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IoT: Bringing Big Data to Manufacturing

April 11, 2019

Creating a competitive advantage is hard work. It sometimes feels like all the innovations have already hit the market and the margin between you and the competition is growing narrower. The modern marketplace requires vast amounts of information to be collected and analyzed beyond what engineers and marketers can eyeball. And from that, the advantage we seek is a single key insight culled from a big haystack of data.


Big data is one of the popular buzzwords that describes a vast set of information, something bigger than what can be analyzed through traditional (read: human) means.  It starts with millions of records, which can seemingly be unrelated to reach other. You can’t just throw this data set into Excel and make a Pareto chart. Storage requirements alone are daunting. Gigabytes could quickly turn into terabytes of information. Additionally, organizations need to invest in Information Technology infrastructure with hardware and manpower to maintain the data. The range is an endless ocean of 0’s and 1’s, for which algorithms and models are needed to identify the patterns and trends that ultimately generate value, and offset the cost of managing this raw information. It seems like a game rigged for only the largest of corporations, and Internet of Things (IoT) is in process of making all manufactures required to play.


Historical PLM Data


Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) has always been described as complete virtual lifecycle of a product: from cradle to grave. But once the product is in the customers’ hands all bets are off – the opportunity to intimately understand how the consumer uses the product is lost.  In a previous article I expanded on how PLM was a system for continuous improvement, however there is a deficit of information on what to improve post-release. The only lifecycle information received post-production are often complaints. These may translate to actionable changes through internal Correction Action Requests (CAR), but this isn’t proactive and it has a long cycle time. Fortunately, advancements in network communications, analysis tools and cost-effective sensors have brought about a new buzzword – Internet of Things, which describes connected things; some of which are connected devices sending sensor data to manufactures through an Internet connection.

There is more to Internet of Things than connected devices capturing and relaying information. It can also be human resources, such as a field technician receiving maintenance information from a