, another example would be keeping unused materials around the shop. Wastefulness also extends to fuel, supplies, and other resources that are consumed during various development and manufacturing processes. They might not be utilized to their full capacity, or there might be a lot of waste, such as discarded fuel canisters with small amounts still inside.
With smart insights, that waste can be identified and utilized in fresh ways. IoT can be used to discern what’s being unused and where. It can also be leveraged to make more efficient use of resources in general. Those same fuel barrels, outfitted with IoT sensors, could send out alerts that there’s something left inside before they’re discarded. They can help organizations pinpoint where they’re wasting resources or supplies in bulk.
Employing Smart Asset Tracking
Tools, equipment, and machinery tend to exchange hands within a manufacturing operation — except for static and heavy gear. When this happens, different pieces of equipment can get damaged, lost, or even stolen. Naturally, this increases the amount of waste a manufacturer incurs, especially with damaged goods. Embedding sensors and enabling network connectivity can help keep track of goods and materials.
IoT can be adopted for industrial asset tracking to help mitigate many of the associated problems. The technology can be used for nearly any form of equipment or tool, too. It reduces theft because you can see where gear is at all times. You can also mitigate damage by understanding who has what and why they are using a particular piece of equipment. That information can inform future actions, like banning the use of a tool that damages certain items.
Traditional Waste Systems Made Smart
Think of your average waste management process, where the offending materials or resources are identified and flagged for disposal. At a basic level, they’re sorted for conventional waste or recycling, and that’s it. What if the entire system was augmented, thanks to IoT and big data solutions, to make that trash work for you?
Usable waste can be identified, repurposed, or picked to sell for additional profits. More efficient recycling processes can be established, which can also improve costs. With the help of smart surveillance, data solutions, and machine learning, valuable waste can be identified before it’s dumped.
Smart Equipment and Machinery Preservation
Industrial IoT introduces and empowers the concept of preventive maintenance. By definition, it is the act of repairing, servicing or caring for a piece of equipment or machinery to waylay potential breakdowns or problems. There are many ways to do this, but the best is with the support of IoT and data-driven analytics.
Equipment is outfitted with IoT sensors, which collect and analyze a multitude of performance statistics. That information is then used to inform maintenance crews about the gear and tell them if it’s running optimally. When an anomaly is detected, like a decrease in performance, they can use the information provided to take action. Data systems can also help highlight what’s going on and where the potential problem is.
Reducing Energy Consumption
Manufacturers need to reduce energy consumption Energy is sometimes referred to as the “ninth waste” and lean manufacturing principles promote energy efficiency. The IoT can help in many ways. The biggest benefit comes from automation for various systems like lighting, equipment usage, and more.
For instance, the lighting in a manufacturing facility could be automated to turn off when most workers have gone home. IoT also enables smart monitoring, so those same lights are affected by motion and other alerts. If no one is detected within a facility or room, the lights can be turned off to conserve energy and funds. The same is true for various other systems, including equipment, machinery, computers or work terminals, and much more.
Manufacturers Can Reduce Waste With Industrial IoT
Across the board, manufacturers that adopt industrial IoT will see several benefits, particularly when it comes to waste management and handling. The technology enables preventive maintenance and long life cycles of equipment or machinery through enhanced care. It can also be leveraged to automate lighting, cutting down on energy consumption while preserving funds that would otherwise go to wasted energy.
Traditional waste management systems can be significantly enhanced with the help of IoT to improve lean manufacturing and better monitor and assess outgoing waste.