As we as an industry move into Industry 4.0, Manufacturing IoT, or whatever it may be called within your company, it is important to not underestimate the effort needed for implementation. IoT sounds great, is great and will provide tremendous efficiency improvements throughout your organization, IF properly implemented.
Acquisition costs for software, hardware and hardware installation are the top line considerations and important when evaluating packages and suppliers. What is often underestimated is the effort needed internally once these initial steps are complete.
Storerooms provide an excellent microcosm of the entire process. If your facility is over six weeks old, there are already handwritten notations in your storeroom. Older and the problem only gets worse.
Let me outline the size of the implementation problem. Let's just suppose you have 200,000 items in your storeroom. Each one of these needs a Bill of Material (BOM) with certain fields completed. You have someone enter a few of these in your new system. This is likely a manual entry system.
You pick a half dozen items at random and discover it takes 5 minutes per item to enter it, check for accuracy and so forth. That's 17,000 hours, or 8.5 effort years. So, you need a temporary staff of 9 people to get this job completed in a year.
But...that is a staff of 9 competent and trained people. Additionally, this will require at least a couple Subject Matter Experts (SME's) to answer the inevitable questions that will arise as various items have no description or don't fit the BOM fields. You'll have to multiply your time estimate by some efficiency factor.
Then there are the items that are in stores but not in the storeroom. You know, those items that are too big or too impractical to put in the storeroom. It doesn't make sense to store nuts and bolts and pulper rotors on the same shelf, does it? What do you do with these anomalies?
So, here is the problem. We can have all sorts of senior level buy-in, a sophisticated hardware and software implementation team, but in some areas the quality of the final result, hence the ability to gain the return on investment expected, can be dependent on a team of clerical folks. This clerical team may lack the motivation of everyone else involved, yet they are just as important as anyone else. They just may be more important than some others who we think of as key to the project.
It is key that the details be properly recorded. It is foolish to think that others who already have full time jobs can do this "in their spare time." They are full time for a reason. Additionally, if such work is done on a start-stop basis in and among other tasks, there are two problems that arise. The first is the lack of efficiency in starting and stopping a distinct and disparate set of tasks. The second is maintaining a continuity of quality in the inputs.
For instance, if one day you describe a certain item as a pulley and the next day you describe a similar item as a sheave, your data becomes a bit of a mishmash and another issue has been exposed. That issue is this: one of the first things you need to do is develop a dictionary or lexicon of nomenclature, so we call all similar items by the same generic descriptor through out the facility. This effort needs to be thorough, exacting and first in your planning.
In summary, purchasing and installing the hardware and software is simply the beginning. There are many other tasks that must be considered and executed successfully before you can declared your IOT installation complete and useful.