November 15, 2019
From optimizing supply chain performance to minimizing waste and managing plant materials and resources more effectively, rich and intelligent location data is at the heart of improving the efficiency, safety and security of your manufacturing operations in the future.
Highly-detailed, real-time location information allows you to locate and track any connected object, indoor or outdoor, at an unprecedented level of accuracy, improving the production process on the factory floor and providing clear and complete visibility across your worldwide supply chain.
Accurate and precise digital twins and indoor maps of manufacturing facilities are opening up all kinds of exciting new opportunities that enable the safe operation of Autonomous Guided Vehicles (AGVs) like forklifts and inventory carts. Simply put: location intelligence greatly improves levels of safety and boosts efficiency for your manufacturing operations.
In addition, the latest location intelligence technologies can work to within centimeters of accuracy, depending on the technology, even when there is no GPS signal, as they combine and synthesize data from billions of Wi-Fi Access Points, Bluetooth readers and cell IDs.
Of course, having the ability to reliably track any connected object in real-time anywhere in the world opens multiple new opportunities and possibilities in the world of manufacturing.
1. Intelligent Supply Chains
Intelligent and highly accurate supply chain visibility in transit and at every node in your supplier network and production process enables more accurate planning of your production because you can trust that the material will be there or you’ll have advanced notice that you need to re-plan.
Accurate, real-time location data and the latest connected and always-on tracking technologies are powering this latest revolution in supply chain visibility, allowing operators to understand exactly where parts and material currently sit in the supply chain and to better predict Estimated Times of Arrival (ETAs). Integrating that location tracking information with live traffic and weather data and historical “shipping lane” performance enables AI systems today to make far better predictions than even a couple years before.
Further integrating this ETA information with other enterprise planning tools enables true business process optimization with humans only needing to get involved for exception management.
2. Improved Inventory Utilization
This improved supply chain visibility also plays a critical role in minimizing inventory in the manufacturing process. When you have real-time visibility of parts and material, you are far better equipped to reduce the levels of inventory because you have confidence in where your existing material is and how long it will take to reach the next node. Not having that visibility is what causes manufacturers to buffer inventory to protect against those gaps in the first place. Improved inventory turns can translate to huge savings in material costs and really drive down your cost of goods sold metrics.
3. Asset and Resource Optimization
Understanding the patterns of humans and equipment as they move about the factory can help you determine whether the factory is over or under resourced and whether you have the most efficient process flow.
As an example, with better asset visibility, you can make more informed decisions about how much equipment to rent or buy based on actual utilization metrics rather than perceived shortages due to equipment being misplaced. Those 15-minute snippets of time saved every time a technician has to go track down a piece of missing equipment also have significant impact in improving the overall efficiency of your workforce. Finally, looking at the traffic patterns through the factory can help you identify sources of inefficiency and ways to improve your overall process flow. These savings ultimately have a huge impact on reducing CAPEX and OPEX expenditures.
4. Increased workplace safety
Understanding the current location of all of your equipment and people also significantly increases the safety of workers. As you move towards more automation in the factory, knowing the location of all people moving about in the factory becomes critical to ensure their safety.
Large robots can move very quickly and swing in unpredictable ways. Safe operation of these robots requires ensuring that humans are not in harm’s way of their movement. Geo-fencing with automatic shutdown when humans are present is one layer of safe guards to protect the workforce.
Many factories have environments where hazardous conditions (like noxious gases) could occur. By having all personnel and visitors to the factory wear beacons, it is possible to quickly locate and assist anyone present when a hazardous event occurs.
5. Enhanced cyber and physical security
Cyber and physical security are constant concerns in any manufacturing environment because loss of physical items or intellectual property can have a significant impact on the company. As IIOT drives increases in the amount of valuable business data collected and connections to a manufacturing plants equipment, the risks increase.
Location intelligence can prove to be invaluable when it comes to adding an additional layer of validation to a manufacturing plant’s security model. Any change initiated to the configuration of the plant floor can be double-checked against the geo-fenced location of the actor initiating the change, enhancing standard cybersecurity.
Also, with geo-fencing and alert systems, it is possible to know if personnel are approved to be in restricted areas. Reducing unauthorized access to equipment and areas improves physical security and significantly reduces the risk of cyber-attacks.
The value of location intelligence
Rich, real-time location intelligence is what powers true supply chain visibility. You can now know exactly where any item currently is in the world, indoor or outdoor, what condition it is in, and exactly when it is scheduled to arrive by combining real-time location, connected tracking technology, optimal routes, sensor data, historical data and predictive modelling.
The latest end-to-end location tracking and indoor positioning technologies, utilizing accurate indoor maps of the facilities and digital representations of the equipment inside enable tremendous opportunities to transform your operations. Now, any connected part, person or machine can be located and tracked at scale and at a low cost to address any number of manufacturing use cases.
These use cases, a few of which we have outlined above, power increased efficiency across your entire manufacturing operation, boost workplace safety, enhance digital and cyber security and have the potential to massively improve your company’s bottom line.
In summary, location intelligence offers organizations complete, real-time and highly accurate visibility to all of the assets you need to compete in today’s manufacturing era.
Charity Rumery, Senior Director, AMER Head of Automotive & Industrial, HERE Technologies
Pat Mitchell, Industry Solutions Manager of Automotive & Industrial, HERE Technologies