Factories don’t look like they did a couple of decades ago. The grease and the mechanical whirring have been replaced by the hum of hardware, sensors, robots and monitors connected to one another. These devices are generating data that has given birth to a new era in industrialization - the era of ‘big data’ where millions of devices are talking to one another on the Internet of Things (IoT). The central quest of this era is to free the intelligence that lives within the factory data.
According to the study - Manufacturing and the Data Conundrum - commissioned by Wipro and conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), 44% of manufacturers stated that they understood the value of shop floor data. This means that manufacturers have begun to realize that they can capitalize on their data to increase shop floor efficiency, reduce waste, impact quality, re-engineer their supply chains for higher effectiveness and improve warehousing, shipment and logistics.
In addition, they are also using data to bring extreme levels of insight into operations, quality, asset uptime and product management. An example from defense tells us the advantages of big data. At one of the defense equipment manufacturing plants, the number of turns a screw must take is specified. These turns are monitored by sensors and if the screw turns less or more, it is flagged as a quality issue and is rectified immediately. Never before has the delivery of quality been so precise. In addition, there are also other important benefits of big data from a factory standpoint. These range from enabling compliance, improving security, giving efficiency a boost, getting to understand new product demand and reducing the cost of operations. These are aspects of running a plant that have been attended sporadically, as part of a quarterly or annual review - or only when an incident shows up, forcing a hasty review.
Big data in a modern factory can provide ways to ensure continuous improvement across practically any operational vector. Factories that realize the benefits of big data have begun to look at unique opportunities to harvest machine data. In the months to come, we can expect a unique innovation led by this trend.