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The global marketplace is evolving rapidly, and the ability to adapt is a defining factor between manufacturers that merely survive, and those that thrive. As rising costs, supply chain issues, skills gaps, and challenges related to COVID-19 escalate, manufacturers must look to intelligent cloud and intelligent edge solutions to build smart, agile factories.

Internet of Things (IoT) technology—especially when combined with edge computing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning—is helping manufacturers to improve performance and anticipate market shifts through actionable intelligence and real-time visibility. In fact, according to the 2020 IoT Signals Report, 93 percent of manufacturers have already adopted IoT and consider it critical to their success, and 67 percent plan to expand their use of IoT in the next two years.

Microsoft has an incredible ecosystem of partners that are making custom industrial IoT solutions faster, easier, and more cost-effective to implement. Our partners continue to lead the industry through innovative solutions that streamline IoT adoption and meet very specific industry needs.

Below are some pivotal ways that IoT can help manufacturers drive agility, increase uptime, optimize overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), and improve product quality and efficiency. For more information, be sure to watch this short video, Build agile factories and boost product quality with IoT.

Drive operational equipment efficiency (OEE)

Improving OEE is a top priority for most manufacturers. Manufacturers are looking for ways to capture and use real-time insights to power continuous optimization, better business decisions, and cost reductions. They want to leverage intelligent planning, predictive maintenance, and production flow visibility across plants, lines, and assets to capture efficiencies and lift plant performance.

Developed by Microsoft partner PTC, ThingWorx provides the building blocks to simplify and accelerate custom solutions for industrial use cases. The solution helps users to monitor and troubleshoot machine connectivity and provides visibility into asset status and health, all in real-time, leading to increased asset efficiency and uptime.

Howden is a company that delivers solutions that optimize customers’ processes. To better serve their customers, Howden used ThingWorx to combine IoT and Mixed Reality to gather, analyze, and apply critical equipment insights to optimize performance and drive operational efficiencies. The solution has helped its customers increase uptime, productivity, and scalability.

Improve product quality and production efficiency

Improving product quality and production efficiency is another priority that can be achieved through IoT. By capturing and applying actionable intelligence, IoT helps reduce lead times and get products into customers’ hands faster. Using cognitive services and artificial intelligence (AI), IoT informs quick design changes to improve product quality and yield. IoT also helps manufacturers tame operational costs by increasing productivity and energy efficiency and lowering scrap and rework expenses.

Additionally, IoT can enhance resilience and profitability through better supply chain planning and execution. Using sensors, networks, and ambient intelligence, IoT helps to create autonomous supply chains that get products to market faster.

Using advanced analytics and AI, Siemens MindSphere® is a Microsoft partner as a service solution that powers industrial IoT solutions from the edge to the cloud. MindSphere delivers real-time visibility and insights into the production environment to help anticipate issues and avoid downtimes, respond to changing conditions, and optimize assets and processes.

In fact, MindSphere enabled an automobile manufacturer to deploy a mature, ready-made platform that integrated with existing systems and assets to help the manufacturer improve assembly quality, meet shop-floor needs, deliver rapid ROI, and adapt to changing conditions.

Increase uptime and availability

Keeping production lines running smoothly is another critical priority. IoT enables manufacturers to acquire real-time insights that can help reduce unplanned downtime, improve worker safety, and increase output. When combined with AI and machine learning, IoT helps manufacturers monitor asset health and predict, diagnose, and resolve issues before they disrupt production. IoT can also help streamline system administration to maximize productivity. And when combined with Mixed Reality, IoT can be used to empower technicians with the information and tools to improve productivity and first-time fix rates.

Partner solutions like ThingWorx and MindSphere deliver these kinds of predictive insights that enable manufacturers to anticipate and address equipment maintenance and replacement needs to sidestep costly failures and keep production running at maximum capacity.

Smart manufacturing with IoT improves outcomes and is a key differentiator in attaining a more resilient and sustainable future. To learn more about how Azure IoT and Microsoft partner solutions that can help you accelerate your journey to Industry 4.0, I encourage you to explore Microsoft Azure IoT manufacturing solutions and learn more about Azure IoT. For more information about Intelligent manufacturing from Microsoft, visit the Microsoft manufacturing industry page.