Industrial IoT starts to make real-world progress

May 31, 2016 //By Richard Quinnell
Industrial IoT starts to make real-world progress
While the Internet of Things (IoT) for consumers is gaining the lion's share of the publicity (and hype), the technology is quietly finding its way into industrial applications. Industrial adopters tend to stay quiet about their plans and progress, though, in order to avoid revealing too much to their competitors. But stories are now coming to light about the IoT in industry, and the business case for adoption of connectivity is starting to sound compelling.

Heavy industries such as manufacturing and mining tend to be conservative in their outlook and slow to adopt new technologies. But the promises of increased efficiency and cost savings that form the siren's call for industrial IoT can be compelling, leading the bold to try things out. One such trial was announced by Fujitsu last year. Working with Intel, the company aimed to conduct a proof of business trial at its Shimane Fujitsu factory.

The planned project built on both company's technologies. Fujitsu applied its sensor technology and distributed service platform along with Intel's IoT Gateway with the aim of showing how the IoT can provide measurable value in an industrial setting. The factory, which primarily produces laptop PCs, sought to reduce cost by using the IoT to explore a specific pain point – unexplained repair/rework problems.

One of the final steps in manufacturing PCs is a final test of the unit's functionality. As this is a complex task it requires a skilled worker to perform tests and evaluate results, making a go/no-go decision. If the unit fails during this final test, it goes into a rework department for repair. One problem the factory had, however, was that all too often the rework department was unable to replicate the reported failure and thus was unable to identify if the root cause was a manufacturing error or a testing error. With the root cause unknown, it was impossible to reduce the amount of repair rework.

There was another problem, as well. The factory had no real-time system for tracking an individual unit's progress though the repair cycle. This lack of real-time information made it difficult for management to prioritize rework in light of delivery deadlines, resulting in missed shipments and the added cost of expedited delivery.

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