The manufacturing landscape is shifting.

A whitepaper by Zebra Technologies and IDC Manufacturing Insights shows the industry is moving from a capacity to a capability focus, and make-to-stock and mass production is giving way to make-to-order behaviours, with a focus on quality.

As part of this shift, greater expectations are being placed on plant floor staff to move from being ‘operators’ to ‘knowledge workers’.

This means moving beyond technical proficiency of plant equipment and obtaining analytical and decision-making skills to make adjustments to machine operation to maximise efficiency.

Zebra Technologies APAC senior technical director Wayne Harper believes IoT will help next-generation manufacturers and knowedge workers in these operations by providing real-time actionable insight.

“Technology changes, a demanding marketplace and aggressive competition are all putting manufacturers under pressure to make continuous improvements,” he said.

“Enterprises are looking at the advent of big data as a vast mine to gain deeper, more actionable insight into their operations and processes, and do more with less.

“New technology is giving them the ability to gather and assimilate unprecedented levels of production data.”

That insight is driving visibility throughout the value chain, providing an accurate picture in real-time of the location and condition of assets, and timing and accuracy of events.

It also provides an opportunity for manufacturers to significantly reduce the potential for wastage from their operations.

“Data visibility empowers manufacturers to orchestrate production and deliver to order, cutting out operator waiting time, reducing defects, and eliminating over-production,” Harper said.

“With complete visibility of the relationships and interdependence between items, processes and people, and transactions taking place, manufacturers can move closer to the goal of true visibility.”

Zebra sees the use of Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC) solutions as one path to creating that level of visibility required by manufacturers to optimise operations.

Barcodes, RFID, GPS, environmental sensors and real-time locating systems (RTLS) can all be used to drive efficiency benefits and greater accuracy in asset and product location and operational state.

“The increased interest to adopt the Internet of Things, and the acceleration and convergence of mobility, data analytics and cloud computing, coupled with the ability to place sensors and computing devices virtually anywhere, creates an enormous opportunity for manufacturers to gather intelligence that is fundamental to improving visibility within their operations,” Harper said.

“As a business’ insight and visibility grows, the improvements they can make do too.”

For more information about Zebra's manufacturing vision, click here.