The IT Foundations for Realising ROI of IIoT

Rising customer expectations, an ‘on-demand’ supply chain, the complexity of global logistics, the move towards customisation – these and many other challenges are forcing players in manufacturing and supply chains to transform their operations in order to retain a competitive edge.

Both unearthing and implementing these transformational changes – however – requires a huge amount of digging into productivity, efficiency, and where gaps can be closed through innovation. To add to the size and scope of this task, as technology advances, the rate at which these gaps become evident increases; businesses slow to identify them are left further behind, faster.

Tackling these major challenges demands a shift in the way efficiency and productivity are handled, namely moving away from human monitoring, analysis and review towards automated systems that take advantage of machine learning, AI and cloud-based management.

Enter IoT and its capacity to help find productivity gaps and close them more accurately, efficiently, and affordably than humans ever can. The data generated by these devices provides organisations with real-time, data-driven insights that can have automated corrective actions, and embed an agile approach to change and transformation within the business.

McKinsey research estimates that by 2025, IoT devices and their application could save businesses over £350 billion per year in operational costs.

Benefits of Adopting IoT & Automated Monitoring of Efficiency

Reducing operational costs

Optimising how products are made, moved and managed throughout your supply chain carries huge cost savings through:

  • Better machine management, improving output, reducing downtime and extending machine lifetime. Deloitte research identified that predictive maintenance solutions are expected to reduce the costs of maintaining machines by 40%
  • Reducing energy usage of your spaces. When combined with the power saving functionality of WiFi-6, the capacity to reduce the cost of energy is considerable
  • Better use of devices and tools through tracking every single one via WiFi and RF. Track usage and location to within metres so the right items can be found, and ensure you’re only buying essential hardware
  • Automate certain processes, reducing the size of your workforce and the associated costs of payroll and human error

Health & safety

Your workforce is one of – if not the most – expensive cost to your business. IoT can help increase its profitability through:

  • Monitoring the safety of employees in high-risk environments (such as warehouses) to avoid accidents, damage and associated costs
  • Tracking the health of your teams to ensure productivity and avoid entire teams needing sick leave within short windows of time

Improved Production

Improving how each element of your production line performs means faster production times and better output as a whole, primarily through:

  • IoT and industry management solutions are driving end-to-end supply chain visibility, with around 80% of interactions happening across cloud-based networks. Simply put, if you can see your whole supply chain you have an advantage over those without visibility
  • Optimising management of inventory and stock flow to avoid bottlenecks in materials or goods all the way through the supply chain, from the production line to the end-user
  • Better machine output. Harley-Davidson famously improved efficiency in their Pennsylvania warehouse to the extent that building a motorbike went from taking 21 days down to 6 hours
  • Production can handle more complex processes, such as mass customisation which is becoming a major decision-making factor for consumers. The production of 20 SKU X items can be followed by 10 SKU Y items with ease since IoT can both save time on routine operations, and also provide insight on the greater number of tools and materials required

Realising the Potential of IoT in Warehouses & Avoiding Failed Adoptions

The benefits of IoT are clear, however successful deployments are based on more than just a plug and play approach, and many organisations who fail to adequately plan see their investment fall flat.

So what are the main reasons IoT adoption in warehouse environments fails? An initial factor that can lead to failure is a human one. A business culture that is not ready for a data-driven approach to strategy can cause serious issues, from resistance to the change to not having the adequate skillset available, either in house or external. This can be a challenge to overcome post-deployment.

The simplest and most easily remedied reasons for failure, however, are IT ones, including:

  • Security breaches due to an expanded network with multiplied breach points. Network security must be at the forefront of IT strategy, including identity authentication, encryption and physical security.
  • Cumbersome IT infrastructures that don’t allow for easy data integration between new IoT solutions and existing technology, mainly how data is ported between networks and formats. Trying to fit IoT technology into legacy hardware is often done to try and keep project spend down, but in reality is error-prone and costly in the long run.
  • IIoT is best leveraged when supported through wireless connectivity – connecting everything via ethernet would be cumbersome, inagile and expensive. But legacy networks or networks designed without IIoT in mind end up causing your adoption to fail due to patchy coverage for devices, slow speeds and the inability to scale or flex to adopt additional tech.

There’s no doubt that adopting a data-driven business strategy with IoT at the centre puts pressure on your IT infrastructure, from a rising number of inter-connected devices on the edge, all independently aggregating and analysing data, to consistently higher traffic, blurred network edges and higher security risks.

Networks that cannot provide the necessary connectivity foundations for IoT will prevent your organisation from realising the value of IoT – both it’s current and exponentially bigger future potential.

This is where next-gen networks, primarily Wi-Fi 6 and cloud-based networks excel. Wi-Fi 6 delivers 160 MHz of bandwidth, data rates of 10Gbps, and operates at 5 GHz, giving superior performance that’s quite literally made for IoT, with faster throughput, reliable and robust connectivity, significantly less congestion and reduced power consumption. Moving to a cloud-based network removes limits on your IT infrastructure, making it truly scalable, offering easy deployment with zero-touch-provisioning, and giving total control of every device from anywhere, any time. Cloud-based networks are ideal for multi-site businesses where having locally managed networks are becoming increasingly complex and disjointed – for example supply chains, manufacturing and logistics. In short, cloud-based networks mean you can build, monitor, manage and scale your smart spaces faster, easier, and with better outcomes.

Any network which looks to take advantage of constantly evolving tech such as IoT needs to be designed with the future in mind – both the future of your business and the future tech it will look to adopt. If you’d like to find out more about next-gen networks to support IoT, get in touch with us. Our network engineers are experts in wired and wireless networks in warehouse environments, and have the latest CWISA accreditation in IoT solutions and administration.