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IoT in Manufacturing: Insights and Best Practices

IoT Webcast Manufacturing net

Recently, the second of a two-part Manufacturing.net webcast series on ‘The Internet of Things ’ (IoT) wrapped with a deep dive on the very real business advantages and outcomes that are enabled when IoT is fully applied to Manufacturing operations. One of the speakers, David Gutshall, Infrastructure Design Manager at Harley-Davidson Motor Company, highlighted many advantages he’s experienced with deployments of the Converged Plant-wide Ethernet solution architecture from Cisco and Rockwell Automation. In the webcast, David talked about “greater manufacturing flexibility across the supply chain, where … we can collate data across the factory (and enterprise) … and have experienced a substantial reduction in downtime.”  He described that with an IP-enabled Connected Factory, “what used to take hours or days to triage and troubleshoot problems now takes seconds.” Expanding on the topic, David said “when we bring a new machine online, it essentially works with the network out-of-the-box,” yielding greater flexibility and significantly reducing new model NPI (New Product Introduction) cycles and time to market.

Similar companies, like General Motors, have leveraged this industrial automation and controls system (IACS) architecture, which GM calls ‘Plant Floor Control Network’ (PFCN), to reduce downtime by as much as 75% and to drive out hundreds of $millions in plant engineering, operations and maintenance costs associated with factory expansions and modernizations. Both GM and Harley identify one of the biggest advantages of a standardized yet flexible factory automation infrastructure is the acceleration of NPI offerings and advancement into new markets. Over the past decade, GM with partners has been able to gain a leading share of passenger vehicles produced in China, Brazil and other emerging markets. And as Harley rolls out their recently announced LiveWire electric motorcycle, I suspect that an integral part of their strategy includes the American manufacturing renaissance vision for a dynamic, fun, flexible factory of the future. Take a look at this inspirational video from Harley describing the modernization and transformation of their existing York Manufacturing Facility:

David Gutshall described during the Manufacturing.net Part II webcast how IoT in manufacturing has enabled “cross-functional competencies, a flattening of the organization.” As illustrated in the above video, David also elaborated on the example of Harley-Davidson’s implementation of a ‘Visual Factory’, where “dashboards showing the same views, including key sensor … (and) TAC time” information help to get all employees engaged, aligned and committed. When maintenance, controls engineering and IT are all empowered with a “single pane of glass” visibility to more accurate, real-time information, there is a cultural shift to work better, more effectively together towards common goals.

The opportunities and outcomes for IoT within manufacturing include improving time to market, asset utilization, manufacturing flexibility, reducing total costs of ownership, and managing and mitigating operational risks. Enabling technologies such as converged plant-wide IACS networking solutions are truly starting to change the landscape for manufacturers grappling with increased business challenges to control costs, drive quality throughput and better manage risks. Exemplified by Harley, the impact of IoT is much broader than just operational metrics or new connectivity.  What IoT can drive is the shift toward cultural empowerment of manufacturing employees to become true partners to the business.

Please take some time to view both Part I and Part II of the Manufacturing.net webcast series and share with me your ideas, experiences and business outcomes associated with IoT in manufacturing, and how the convergence of network and technology are enabling cultural and organizational convergence and transformations. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog.

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7 Comments.


  1. Yes, as stated in this article, Industrial IoT will have significant transformation to the industrial community. It will do the similar magic / value of social networks (like facebook, google+, linkedin & so on) that connected all the people.

    The interesting challenge for the market participants in the IoT ecosystem could be in how the existing infrastructure connected through legacy networks could be leveraged for IP based networks. In the social network case, its totally a new platform. But in our manufacturing brownfield projects it is not. In case of green field projects, IIoT is the way forward.

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    • July 1, 2014 at 9:11 pm

      Thank you, Naveen, for your commentary. Indeed, migration from legacy systems to IP-based industrial IoT does prove to be a more challenging ROI versus the manufacturing plant greenfield ‘no-brainer’. Albeit a slow process and somewhat suboptimal to garnish the full value of the Internet of Everything (IoE), what I’ve primarily seen is for manufacturing brownfields adopting IoE/IoT to leverage expansions, refresh and modernization projects that typically move at a pace dictated by plant zone / cell conversions vs. plantwide ‘rip-and-replace’. I would love to hear some advice on IoT migration best practices!

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  2. July 1, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    Thank you, Chet, for highlighting my favorite Cisco customer – and my favorite company / brand / product / emotion / philosophy via Harley-Davidson. They are an amazing success story and set a world-class standard. Proud to be part of the family (both Cisco and H-D).

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    • July 1, 2014 at 9:15 pm

      No doubt, Mark! How can you not love those Harley-Davidson and Cisco brands? Both provide a truly world-class promise of high quality, value and most importantly, a premium customer experience. Thank you for taking time to read and comment!

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  3. Thank you Chet for this informative post. Long live Harley!

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  4. We need to imagine the Industrial IoT as the teenager live it today. For our generation Harley Davidson was inspiring because of the sound, in the future the brand will be inspiring because it motor make no noise.

    Cisco seems to be again on the top of the trend.

       1 like

  5. It’s great to see that Harley-Davidson remains timeless and yet cutting edge.

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