As part of our series on Connected Manufacturing, we’re exploring the concept of transforming the Manufacturing industry by utilizing The Internet of Things and connecting each disparate component within the Manufacturing Value Chain.
This means making sure, users, stakeholders and more are all seamlessly communicating, the goal being to reach untapped performance, variability, sustainability and more within Manufacturing. Manufacturers have long worked to reduce costs, arguably perfecting their operations, but the industry has yet to reach its full potential. An IoT powered solution might be the answer to transforming the value that can be derived from the factory floor.
But there are a few serious questions that come up. On our Practitioner Viewpoint as part of this series, “Making the Most of the Manufacturing Value Chain”, we invited Jim Wetzel, Technical Director for the Platform Center of Excellence with General Mills, and Jim Davis, the Vice Provost of IT and Chief Academic Technology Officer with UCLA, to help us get clarity on three of the most pressing questions other practitioners should have as they consider pursuing this transformation.
Is The Internet of Things really a panacea for connecting the Manufacturing Value Chain?
IoT alone will not solve manufacturing’s challenge and we need a better platform that allows these solutions to be knitted together, Wetzel said on our show. He raised a dilemma that one solution provider may be the best in class at a given application, say optimizing inventory, but they can’t combine it with other things in your ecosystem.
“What we’re trying to really go after in smart manufacturing is instead create a platform that allows these applications to play in so that you can continue to have your Internet of Things and you can continue to have your application specialties for people that really have specific knowledge on particular areas,” Wetzel said. “But the challenge to make it successful in a manufacturing value chain is to knit all these things together and figure out how they can communicate and collaborate together.”
Your next question may be, what is that platform? Davis and Wetzel had thoughts here as well.
Could an open architecture be a strong platform for connecting the Manufacturing Value Chain and running the Internet of Things?
Slapping an IoT solution may not fix the problem manufacturers have if they don’t have the platform to run it, and second, the smaller operations and value chain players don’t really have access to all the necessary technology or education.
Davis proposed the idea of an open architecture. Make IoT technology accessible to small and medium sized companies that haven’t had the opportunity to invest to cover the full gamut of what’s necessary.
“The notion of open architecture is a way to build this platform so that there is full access and then have access to technologies at the level that you need them, at the time that you need them and with the sophistication relative to the problem that you are trying to deal with,” Davis said.
“Another aspect of open architecture is not only access but it’s also the exposure of data through applications and various tools and how they are best used. We believe that providing access at an appropriate level to that kind of data, which is not the IP or not the proprietary kind of data relative to the company, will also help the industry in a significant way and will make those dollars that the companies need to invest to take this on go much, much further.”
How can we get all players across the Manufacturing Value Chain equally motivated in transforming the industry and adopting the Internet of Things?
A platform with an open architecture is all well and good, but if smaller manufacturing players don’t see the ROI, the value or the ability to realize this vision, then what good is any of it? How do you get them on board and motivated equally to invest in such solutions?
“There is such a large variety in scale from a small player to a large player and their capability to adapt and stay current with technology,” Wetzel said. “To drive this smart value chain, this concept of Internet of Things and truly make it happen, we’ve got to address the landscape across all players… As you think about these point solutions or these small areas, they’re really crying out for a way to connect and collaborate and invest towards the whole thing being connected.
Wetzel and Davis have gotten the conversation going as to some of the fundamental challenges, but how would you specifically address them? Listen to the whole of Making the Most of the Manufacturing Value Chain and share your own thoughts and solutions to the problems at hand.