Striving to improving efficiency, productivity, quality, and eliminating waste is nothing new to the manufacturing industry. This continuous improvement of processes and waste reduction is at the core of lean manufacturing methodologies, which have been broadly adopted across the global industrial ecosystem. Simply stated, lean manufacturing is the best way to add and create value for businesses and end users.
In lean manufacturing, monitoring systems and gathering data from all machines, processes, and activities is essential to process control, optimization, and preventive and predictive maintenance. This data fuels all decision-making processes in order to achieve operational excellence and create greater customer value. Many companies have enjoyed the benefits and advantages of implementing lean manufacturing methodologies in their design, manufacturing, assembly, inventory, supply chain, maintenance, and recycling processes.
Lean manufacturing practices are not limited to manufacturing industries. Today, it is broadly used by many businesses, since lean techniques are applicable to any industry you can imagine. In an attempt to realize the full value of lean manufacturing, sensors and actuators have been increasingly deployed in machines, manufacturing processes, and industrial activities for monitoring and controlling their operations for optimum performance and quality. But the broad adoption of lean practices is also being driven by technological advancements as well.
This trend towards lean manufacturing will continue at a faster pace as proliferation of advanced sensors and actuators is increasingly growing, fueled by rapid advances in Nanotechnology, MicroElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS), and NanoElectroMechanical Systems (NEMS). Nanotechnology, MEMS, and NEMS are used in advanced sensors and actuators. These advances have not only improved the precision, quality, and performance of sensors and actuators but also have profoundly reduced their production cost, making them more cost effective for a wide variety of applications. Utilizing advanced sensors and actuators in industrial machines, processes, and activities will greatly improve their performance as well as decision-making processes.
The Industrial internet of things (IIoT) is a recent development within the lean manufacturing practice for real-time monitoring and controlling of ‘things.’ IIoT is about developing a closed-loop control system that includes sensors, actuators, machines, processes, materials, inventory, supply chain, and maintenance, aimed at achieving excellence in operational efficiency, increased productivity, and quality. By enabling real-time monitoring, data gathering, analysis, and decision-making, IIoT further improves the key characteristics of lean manufacturing. IIoT is promising for monitoring and controlling trillions of industrial activities – including functionality of machine elements and manufacturing processes – with advanced sensors and actuators in real-time that will dramatically improve efficiency, productivity, and quality in ways early practitioners of lean manufacturing could have only dreamed of.
An example of IIoT applications is factory automation, where all of the manufacturing cells in a factory can be synchronized to operate the factory more efficiently and produce higher-quality parts and products. In today’s manufacturing industries, most of the tasks between the manufacturing cells of a factory remain controlled in traditional ways, and there is a lot of room for improving their performance and quality through IIoT systems. But the potential of IIoT isn’t limited to the factory floor. Another example of IIoT applications is enterprise automation, where the entire enterprise – including the factory, inventory, distribution, supply chain, and customer service systems – are synchronized for excellent operations and flexibility improvements.
Lean manufacturing and IIoT along with technologies such as robotic, automation, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, and digital innovation platforms are going to shape a new face for manufacturing and create modern, efficient, productive, and high-quality industries. These technologies makes the promise of Industry 4.0 a reality.
Editor: To learn more about the future of manufacturing, register for 3DEXPERIENCE: A Virtual Journey, an online series designed to help companies transform their business with episodes focusing on industry leading strategy and insight – ready to stream anytime, anywhere. Episode 1 focuses on Manufacturing and Supply Chain topics, including Industrial IoT in Challenging Times, presented by Prashanth Mysore, Director of Offer Marketing & Strategic Business Development, DELMIA, Dassault Systèmes.