The world’s most popular manufacturer of electric vehicles is gearing up to reinvent lean manufacturing. After he mentioned his dream to dethrone Toyota as the standard in manufacturing efficiency, Tesla CEO Elon Musk promised to continue deploying cutting-edge technology to their operations. Some experts aren’t convinced, but the increasing sophistication of Tesla’s manufacturing operations and the introduction of Industrial IoT technology shows promise.
Tesla’s Industrial IoT strategy is about looking at the factory as a product, rather than a place. Musk and his team solve manufacturing issues as if they are debugging software by developing solutions that draw from their diverse technical and engineering backgrounds.
In Tesla’s Gigafactory, you’ll find Autonomous Indoor Vehicles (AIVs) which improve the transfer of materials between workstations. These vehicles operate based on a complex logic algorithm, meaning they don’t require any preset path to carry out their duties. The vehicles can carry payloads up to 130 lbs, and can even charge their own battery without intervention.
Moving forward, Tesla has no plans to slow down. They continue to acquire companies in the space in order propel their process efficiency and manufacturing capabilities. In 2016, they acquired Grohmann Engineering, a German manufacturing automation firm that draws from multiple disciplines, including life sciences, in order to lead the charge towards the next generation of manufacturing.
Caterpillar is no stranger to Industrial IoT. A few years ago, the company began to outfit its industrial machinery with intelligent sensors and network capabilities which allow users to closely monitor and optimize processes. Today, their digital solution Cat Connect Technologies and Services is installed on over half a million Caterpillar vehicles.
The solution collects and analyzes usage data from the machine in areas pertaining to equipment management, safety, sustainability, and productivity. With a wealth of data, users can create predictive maintenance solutions and discover new ways to increase efficiency.
The solution has multiple applications across a variety of industries. One company using Caterpillar’s marine equipment was able to increase the longevity of their generators by developing a predictive maintenance analysis using power output data. Although the savings were nominal to a single vessel, the company still managed to save $650,000 a year by applying the solution across their entire fleet.
Caterpillar is just one of many industrial equipment providers that are contributing to Industrial IoT adoption. As we’ll see next, Hortilux is doing the very same thing for the horticultural industry.
Hortilux first burst on to the scene with their high-quality lighting solutions for commercial growers. Now, the company is gearing up to disrupt the horticultural tech scene with a solution that allows growers greater control over the quality of their harvests.
Similar to Caterpillar, Hortilux helps customers make better and more informed decisions with accurate and robust data analysis. Hortilux equipment is outfitted with cloud-enabled smart sensors which connect commercial growers to HortiSense, a software solution that provides full-visibility of growing operations.
Hortisense analyzes growing conditions, including weather forecasts and energy rates, in order to inform the grower’s lighting strategy. Growers can develop a lighting strategy that maximizes crop quality while minimizing energy consumption. This ensures a greater yield and greater cost savings—it’s a win-win.
Daimler knows a strong Industrial IoT strategy begins with a strong foundation. Their operation in Portland, Oregon was once struggling to keep costs low and operations efficient. Furthermore, the complexity and customization of the operation made it increasingly difficult to scale for future demand. Management knew it was time for a change.
The company partnered with Cisco to implement a wireless network across the entire facility. As a result, many common plant floor tasks were digitized. Plant floor personnel traded clipboards and pens for iPads, and began to manage machine operations along with shipping and receiving activities right from the palm of their hand. The network allows them to do this by centralizing PLC data, and connecting operations to execution and logistics systems. The resulting environment improves and accelerates communication across the operation, and improves the efficiency of activities like maintenance and scheduling.
A networked plant floor is often the first step in any digital transformation. Why? Because data is an operation’s most invaluable resource. It opens the door for Daimler to introduce new and innovative technologies and software solutions to the plant floor. Solutions like predictive maintenance, downtime optimization, and performance management wouldn’t be possible without discrete and accurate production data.
Faurecia is a leading automotive parts manufacturer of interiors and emissions controls. Their customers include Volkswagen, GM, and Ford, among many others. Similar to other parts manufacturers, Faurecia is in the midst of a sweeping digital transformation. In 2016, the company built a 400,000 square-foot operation with Industrial IoT and automation in mind.
The PLC-enabled machines in the facility are fully networked to a centralized server—called the “lake”—that connects plant floor activities to their execution and reporting systems. The resulting integrated system delivers accurate transparency into operations, unparalleled control over manufacturing quality, and seamless parts traceability.
The new system is also improving communication quality and speed across the entire organization. Both the plant floor and managerial spaces are equipped with a stable high-speed internet connection, allowing both operators and management to react quickly to any issue that may arise. At the end of the day, Faurecia is building a plant floor that’s better for all stakeholders involved. The plant floor is operating smoother than ever, and shareholders are benefitting from the cost savings.