Solving Manufacturing’s Two Biggest Challenges with the Industrial Internet of Things

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Since the early days of the late 19th century Industrial Revolution, manufacturers have kept a sharp eye on one goal: efficiency.

When Ford entered the picture in the early 20th century, he seemed to have figured out a magic formula for achieving heightened efficiency based on rationalized, standardized, and mass production processes. The modern factory was born — and it thrived for a century.

Today, manufacturers face two significant process challenges that make the original efficiency question especially tricky —

How can I still achieve greater efficiency in the face of:

  • A volatile manufacturing environment that pressures industrial companies to stay steps ahead of ever-changing consumer demands and market trends, as well as other forces outside their control (Think about it: a single Tweet now can change a company’s worth as capriciously as the fidget spinner fad).


  • Driving corporate social responsibility combined with stringent regulatory requirements to reduce CO2 emissions, advance sustainability, and adopt responsible manufacturing practices within a circular economy.

Solving these two manufacturing challenges with a strong IIoT strategy

Improving efficiency with digitization

In an environment with uncontrollable external variables, data presents a clear way out. This challenge is about enabling continuous operation under constraints. That is process optimization — no matter what the constraints are (e.g., having to ramp up production to keep pace with trending fashions or, by contrast, slow down production after busy retail seasons subside).  Good data translates into optimal production output across industries 24/7. Even when consumers demand personalized products or 50 flavors of what used to be the only option: cola. The value of analytics is essential here, enabled by our EcoStruxure™ Advisor digital offers, as analytics translates this data into optimal production parameters.

Controlling process speed (e.g., production per hour) by converging data from connected devices with a process in context, for example, operators can leverage data insights. Now the eye is on the optimal point of production at all times — with the ability to adjust inputs to maintain that sweet spot. Connectivity, mobility, analytics, artificial intelligence. Efficiency’s new magic formula in the digital age.

This approach is something all IoT technology suppliers, including Schneider Electric with our IoT-enabled architecture EcoStruxure™, need to think about. We don’t provide a one-size-fits-all solution; instead, we offer a flexible architecture that adapts to each customer’s precise manufacturing needs. See how we’re co-innovating EcoStruxure Machine with our OEM customer SOMIC to ensure high-performance, smart machines.


Better decision making for long-term sustainability

In a connected factory, hundreds —and even thousands — of sensors are spewing voluminous amounts of data. One example puts this scale in perspective: some systems now can have 200+ parameters instead of just 4 or 5 in the legacy days. It is artificial intelligence (AI) that enables operators to make the best optimization decisions when facing this volume on inputs.

AI models can inform decisions related to sustainability as well, allowing you to optimize production under multiple sustainability constraints. AI helps manufacturers balance operational efficiency and energy efficiency. You don’t have to compromise one for the other. The McKinsey Global Institute notes that, “In the factories setting, value from the Internet of Things would arise chiefly from productivity improvements, including 10 to 20 percent energy savings and a 10 to 25 percent potential improvement in labor efficiency” (MGI, The Internet of Things: Mapping the Value Beyond the Hype, June 2015).

When you can see energy waste in real-time and trend patterns, you can change your energy course to protect your brand, avoid emissions fines, and, more important, steer your carbon footprint down a better path. See which sustainability steps we’re taking as a manufacturer ourselves to make a difference.


Digital transformation of manufacturing

Manufacturers worldwide clearly are embarking on a digital transformation journey: 63% see IoT as a “strategic” path to help them compete more effectively with products and services, according to IDC.  We cover this topic in more detail in The Value of IoT in Manufacturing, including IIoT insights, use cases, and manufacturing’s magic formula for efficiency and sustainability in today’s digital economy.

We’ve clearly come a long way since the early days of the industrial revolution. Now in midst of the fourth industrial revolution, it’s exciting to see the valuable impact of the industrial Internet of Things coming to fruition today.


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