The manufacturing industry accounts for approximately 15% of workplace injuries and illnesses, caused by fatigue, fugitive emission of toxic fluids, excessive radiation, improper use of PPEs, and accidents due to faulty equipment. Security is another concern for manufacturers; they invest heavily in facility security systems which are vital for controlling access to facilities, detecting and suppressing fire, preventing theft of assets, and tracking assets. They are raising investment in security systems to counter emerging threats associated with interconnected and automated manufacturing systems.
The internet of things (IoT) offers game-changing opportunities for manufacturers and helps them automate processes and overcome prominent safety and security challenges. The industrial IoT market is expected to have a market value of $1.49 trillion by 2030. At the moment, how can manufacturers implement IoT solutions to optimize workplace safety and security?
1. Enhancing asset maintenance
Some manufacturers rely on a reactive maintenance strategy and defer critical maintenance due to tight maintenance budgets. However, this reduces the reliability and efficiency of production systems — resulting in increased safety risks and the probability of workplace injuries — and the reliability of facility security systems. Poor maintenance increases the frequency of equipment breakdowns and raises the cost of operation.
IoT sensors can transform the scale and quality of maintenance in manufacturing facilities. Critical production machines are fitted with sensors that monitor real-time equipment performances. Sensor data is subjected to predictive algorithms that detect underlying machine defects and predict when failures are likely to happen. These sensors help companies transition to a more affordable strategy, i.e., predictive maintenance.
Predictive analytics help companies simplify maintenance workloads and minimize deferred tasks, increasing asset availability by 30%. It reduces machine-related hazards, guaranteeing safer workplaces. Sensor data can be utilized to frequently update maintenance schedules and phase out aging equipment with poor safety standards and environmental compliance ratings.
2. Automating safety and security risk assessments
Manufacturers conduct frequent facility audits to identify potential safety and security risks. They analyze the reliability of existing work schedules, shop floor layouts, employee adherence to safety policies, and the efficiency of existing security systems.
The central question is: Are existing personnel authentication measures sufficient?
Facilities require several sets of data to draw reasonable conclusions regarding their state of safety and security. They collect data from IoT-enabled cameras to identify those entering or leaving the facility. Additionally, cameras with computer vision technology can identify unsafe working practices and employees with improper protective equipment, triggering real-time alerts to avert risky behavior and deter unauthorized access.
IoT sensors monitor equipment performance and collect and relay data regarding common equipment defects, their causes, and propagation mechanisms. Data from these systems is collected and relayed to dedicated data management systems. Facilities analyze the data over time to map out safety and security trends.
Accurate and sufficient data from IoT systems enables manufacturers to reduce risk assessment turnaround times. Manufacturers use insights from the assessments to strengthen safety compliance and improve the reliability of internal and external security systems.
3. Improving asset tracking and remote monitoring
Manufacturers struggle to maintain the visibility of all production assets within their facilities and protect them from theft or vandalism. Some assets are in hard-to-access places, yet machine operators and maintenance technicians must keep an eye on them. IoT devices are helpful to centralize the management and operation of such assets.
Smart sensors on movable assets and advanced technologies — such as radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and laser scanners — help manufacturers monitor asset navigation within enclosed spaces. RFID tags on spare parts, tools, and other work devices ensure that they remain within the facilities, and any attempt to smuggle the goods triggers an alarm.
Other digitalization systems can also be implemented to enhance the autonomy of these devices for optimal route planning and collision detection and avoidance, increasing workplace safety standards. Companies can provide employees with IoT-enabled facility access tags with unique identifiers and authentication codes, which would allow them to identify the number of employees in a facility at a particular time and track the authorization of critical manufacturing or maintenance operations.
4. Monitoring employee wellness and safety compliance
Fatigue is among the leading causes of workplace injuries and accidents in the manufacturing sector. It is important to keep in mind that operators and technicians should be physically fit to operate machinery and interpret real-time production data. IoT sensors, fitted-in wearables, and personal protective equipment can monitor employee wellness and detect hazards.
Technicians and operators can be equipped with wearables containing different IoT sensors tracking the employee’s physical health indicators to detect employee fatigue, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature. They can also provide insights to improve work ergonomics for optimal employee wellness.
Smart sensors can detect hazardous environments, smoke, fires, and internal machine defects and relay the information to employees in real time. The employees can stop production processes or initiate emergency evacuation plans, depending on the severity of the impending risk.
IoT technology is helping manufacturers globally to improve their safety and security standards while enhancing their compliance with industry and statutory regulations. Such devices are compatible with most physical systems and networks and can detect several process variables.
Manufacturers should identify the most pressing safety and security challenges before selecting and implementing suitable IoT technologies. They should also secure digital systems to safeguard the integrity and accuracy of data collected and relayed by these systems.