Locating Missing Assets with the Industrial Internet of Things
By: Helen Titus, MH&L
Scanning a factory floor for the material you need can be a tedious, time-consuming process. With the IIoT, it doesn’t have to be.
Imagine this: you’re on the factory floor, attempting to assemble a piece of equipment. However, not every part, or asset, is quick and easy to locate in such a large manufacturing plant. And with customized consumer demands and soaring productivity quotas to meet, there’s not a minute to lose. Reading the operating procedure, you determine the next asset needed for assembly—but it’s not at your workstation. It doesn’t seem familiar. Where would those even be?
You trigger the andon, signaling for help. It’s starting to feel like a classic case of searching for a needle in a haystack. And even if the asset is found after looking for a few minutes, that’s wasted time that would push back productivity levels.
The asset dashboard (see Figure 2) also shows location coordinates and provides information such as time and alerts for real-time tracking.
Figure 2 Aside from the benefits of receiving real-time location updates to share with operators, management can leverage the data analytics provided by IoT to improve their operations. For instance, a manager could determine the specific amount of time that containers and assets spend at each workstation. This allows for visibility of bottlenecks and can drive improvement to optimize the process. Analytics also enable process monitoring remotely, ensuring managers and team leads can detect problems quickly and intervene when necessary to keep things moving.
With IIoT, smart tags can change in an instant to provide quick, accurate instruction to operators as changes in production or priority occur. For example, if the end location of completed products changed on a dime, smart tags would immediately relay this change to operators to ensure they didn’t miss a beat.
Not only can smart tags change based on location, but a change in location can also trigger automated workflows. After a pallet is done being used and returned to its original location, IIoT can actually update workflows to let users know that pallet is available for use. That’s a level of flexibility that’s near impossible with paper labeling. Tack on the ability to control costs and improve efficiencies by getting all parts and containers to the right place at the right time, and it’s a no-brainer.
Help Your Employees Help You By ensuring workers know where material is located and what to do next, manufacturers can keep productivity levels high even during worker shortages. As companies evolve, adopting smart manufacturing is a smart strategy to drive growth for years to come. And the Industrial Internet of Things is a great way to begin that journey.
Helen Titus is marketing director, Industrial IoT Solutions, with Panasonic North America, a provider of integrated supply chain and mobility solutions