As one of the biggest industries in the world, manufacturing depends heavily on the development of digital technologies. The Internet of Things solutions have become the primary enabler of smart manufacturing and inventory management. Reliable connectivity, in turn, is essential for building digitized environments like smart warehouses, factories, buildings, homes, and supply chains.
Let’s take a closer look at the major challenges stalling the adoption of IoT in manufacturing and how robust connectivity solutions help in solving those challenges. We will also look at the role of IoT and wireless connectivity in the growth of the manufacturing industry and the benefits they provide.
Why IoT is the main enabler in smart manufacturing
Industrial IoT is represented by a vast variety of devices and sensors that collect critical data to optimize and simplify industrial activities. These devices help in smart inventory management and manufacturing connecting the equipment, machinery, vehicles, warehouses, and inventory via the system of interconnected industrial assets.
Manufacturing is the industry influenced by the adoption of IoT the most. With the current economic impact of $3.9T, it is expected that industrial IoT will generate a total value of $11.1T by the year 2025.
- 91% of enterprises worldwide invest in smart manufacturing and IoT;
- 6% of enterprises consider their factories completely digitized and smart;
- 75% have already invested in smart factory tech to meet customer preferences;
- 50% will generate ROI within 5 years;
- Businesses expect 12% efficiency gains over 5 years.
With the use of embedded software and in-built sensors, IoT becomes a prime enabler of industrial growth. That is why the adoption of IoT becomes a major priority for manufacturers across the industry. The adoption of smart manufacturing requires a systematic approach, knowledge, as well as a professional team of experts who will get your IoT ecosystem running.
Wireless connectivity for manufacturing: benefits, challenges, solutions
Adopting smart practices in manufacturing without proper connectivity solutions is associated with significant overheads, which can become a real nightmare for any manufacturer. It can set in motion a snowball of unplanned expenses and downtimes that can lead to such critical problems as plant shutdowns. All of that can cause staggering losses for the business, which is why it is critical to understand the major challenges posed by the lack of proper connectivity in manufacturing.
Cables have been critical for power supply across factories and many manufacturers still rely heavily on them as the means of connectivity and power supply between anchors. Nonetheless, wired connectivity has its share of limitations that can become critical for the growth of an enterprise and result in significant development lags over time.
Benefits of wireless connectivity
Wireless connectivity offers solutions to most of the challenges posed by wires. It is more convenient, safe, and reliable, and these are critical properties for any connectivity solution within an industrial environment.
Easier system installation
Scalability, control, and power supply challenges also come with a significantly higher cost of smart inventory installation and maintenance. Installing and provisioning hundreds of anchors and tags across a smart factory can be a painstaking process that takes days and significant cost overheads.
Dragging meters after meters of cable across your plant might be expensive, time-consuming, inconvenient, and even impossible, which often blocks the widespread adoption of smart manufacturing technologies. All the while, you need to keep your entire ecosystem up to date for continuous performance and security. With wires, your maintenance works might be influenced by the need to shut down and rework the entire grid to conduct maintenance works.
Better scalability and maintenance
The scalability and monitoring issues often come from the old problem of connectivity over long distances. It always comes down to the high investment and sheer inconvenience of scaling up the wired ecosystem. Installing a new inventory management system within such an ecosystem is associated with significant costs and time overheads.
Due to the high investment cost of scalability, many manufacturers would just neglect the benefits of smart inventory management and leave their plants as they are. Limited use of sensors and smart inventory, however, may lead to critical incidents across the smart factories and smart warehouses.
Wireless connectivity solves the problem as it does not require all those meters and meters of cable. The devices themselves can communicate and send signals to one another or through one another. Mesh networks allow the devices to transmit the information through each other even to the devices located at greater distances. This means that you can connect as many anchors and tags as you like over larger distances.
Challenges of wireless connectivity and how to solve them
Wireless connectivity creates new opportunities for scalability, real-time system monitoring and management, and provisioning but it also has inherent flaws that might limit the overall efficiency of your system. The good news is that most of those challenges can be dealt with and mitigated through the use of modern connectivity solutions.
Limited power supply
Wireless systems need power supply, and it is not always possible to connect all the devices to the grid. That is why devices would often rely on batteries for continuous functioning. This may create unwanted downtimes due to low battery charge and the need to change the batteries many times over. In the past, this has been a major concern for the enterprises adopting wireless connectivity. Operating a large number of wireless devices on site and having to recharge them every time they go low on battery would result in temporary shutdowns of certain systems.
Solution: battery-powered systems
Battery-powered systems need to be efficient, and thus many devices now use power only when they are directly involved in certain operations. The lifespan of the batteries has also been increased considerably. New and more advanced wireless devices can go years on a single battery change, which reduces the need for constant maintenance and recharges. For instance, such wireless solutions providers as Wirepas help businesses to set up wireless ecosystems that can go for over 5 years without recharges.
Creating an ecosystem in which large devices are powered up with wires and smaller devices go on batteries is an effective solution to the problem of power supply.
Updates and Maintenance
Firmware updates can be shared between the devices over the air, but the speed of such updates would be defined by the strength of the connection. That is why updating a wireless ecosystem or integrating new features into it might take much time. The distance between anchors might impact the quality of wireless connectivity forcing you to install more devices.
Installing new devices is essential for scaling your enterprise up. Continuous integration of the new features and maintenance of the existing solutions is also vital for the growth of the business, and slow connectivity often becomes a major blocker for that growth.
Solution: over-the-air updates
Over-the-air updates provide manufacturers with cheap, convenient, and secure maintenance for their smart environments. The modern wireless connectivity solutions support over-the-air updates for battery-powered systems allowing the businesses to update firmware across their entire ecosystems seamlessly. The N-iX team can help you choose the most suitable solutions and configure them to match the needs of your manufacturing facility.
There are some inherent flaws in each type of connectivity, but there is a way to compensate for some of the problem areas and mitigate some of their weaknesses. Our dedicated development team leverages the capabilities of different tech stacks that allow us to build efficient solutions that solve the main challenges of connectivity in manufacturing.
How to make the most of smart manufacturing and wireless connectivity: N-iX best practices
A proper connectivity is the answer to most challenges posed by the adoption of smart manufacturing practices. N-iX offers industry-proven expertise in developing secure, scalable, and efficient enterprise-level solutions. Establishing smooth and reliable connectivity is the key to creating vast, low-power, and failure-proof networks that satisfy the needs of a modern and growing enterprise.
Our experience in building connectivity software for smart inventory management allows us to solve the main challenges of the manufacturing industry fast and without overheads. We use tech stacks such as Wirepas that allow us to create custom solutions for your particular environment. Custom connectivity solutions will match the needs of your environment giving you the view and control you’d need for smooth operations.
Connect as many devices as you need and scale up fast
The connectivity solutions we develop allow for automatic connection between the devices. Basically, devices will be able to find each other on their own, forming a wider network, extending the enterprise-wide coverage, and strengthening the signal. You can expand the network easily just by adding new devices to it.
Such solutions reduce the need for any special tools, meters upon meters of cable, any cost overheads, and planning. You can connect thousands or even millions of devices to a single network, scale it up and down whenever you like, and do all of that without any headache.
Get battery-powered devices and forget the wires
The installation and use of wireless devices are also highly convenient. You do not need to deal with all the mess associated with planning cable layout. Low-power devices can go years on a single battery, which is great for any manufacturing facility containing thousands of low-power anchors and tags.
Commission and update your devices seamlessly
Any business can access data-rich IoT networks or even create one with integrated positioning. It is fast, cost-efficient, and simple. With reliable connectivity solutions and hundreds of anchors connected to a single gateway, it becomes increasingly easy to just plug the devices in and commission them on your own.
The cost of maintenance is close to zero as all the updates will be shared between the devices over the air or via cables. Such solutions make the commissioning and maintenance of the network as seamless as possible. You will achieve reduced installation downtimes and cost-efficient maintenance.
Connecting billions of devices with Wirepas to change the face of the manufacturing industry
The N-iX team’s partnership with Wirepas has been one of the best examples of how the use of wireless devices changes the shape of the manufacturing industry. Wirepas solutions benefit businesses across various domains including smart inventory, tracking, building, and more.
The industrial software development partnership we’ve had with Wirepas allows thousands of businesses around the world to create reliable and scalable enterprise-grade IoT solutions. A wireless mesh connectivity technology by Wirepas allows for 4 billion connected devices in a network that can go for more than 5 years on a single battery charge.
The use of wireless connectivity solutions like Wirepas allows for the creation of high-precision networks of devices that allow for the use of real-time locating systems (RTLS) for material flow tracking. It helps the operators of smart warehouses to track material and equipment for their optimal utilization, cut the warehousing costs, and increase the productivity of smart factories.
Our other client adopted Wirepas solution to address the problem of material flow transparency with the use of RTLS. The goal of increasing the efficiency of communication and material flow between storage, production, assembly lines, and dispatch sites is critical for maximizing the manufacturing output. That is where most companies face difficulties.
Wireless connectivity, thus, allows for uninterrupted smart inventory management and tracking giving the plant operators full control over material and equipment flow.
- 21% lower error rate – at the interim storage levels and material prioritization
- 27% saving – businesses require fewer load carriers and vehicles
- 10% increase in productivity – automation and optimization allow for higher material turnover
Solutions like Wirepas become one of the best ways to address the challenges of connectivity. Wireless systems and smart inventory software increase the reliability and efficiency of manufacturing. Monitoring and control over the equipment and inventory are integral for building fully digitized smart factories, and wireless connectivity makes it feasible. They are reliable, easy to install, affordable, convenient, and most importantly, they produce the results you need.
The timely adoption of IoT and wireless connectivity is the key to unlocking the full capabilities of manufacturing and the future of the industry as a whole. The Internet of Things is the main enabler of wireless connectivity and control over smart warehouses, factories, homes, and more. N-iX leverages the capabilities of IoT to create products that help you better manage your smart inventory, track its movement, monitor its condition, and optimize its performance.
Cable connectivity is a major blocker to the creation of fully digitized smart environments, and wireless networks are the key to solving this problem. Wireless connectivity and IoT have already helped many businesses adopt efficient IoT solutions that allow for secure, reliable, efficient, and headache-free smart inventory management and manufacturing. Our professional teams can help you achieve similar results and improve the efficiency of your smart environments.