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How the Internet of Things Is Changing the Manufacturing Playing Field

MMH In the July issue of Modern Materials Handling (MMH), a very informative article appeared on “4 Ways the Internet of Things is Changing Manufacturing”. Editor-at-Large Roberto Michel presents an interesting perspective on the emergence of IoT and its impact on manufacturing today. Specifically, Mr. Michel presents four immediate business use case scenarios that can be implemented today:

  1. Equipment monitoring and optimization;
  2. Process, Machine and Occupational Safety;
  3. Materials tracking for WIP visibility, agility; and
  4. Lifecycle product traceability.

My colleague Douglas Bellin is quoted in the article that “IoT necessitates a break from siloed thinking”.  He explains:

“The biggest benefit we are going to start to see is the correlation of information from systems that typically did not work together or were not thought of needing to reference each other.  Historically, the information was stored in silos and was very difficult to get to. Now we are adding the connectivity to these machines and are able to extract the data, move the data, store it, and analyze it to see if abnormalities are occurring.”

Read more on Doug’s thoughts regarding IoT benefits in one of his recent blogs “Imagine the Possibilities with IoT and IoE”. The benefits that result from converging your production environment and IACS with Enterprise IT infrastructure into a fully Connected Factory can be quite significant, and have been for many global manufacturers like GM. The MMH article quotes Bill Ferrell of Clemson University (my undergraduate alma mater), “If the Internet of Things is this concept that inanimate objects can communicate over the Internet and be controlled, that strikes me as having the potential to revolutionize the way manufacturing is done.”

For a glimpse into what you can expect, some of my colleagues in Cisco Consulting Services created an animated infographic that presents some of the business outcomes and results of implementing IoT and IoE into manufacturing operations. Take a look:

Let me know what you think. Do you agree these are the four most applicable business use case scenarios for IoT adoption today?  What other manufacturing imperatives and business outcomes are you looking to achieve with IoT / IoE?  Send me a comment.  Thanks for reading.

IoT in Action: Food Manufacturing and CPG

Recently, I was able to spend a day with a leading food manufacturer whose products you most likely enjoyed at your Fourth of July barbecue.  I was with this customer to see what they have implemented and help them understand some next steps to leverage IoT to enhance their business.

I was pleasantly surprised with the automation that this CPG customer already had in place. I was even more pleased with the fact that they use our joint Cisco and Rockwell Automation architecture as their standard for their industrial network implementation.  They had just completed a new processing-to-packaging line that had over 200 different sensors aggregated up to 15 Stratix switches (Rockwell OEM products from Cisco) and then are bringing this to their operational systems for tracking and tracing.

The amount of robotics in use at this food company was pretty incredible to witness.  The automation improvements were not taking away jobs but rather, adding value and new ways to up-skill  line workers to take on more decision making and control of their roles in operations.  Automation in this sense is moving the mundane repetitive roles away from human beings and into machines.  This in itself adds tremendous value  in terms of health and safety improvements.    We are seeing this with not just this company but other CPG customers as well.  Take a look at the CPG video below which profiles some additional automation  use cases in action:

Currently their office systems are virtually separated from their operations but this will cease in the next few weeks as they are seeing benefits of tying all their operational, planning and other systems all together.  This is where Cisco and our partners are bringing value—to help them understand what data they have and how this can move from data to intelligence.  One key area is bringing the operational data into preventative data software to no longer “run to break down” but start to plan maintenance plans and schedules.  Once we have this in place, we are going to help this company move to predictive maintenance where we take all the variables (the human resources aspects- who is available, scheduling, ordering, forecasting and more) to drive to schedule maintenance depending upon the many variables for optimization.

At the same time, we are talking about building metrics so that the various locations can be compared to start to see what can be improved at the locations from other locations to start to drive plant optimization to the next level.  This includes standardizing metrics across all locations, standardizing reporting and delivery mechanisms such as our remote access capabilities and visual factory solutions.  The reason they are able to do this is that they have already started to drive standardization of their networking down to the PLC layer following the Cisco and Rockwell architecture.  Once this is in place, the drive towards IoT and IoE are much easier.

Others have done this across multiple industries and we are seeing this start to become implemented not just in the big companies but also the small and mid-size companies that make up the bulk of our world manufacturing economy.   IoT can truly make a difference for food manufacturers, both big and small.  Thanks for reading. Webcast Series: The Internet of Things


Partnering with, Cisco recently hosted Part II of a webcast series  on ‘The Internet of Things ’ for Manufacturing.  The content was very well received as it covered some key opportunities in Manufacturing today and how IoT technologies are helping enable an industrial renaissance in many markets today.  The first webcast   was joined by Steelcase’s CIO, Bob Krestakos, Joe Kann from Rockwell Automation and Tony Shakib from Cisco.  Meanwhile, for the second webcast, one of our key partners in the industrial space, Rockwell Automation joined us along with Harley Davidson.   Moderated by Jeff Reinke, Editorial Director of,  the webcast speakers included David Gutshall, Infrastructure Design Manager at Harley Davidson, Rachel Conrad,  Global Business Manager   at Rockwell Automation and  Bryan Tantzen, Senior Director, IoT Business Unit at Cisco.

Both Part I and Part II are worthwhile, whether you want to learn more about the key areas that are ripe for the IoT opportunity or want to better understand enabling technologies or best practices.  In addition, I summarize David Gutshall’s comments on the Harley Davidson deployment and other best IoT practices in my blog, “IoT in Manufacturing: Insights and Best Practices”.    We hope you have time to check out these on-demand webcasts.  Thanks for reading.

Imagine the Possibilities with IoT and IoE

Cisco customers have asked me how the Internet of Everything and the Internet of Things are going to affect their everyday life.  My answer:  it can be mind-boggling how interconnected sensors and devices are going to impact our daily lives.

Specifically, in the industrial space, I get to work daily with our manufacturing and mining customers who want to understand best practices and deployments, and figure out how to implement various solutions to add value to their business.  Some of this may be tracking adjacent or similar markets with the nuanced changes to apply to their particular situation.

For example, one customer I have been working with is in the process of integrating 4-5 completely different systems into one tool to do correlation events.  In the past, one person had to have the intelligence to look at each of these disparate systems and then start to tie all of this together.  The issue is with the fact is the single person who has this intelligence is the only one who knows what to do.  This may have been job security for that individual, but the situation creates bottlenecks.

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An Update on Recent Industry Events and IoT in Manufacturing

It has been a crazy past three weeks with IoT and IoE for myself and also Cisco.  We recently hosted Cisco Live where we had over 25,000 attendees onsite and over 200,000 more attend virtually.  By the end of that week, I felt I had met each and every one and had at least a 15 minute conversation with them.  The buzz is there and our customers are telling us we are aligned to tackle this market and make IoT  in manufacturing take off.  Aside from our customers, I also had the pleasure to talk with leading industry and manufacturing analysts on our vision of IoT as well as various customer projects.  Here’s what one leading analyst blogged about right after CiscoLive:

“…current plant networks are like spangled spaghetti, which Cisco is attempting to untangle it based on its powerful networking routers and switches in a secure, simple and an effective way. The converged platform approach solves flexibility, scalability and responsiveness challenges of end-users. At a juncture, wherein customers across industry verticals are looking at standardization and standards-driven manufacturing, Cisco clearly has cracked the code with this platform approach.”  –

Muthuraman Ramasamy, Frost & Sullivan

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