The Internet of Things in Warehousing and Manufacturing
As we find new ways of doing things in the age of digital transformation, moving towards Smart Factories and Warehouses creates new opportunities to improve contactless processing. We are often asked how to take the first step so let’s look at the Internet of Things and some ideas for getting started down the path to a fully automated smart factory.
The Internet of Things is a phrase you’ve probably heard used many times by now. With technology constantly driving changes and growth in industry, it is important to look at these new concepts and how they might be used to improve warehousing and manufacturing.
What is The Internet of Things (IoT)?
According to Wikipedia: “The Internet of things (IoT) is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines provided with unique identifiers (UIDs) and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.”
In broad terms, IoT encompasses all devices that are connected to the internet, but more and more is being used to define multiple devices that can communicate with one another without human input. These “smart” devices are everywhere in our homes and industries – fridges, lighting, smartphones, wearables, sensors – they are all being used in a way that their data is shared and utilized across devices to simplify tasks and improve efficiency.
Why do connected devices need to share data?
The question could be asked – just because something can connect to the internet, does it mean it should?
It’s a tricky question to answer if you are trying to look at all devices across all usage areas, but at the core of it, these devices are usually recording and sharing data for a specific purpose that is useful in context to the user.
In the context of warehousing and manufacturing, many devices can be used in this way to increase efficiency and improve management of tasks.
How the Internet of Things is being used to improve warehousing & manufacturing
Warehousing and manufacturing face unique challenges when it comes to coordinating functions, stock, equipment and staff. The IoT can be used to connect, monitor and manage unlimited data points through a central system, automating tasks and allowing for better management of systems across the business.
Here are some examples of how IoT is being used in warehousing and manufacturing
Inventory and Materials Sensors
Many companies are using sensors to monitor the usage and movement of materials and other assets inside their facilities. Sensors on shelves, for example, can monitor and transmit stock data, helping to reduce wastage and expenses by tracking inventory levels and locations. Sure inventory levels and equipment locations are known.
Warehouse Drones and Robots
Large warehousing operations have taken to using drones and other robots to automate warehouse functions and improve efficiency. Drones, for example, can be useful in warehouses with high shelves that can’t be reached by hand. An IoT assisted drone will allow managers to instantly scan any item, record its location, and monitor it in real time.
Wearables to Promote Workers’ Health
A potential application of IoT in warehousing is utilizing wearables to track information about their staff at all points throughout the factory. This could boost efficiency and promote safety by tracking exhaustion levels, for example, and suggesting rest periods. Some global companies have already implemented this technology. Data such as sickness, health and injury rates can be monitored and suggestions made for preventative methods to avoid health and safety problems.
Equipment & environmental sensors
Equipment monitors can be used to monitor calibration, machine conditions, temperature, etc, and send alerts and recommendations when they go above certain thresholds. This allows management to preemptively mitigate the problem, minimizing the risk of malfunction or production of low quality goods. Environmental sensors can be used to reduce energy consumption and create the correct conditions for production.
Warehouse management systems
An IoT enabled warehouse management system (WMS) helps store managers keep track of all inventory-related activities. Such tools are packed with tracking, documentation, and reporting features so managers can be able to manage goods, assess employee efficiency, and do taxes via a single platform.
Production flow monitors
Monitors production lines and can determine where production may lag or be too fast to eliminate possible problems
- Gain insights into usage patterns and trace deterioration as a result of transport, weather or other conditions. Can be analysed and used to create effective packaging and reduce packaging prices
Benefits of using IoT in warehousing & manufacturing
There are many creative and innovative ways that companies are implementing IoT devices and technology into their production and management systems. Across all of these implementations, however, there are a number of common benefits.
- Reduced costs
The benefit of “smart” data collection and processing is improved planning and execution of everything from inventory management to maintenance. This will significantly reduce wastage, decrease overall handling costs, as well as optimize utilization of labor, utilities, space, and assets.
- Improved productivity
Improved efficiency and speed in manufacturing and supply chain operations can significantly reduce product cycle time.
- Improved safety
IoT can help to improve safety in the workplace through use of things such as wearable devices. IoT can also address safety problems in potentially hazardous environments, for example to monitor gas leakages.
- The next level in real-time tracking
With IoT, materials, equipment and other assets can be tracked quickly and accurately as they move through the supply chain. Devices and sensors can monitor the quantity and quality of goods in real time and make changes or suggestions for improvements or required action.
- Better stock and material flow management
IoT can help businesses monitor the flow of incoming and outgoing goods accurately and quickly. This means that goods can be located and retrieved without delay, warehouses can be optimised, and workflow configured for optimized productivity.
- Increased scalability
Every aspect of business can be optimized, improving the option for scalability. Past data will offer all of the insights needed for the scale up.
The benefit of IoT is that locations can be integrated as the business grows. New facilities can be implemented quickly, resulting in faster time to productivity.
- Improved forecasting accuracy
IoT-based businesses can collect and process inventory data to forecast potential increase or decrease in workload, and notify managers who can prepare for change in demand.
How TransLutionTM is Integrating with the Internet of Things
TransLutionTM is creating new ways to integrate your hardware and software, taking you down the path towards a fully automated Smart Factory.
As well as integrating data tracking with your ERP system, TransLutionTM can now also facilitate two-way communication with the hardware on your shop floor. TransLutionTM interfaces with electronic Input/Output (IO) devices to record information and trigger events using pre-programmed settings from your ERP.
To find out more about how TransLutionTM is enabling IoT, please contact us.