by Ruth Richter
We are at the start of what some are calling the “4th Industrial Revolution” and the concept “the Internet of Things” is leading the charge. The Internet of Things (IoT) is all about connectivity. Everywhere you turn, devices ranging from the simple to the complex are connected by a sophisticated network that uploads critical information via the Internet and securely routes it to end users anywhere in the world. More than ever before, our data is providing greater insights into all types of business actions and decisions. In manufacturing, data integration and the IoT promises to revolutionize supply chain management and manufacturing operations by providing timely, actionable data on nearly every task to all who need to know.
Lean manufacturing relies upon producing exactly the right quantities and SKUs that are needed now to replenish existing supplies. However, such manufacturing is often locally-based, relying upon data from one factory or warehouse to dictate stock levels. With IoT connected systems, lean manufacturing gets even smarter. Multiple factories are linked and communicating real-time data, able to request materials or items as needed.
Another way in which the IoT may impact manufacturing is with the rise of thinking machines that not only follow their programming but also respond to external stimuli and environmental feedback. Consider a manufacturing process in which raw goods arrive at the factory already marked with microchips that “tell” machines where they belong. A flatbed of steel “knows” it is needed at one end of the factory, while containers of pigment for paint mixing signal the transportation system to move them into another end of the factory.
Real-time data from each piece of manufacturing equipment, feeding data back into the system via the IoT, can signal what’s needed to complete an order. The result is an efficient system undreamed of less than a decade ago.
Putting the Pieces Together: How Do You Connect the Data?
If you feel like right now you’re at the Internet of Potential instead of being squarely in the stream of the Internet of Things, don’t worry. We’ve all been there! Connecting the dots between your data flows is the trickiest part of converting your company into a well-oiled IoT machine. Accounting, sales, marketing, inventory, and operations data must be pulled into one system so that anyone within the organization can access it. Additional information from inventory, shipping, fulfillment, and manufacturing must all seamless collaborate to provide an accurate ‘big picture’ view of the whole organization, which can then be distilled into smaller data pictures for decision-making. With more companies now selling online, information from web shopping carts, ordering systems and portals are also a critical part of the data mix.
Putting all of this information together to form a cost-effective, productive solution for your business doesn’t have to be confusing. A consulting firm well-versed in enterprise resource planning, web-based systems, and systems integration can derive solutions that can transform your multiple manufacturing data sources into actionable insights. These systems use the IoT concept to synchronize front end websites with shopping carts, warehouse data, fulfillment and shipping information and more. You’ll have actionable data at your fingertips to inform the manufacturing process, thus connecting all of your systems into one feedback loop.
The IoT Makes the Future Bright
The future promises to hold more opportunities for data inputs from a wide range of systems, some undreamed of, some already in existence. Taking action now to be prepared with the right system will not only yield immediate benefits for your organization, but you’ll be poised to take action on future market trends and growth opportunities.
About the Author
Ruth Richter is the Customer Experience Director for ROI Consulting, Inc. Integration experts since 1997, ROI Consulting, Inc. connects your Sage 100 accounting software to your shopping cart, website, other third-party solutions and database so that you can make the best decisions for your business. Click HERE to learn more.
Reprinted from the Summer 2016 issue of Bellwether.
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