Introduction to IIoT and Industrial Robotics
Imagine you’ve lost a $100 bill during a visit to the production floor at your manufacturing plant.
Yes, I know, humor me for a minute.
You lost that bill and need to find it. How much would you pay for someone to do it?
Or maybe $30?
Or maybe even $100?
Paying to find the lost bill sounds a bit crazy, but your answer shows the actual value of that bill to you.
Now, imagine that the $100 bill is a small piece of equipment needed to keep the entire assembly line operating.
Every minute that piece stays missing decreases your production output. To minimize downtime, you need to find it as soon as possible.
This is a scenario where IIoT solutions like real-time asset tracking for locating missing items make a difference.
Together with industrial robotics automation, IIoT in manufacturing is emerging as an innovative way to maximize equipment uptime and the efficiency of assembly lines.
In this article, we’re going to talk about four major use cases that show that industrial robotics and IIoT make manufacturing safer, more efficient, and effective.
- Industrial robotics: automation of the toughest, dirtiest, and dangerous jobs
- Industrial robotics: keeping manufacturing strong despite worker shortage
- IIoT: real-time asset tracking on the production floor
- IIoT: maximizing production uptime with predictive maintenance.
1. Industrial Robotics: Automation of the Toughest, Dirtiest, and Dangerous Jobs
When it comes to employing a workforce for a manufacturing business, safety and job satisfaction are the most important factors for employee retention and high production volumes.
But many jobs in manufacturing are tough. Some can be dangerous and dirty. Hiring employees for these positions is often hard, let alone maintaining high job satisfaction and the safety of the existing employees.
That’s where companies are starting to use industrial robotics.
In the foundry industry, for example, many jobs have employees deal with potentially hazardous activities and substances, so employing robots can:
- minimize the number of incidents on dangerous jobs and improve the overall safety of employees
- reduce financial risk related to the direct cost of medical treatment and lost productivity
- minimize downtime and potential damage to business reputation due to low employee job satisfaction
The strategy is simple: replace a human employee with a robot that can do the job just as effectively.
A properly programmed robot can do a lot of tasks, keep employees safer, and save money in the long-term.
2. Industrial Robotics: Keeping Manufacturing Strong Despite Worker Shortage
The global manufacturing industry is already experiencing a major worker deficit, but it’s about to get even tougher.
According to recent reports, the shortage of qualified employees could reach over 7.9 million people by 2030.
The shortage translates to a staggering $607.1 billion in unrealized production output.
To minimize the impact of the shortage, manufacturing businesses are actively implementing apprenticeships, workforce training, and brand image programs, but they’re simply not enough.
Investing in industrial robots able to automate repetitive production tasks is a major part of the solution.
The robots can:
- perform repetitive assembly line processes like sorting, assembling, placing parts onto other product parts, inspection, painting, and more
- automate metal, plastic, wood, and carbon surface finishing tasks
- complete hazardous processes as welding and sanding without any risk to human workers
- do repetitive tasks that require heavy lifting on a regular basis.
Using an industrial robot for all three tasks can free the personnel to work something else while keeping them away from harm and reducing the chance of them developing depression or sustaining an injury.
Also, collaborative robots – the manufacturing machines designed to work with and help human employees – are also an effective way to increase individual performance.
A combination of a human employee and a collaborative robot and increase the output of shifts without requiring more workers.
Manufacturing industry reports suggest that collaborative robots will drive growth in the production of vehicles, electronics, chemicals, and logistics, among others.
In fact, it’s predicted that 30 percent of all industrial robots sold in 2030 will be collaborative robots.
3. IIoT: Real-Time Asset Tracking on the Production Floor
Real-time asset tracking is a major use case of IIoT in manufacturing.
To track assets used in the manufacturing process – tools, toolboxes, parts, partially assembled products, and even employees – businesses are using RTLS (Real-Time Location Systems).
An RTLS is a combination of:
- tags. These are small tracking devices attached to a tracked asset that beam their location to hubs multiple times per second
- hubs. Data centers that receive the tracking signal from tags and transmit it to the cloud for storage and processing
- software for data processing and analytics. An app used to track the location of assets on the production floor in real-time and analyze the movement and productivity based on historical data.
Implementing an RTLS in a manufacturing facility requires installing the tags and hubs in the areas you need to track your assets in.
As a result, you’ll have a complete, digital overview of real-time asset movement during processes once the system is operating.
For example, one important use case of an RTLS in modern factories is tracking the paths of mobile collaborative robots that travel around the production floor autonomously.
By monitoring and analyzing the movement of mobile robots, factory managers can:
- optimize their paths
- minimize potential safety issues
- find shift standardization opportunities.
As a result, an RTLS can become helpful to identify motion and time waste and make production and intralogistics processes leaner.
Further visit: 7 Best Pros and Cons Why Robots Can Fire From Jobs
4. IIoT: Maximizing Production Uptime with Predictive Maintenance
Most factories today use a calendar-based maintenance strategy. This approach doesn’t work for Industry 4.0 manufacturing because there’s no way a manager can see a problem with a piece of equipment before it occurs.
Having a tracking tag or movement sensor attached to an asset can help with making that possible. Here’s how:
- they can detect unusual vibrations or movements in equipment can notify the assembly line operator about a potential issue
- they can detect dangerous temperature levels or higher-than-required rotation speeds
- they can track various asset-related health indicators – pressure, oil, noise, etc. – from within the asset.
By monitoring the condition of manufacturing assets this way, factory managers can detect problems early and minimize downtime by making repairs and replacements.
Industrial robotics and IIoT are change-makers in manufacturing. Businesses invest in these innovative solutions to curb issues like worker shortage, safety hazards, and increasing production demands.
That’s why the industrial robot industry is expected to grow 175 percent over the next nine years while the investments in the RTLS market are predicted to grow by 30 percent annually and reach $23.13 billion by 2026.
Clearly, businesses around the world consider these two technologies as something to overcome a lot of serious challenges and obtain a competitive advantage.
So, it’s not a question of if industrial robotics and IIoT will become a standard in manufacturing, but a question of when.
Dorian Martin is a content writer and consultant for educational and technology blogs. Currently, he works with a research paper writing service providing help to grad students.
Throughout his career, he served as a writer and proofreader and worked with experienced copywriters and bloggers.