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Designing for Manufacturing's Internet of Things


The deeper meshing of virtual and physical machines offers the potential to truly transform the manufacturing value chain, from suppliers through customers. Here are some essentials of the design approach needed to optimize the Internet of Things to drive value and create a superior customer experience.

For manufacturers, the Internet of Things (IoT) means that every object or "thing" is embedded with a sensor and is capable of automatically communicating its state with other objects and automated systems within the extended enterprise. Each object represents a node in a virtual network, continuously transmitting a large volume of data about itself and its surroundings – we call these digital footprints a "Code Halo."

Figure 1

The capabilities of the IoT – including a high level of device interoperability and the potential for information to traverse multiple platforms – combined with the emergence of technology that permits companies to uncover hidden patterns within large volumes of data – are converging to enable informed manufacturing: an envisioned state of operations in which all relevant and synthesized information is made available when, where and in the form it is needed across the manufacturing supply chain, to all relevant stakeholders, be they people, processes, products or infrastructure. The result: greater speed and efficiency for all sectors of the manufacturing industry, as data is converted into business insights that improve operational results (see Figure 2).

Figure 2

The real‑world possibilities of informed manufacturing – including improved efficiency, safety and profitability – are limitless, including the following:

  • Automotive: Within the automotive space, the "connected car" concept is a game changer. For instance, Project SARTRE (or "safe road trains for the environment"), illustrated in Figure 3, is pioneering the concept of safe platooning of vehicles. Participating companies advocate that accidents can be significantly reduced if this concept becomes mainstream. For more on the connected car, please read our white paper, "Exploring the Connected Car."

Figure 3

  • Connected supply chain: IoT systems can enable location tracking, remote inventory‑level monitoring and automatic reporting of material consumption as materials move through the supply chain. Access to predictive analytics based on real‑time data helps manufacturers identify issues before they happen, lower inventory costs and potentially reduce capital requirements.

Overcoming Design Challenges

Clearly, the IoT offers a rich opportunity for all industries, across processes. Specifically in manufacturing, the IoT can improve and automate decision‑making across the value chain. But numerous challenges must be addressed before the full potential of IoT can be realized.

  • Standardization: Moving forward, interfaces should be standardized and solutions made interoperable at various levels (e.g., communication and service levels) and across various platforms to promote integration and scalability.

  • Security and privacy: With the abundance of rich data made possible by the IoT, social media and cloud‑based systems, security and privacy are critical. Devices must be secured on the network and users need to feel confident about the controls safeguarding both their personal data and the flow and exchange of sensitive organizational data.

  • Infrastructure: In the IoT, some data types – such as large files comprising images and videos – are traditionally accessed sequentially. Others, which comprise billions of small files created by sensor data, must be accessed randomly. The data centers of tomorrow must contend with the dual challenge of storage efficiency and effective retrieval of both types of large data sets.

  • Analytics: To make sense of all this data and offer insights when and where they're needed, organizations will need to master the art and science of analytics. This will likely be the biggest challenge for many manufacturers, given the explosive growth of data.

Cognizant OnePlant - Integrated Manufacturing Operations

Moving Forward with IoT

The following steps can help organizations jumpstart their IoT journeys and build competitive differentiation.

Design Step 0: Analyze sensory architecture.

  • Assess the embedded sensors already in your products.

  • Benchmark the product configuration with competitive offerings.

  • Assess component/subassembly supplier parts range for embedded sensors.

  • Conduct a humans‑in‑loop evaluation for your products and services.

Design Step 1: Create an IoT vision tailored to the organization.

  • Evaluate ROI based on revenue models, efficiency savings and product differentiation.

  • Design a blueprint for your organization's connected ecosystem, including suppliers, dealers, connected workforce and partners.

  • Outline a customer experience design for achieving the IoT vision.

Design Step 2: Initiate engagement and employee communication.

  • Engage and integrate employees, customers, process owners, operators and partners into the IoT program.

  • Communicate with all stakeholders to solicit feedback on touchpoints and potential benefits to make it a win‑win for all stakeholders involved.

Design Step 3: Focus on application development and infrastructure.

  • Evaluate potential proliferation of personal connected devices within different stakeholder communities.

  • Create a BYOD implementation plan (if one does not already exist), since this helps to prioritize employee-based applications.

  • Decide on a common approach to development and deployment across multiple devices, including but not limited to data processing and visualization, device support protocols and integration with third‑party data (Web services, APIs, etc.).

Design Step 4: Rapid deployment, monitoring and modification planning.

  • Enable agile and flexible deployment with small, step‑by‑step implementations. The key is to get started with IoT and achieve incremental benefits.

Design Step 5: Developing product features and embedded sensors. 

  • You are now ready to exploit the potential with additional sensors and begin building alliances and partnerships, which can help with further monetization and differentiation.

To learn more about the promise and potential of the Internet of Things in manufacturing, read our whitepaper Designing for Manufacturing's 'Internet Of Things'. Please visit Cognizant's Manufacturing and Logistics Practice and the Digital Works section of our website.

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Designing for Internet of Things in Manufacturing