How manufacturing and logistics could work with smart cities
If the Internet of Things is the more recognisable term under which this non-stop technological change is taking place, then the IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) is a somewhat lesser known variant where many advancements have already been made, sometimes behind closed doors on the factory floor and in industrial spaces the world over. Global adoption of the IIoT should not be underestimated.
Worldwide spend on IoT technology will increase by 86% to $1.3Tn by 2019. Much of what’s driving the change (and the spend) are the manufacturing and logistics sectors. For decades factories, warehouses and power plants have used automation to huge levels of success, and yet there will still be disruption that promises to drive efficiency, increase safety and change manufacturing and logistics forever. Although the two industries are further along their automation journey than many others, M2M (machine to machine) communication and device connectivity could be more accurately described as operating via an INTRANET of Things as opposed to an Internet of Things.
The main reason for this? Security. Hacking, malware and other information theft are high on the security agenda, meaning the standard communication protocol in many manufacturing and logistics environments is via an internal network unconnected to the Internet. This will change, however. IoT-enabling the warehouses and factories of the world will increase safety and efficiency, as well as the knock-on effect of decreasing cargo journey time and an improvement in logistics efficiency too. Cisco systems recently purchased Jasper to add cellular connectivity to its arsenal, which could be seen as placing a rather large bet on the prediction that manufacturers will increasingly start opening up more of their supply chain communication to the web.
Next stop? Plugging into the city around us. The benefits of IIoT are obvious, and when you couple that with the advancements in logistics communication across cities, there is clearly saving to be made from one end of the supply chain to the other. But what of the factory worker? A dwindling career? Maybe, or maybe not. So possibly, or at least as we recognise it today. Conventional thinking would have it that as automation increases, the admin and factory floor workforce will shrink, but this will give rise to an increase in several other types of career: technicians, remote logistics, data analysts and other knowledge workers.
Many businesses will offer reskilling and retraining of existing employees to adapt to the changing manufacturing and logistics environment, and while the debate rages on about machines replacing humans entirely, it’s worth noting that according to 140 years’ worth of data, technology has created more jobs than it’s replaced. Smart manufacturing gives power and insight to the business at every link in the supply chain. Success rests on connectivity, data and cloud adoption and once the move to IIoT is complete these three elements will be entirely manageable and interchangeable. As McKinsey’s Markus Loeffler says, ‘process and device will be inseparable’.
When manufacturing has played its part and logistics takes over, this is when connected cities can really come into play. Beyond smart traffic lights rerouting cars and trucks for optimum journey time, we could see collaboration between charities and private businesses to transport share in return for tax cuts, through rapid continuous monitoring of cargo, and we’ll undoubtedly see a better understanding of pedestrians and cyclist routes to eradicate accidents. All of this will be in the knowledge that the two industries can now work with local authorities to make urban living easier and less polluted, and the manufacturing and logistics sectors safer, quicker, and better for the environment.
If logistics does continue to dovetail with its city surroundings we will also see secondary industries spring up around logistics and beacon communications management, as well as GPS optimisation. While traffic itself may decrease, traffic management could become a very competitive industry all of its own. In some cases, traditional logistics will be entirely cut out of the supply chain process. 3D printers could handle manufacturing on spec, at scale, with minimal physical or energy wastage.
The IIoT is more than another industrial revolution – it’s where the industrial revolution meets the informational revolution. Once manufacturing and logistics work together with the smart cities around them, we will see total upheaval in the way we make, sell, buy and transport goods all over the world.
Author: Jon Kennard