Manufacturers can use the Internet of Things (IoT) to get back on track following disruptions caused by the pandemic.

By Eddie Meyersick  – Director, Ecosystem & Account Management, Sigfox USA

When the coronavirus came to the U.S. in the early spring, companies across the country closed their doors and shut down operations. And while many industries felt the toll of the pandemic, none were hit as hard as the manufacturing industry, which saw an 11 year low in both employment and new orders.

As factories, plants and warehouses continue to reopen and operate under new guidelines, many manufacturers are looking to make up for lost time. However, this is easier said than done as the U.S. faces yet another surge of cases and the chance of more disruption.

To get back on track while keeping employees safe, manufacturers should consider using the Internet of Things (IoT) as they continue to ride out the up and downs of the pandemic. IoT solutions can collect valuable data that can help companies make informed decisions about workers’ safety and plant operations, while also reducing costs.

Here are a few ways the Internet of Things can help manufacturers resume operations and reach goals, while keeping employees safe:

Ensure Efficient Operations

With so much disruption already taking place in 2020, the last thing manufacturers need is a leak or broken machinery slowing down production once again. To prevent this from occurring, manufacturers must ensure that maintenance is happening regularly and before disasters occur.

With IoT-enabled sensors attached to key pieces of machinery or utilities throughout the plant, facility managers can be automatically alerted in real-time when key metrics move outside of normal ranges or a piece of machinery is performing below normal levels. For example, if a water pipe’s pressure looks unusually high, the facility manager can send someone to take a look at the pipe before it bursts.

In addition to water pressure, IoT devices can also monitor metrics like the pressure and vibration in machinery, as well as temperature, humidity, switches and voltage through the facility. Likewise, these sensors can also detect openings, leaks, battery charge, current, tilt, flood and more in pipes and equipment. By monitoring these key metrics, manufacturers can avoid disruption and inefficiency through predictive maintenance, allowing them to keep operations running smoothly.

Secure Warehouses and Goods

However, it’s not just about making sure plants are running efficiently. Ensuring the machinery being used and goods being manufactured are secure is also critical. After months of low orders, manufacturers cannot afford to take on more losses due to theft, which is why security is critical and should be top of mind.

While IoT might not come to mind when thinking about a security system, it can be extremely effective when it comes to preventing break ins. Most security alarms are connected via the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM), but with GSM jammers now widely available, almost anyone can break in. However, IoT-enabled alarm systems running a 0G network back-up communication medium can allow manufacturers to secure any building at low cost and tackle the problem of jamming. 0G transmissions use ultra-narrowband technology and thus are resistant to jamming and can help ensure alarm systems continue to operate normally, even if an intruder attempts to disrupt the signal. This added layer of security can keep goods and machines safe – especially in unpredictable times.  A Security system can also be 0G enabled secondary connection to provide a “last gasp” message in the event of a “smash and grab” scenario, or a malfunction.

Minimize Spread

While keeping goods secure and operations running smoothly are top of mind right now, manufacturers also need to make their employees feel safe at work and see that guidelines are being followed.

Luckily, the IoT can help with this as well. By placing IoT-enabled body temperature detection at the entrance of work sites, manufacturers can see who may have potential symptoms and can quickly inform the worker and protect co-workers.  Occupancy management is another way to help decision-makers see how many people are in a given building at one time, and whether or not the building’s capacity has been reached. It also can serve as a quick way to contact trace within a given work site, should any worker test positive for COVID-19. Likewise, IoT-enabled occupancy management sensors attached to workstations can detect if employees are appropriately social distancing, and even signal to the shift manager when stations need to be cleaned.

While the coronavirus has slowed down operations at many plants and factories, IoT can help manufacturers make up for lost time, while also keeping employees’ safety top of mind. With the Internet of Things, manufacturers can continue to manage the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, while also setting themselves up for success for the rest of this year, and beyond.

Catching Up & Be Safe: How To Use IoT to Recover
Eddie Meyersick

Eddie Meyersick is the Director, Ecosystem & Account Management at Sigfox USA.