Isaac Newton compiled and published his 3 laws of motion in 1687, and they have remained undisputed for more than 3 centuries. Newton’s Third Law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. He clearly did not know about the Internet of Things (IoT) which conceptually came into being in 1982. But we think that therein lies a lesson to be learned. Because despite all of the rewards to be gained from the IoT, there are also risks.
No one would dispute that for manufacturers, connected machines that share data have the potential to minimize disruptive downtime. And safety gear equipped with IoT technology has the potential to reduce employee injuries. In fact, “smart” technology is changing virtually every aspect of manufacturing. However, amid all of the excitement, we tend to focus on the competitive advantages and turn a blind eye to the pitfalls.
So, caveat emptor! Let the buyer beware. Here is just one cautionary example.
The Risks and Rewards of Predictive Maintenance
Predictive maintenance is based on the use of IoT sensors on a production line, sensors that can report on critical data points such as heat, humidity, and vibration.
In theory, and most often in reality, rather than waiting for a machine to fail, these sensors provide alerts that allow plant maintenance crews to schedule machinery repairs during planned downtime versus in the middle of a production run. The sensors can also identify problems before they impact the entire production process.
Positive Outcome: Cost savings and higher profit margins
The major risk lies in the questionable reliability of sensors that don’t yet have a long-term track record. Should a sensor malfunction, it could also fail to trigger a maintenance alert. It could also fail to detect an out-of-tolerance condition.
Negative Outcome: Large quantities of finished products that need to be scrapped
The Bottom Line
It’s a balancing act. So as you evaluate the integration of IoT technologies into your manufacturing plant, think about your tipping point. For example, how many potential years of rewards would offset the cost of a single, potential disaster? You might even conclude that periodic testing of IoT sensors would eliminate the risks altogether.