IIoT for mid-sized manufacturers

Features - Cover Story

The impact of legacy systems on medical device manufacturers.

May 27, 2022


In recent years, many mid-sized manufacturers in the medical device industry have been missing out on incredible benefits of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). This industry needs to stay flexible to adapt to new regulatory requirements, but some mid-sized manufacturers are unclear how technology can help achieve this flexibility.

The IIoT connects machine-to-machine sensors and smart devices on the factory floor to provide operators with real-time and actionable data. This helps mid-sized manufacturers reduce costs, increase efficiencies, and better prepare for future challenges or disruptions.

Since medical device manufacturing has been growing and adapting due to the rising geriatric population and the increase in complex surgical procedures, making manufacturing as lean as possible has never been more important.

The IIoT allows medical manufacturers to take a more hands-off approach to their equipment since sensor data helps operators perform maintenance before unanticipated machine failures.

The IIoT and Industry 4.0 technologies are leading the digital transformation, easily converting outdated factory floors into modern, digitally enabled organizations. Adopting the IIoT is proven to provide a positive return on investment (ROI) for large manufacturers, but mid-sized manufacturers aren’t embracing digital transformation at the same rate as their larger competitors. The World Economic Forum reported there are stark differences in the rates of IIoT adoption between large, global manufacturers and mid-sized manufacturers and those differences are “exacerbating economic inequality, stifling opportunities for social mobility, and dragging down global industrial productivity.”

Mid-sized challenges

There are three main barriers keeping medical device manufacturers from implementing the IIoT and other Industry 4.0 technologies: shortage of skilled labor, lack of access to capital, and an unclear ROI. With ways to overcome these barriers, and considerably more resources, large-scale manufacturers are more likely to invest in smart technologies.

The four key areas where medical device manufacturers can see a noticeable ROI from Industry 4.0 are product quality, machine availability, efficiency, and energy consumption. Since these key performance indicators (KPIs) help prove the value of new technology implementations, mid-sized manufacturers should set up KPIs before, during, and after any IIoT trial on the factory floor.

Affordable IIoT roadmap

The benefits of IIoT implementation become clearer for mid-sized manufacturers in the medtech industry when demonstrating achievable returns to financial institutions, boards of directors, investors, and stakeholders. This step enables the decision makers of small- and mid-sized manufacturers to create an IIoT roadmap that’s understandable and affordable while simultaneously being in line with the company’s short- and long-term business goals.

One key difference between large and mid-sized manufacturers is smaller manufacturers generally want to see improvements in overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) from any new technology investments within weeks. Therefore, helping mid-sized manufacturers connect and visualize legacy manufacturing equipment on the factory floor is a vital first step in any IIoT roadmap, simply because they don’t have the time, money, or capacity to replace existing machines or infrastructure. Continuous improvement must be the central focus for small- and mid-sized manufacturers for a successful IIoT adoption, encompassing skills, technologies, and established infrastructure. A comprehensive understanding of these requirements will place mid-sized manufacturers in a strong position to compete with their larger counterparts.

Clear, actionable business intelligence from data

The IIoT can help mid-sized manufacturers boost efficiency, productivity, and safety through better connecting legacy manufacturing processes, devices, and systems, such as MES, PLM, QM, MM, ERP, and CRM, which enable the business to create value. Unfortunately, many mid-sized manufacturers continue to struggle with eliminating siloed data and transforming data produced from IIoT sensors and devices into real-world business benefits.

Obtaining and connecting real-time data from legacy systems and machines is essential for mid-sized manufacturers in medtech. However, expectations must be grounded in that adoption of IIoT doesn’t need to be a complete overhaul – something mid-sized manufacturers often feel pressured to pursue with new technology implementations.

Instead, adoption of the IIoT and other Industry 4.0 technologies can be implemented in incremental fragments that are controllable, affordable, and easily executed. It’s important to plan any IIoT technology rollout carefully with specific requirements and goals to ensure the minimum amount of disruption to day-to-day business operations. Mid-sized manufacturers should start implementations on the production floor and scale up gradually.

Following implementation, real value can be found in consolidating data from previously siloed sources into a single platform with a closed feedback loop to help employees on the factory floor make faster, better decisions.

Sensor data helps operators perform maintenance before unanticipated machine failures.

Bringing IIoT to life

In today’s competitive market, decision makers at all levels must be equipped with the best intelligence to make the right decisions at the right time, which is why manufacturers of medical devices are relying more on smart manufacturing technology to help meet constantly changing regulatory requirements. Data from the IIoT can deliver actionable intelligence from the plant floor to the top floor while allowing mid-sized medical manufacturers to unify, integrate, and analyze this data.

Medical device manufacturing is a lucrative business impacting millions of lives, and data-driven decision making can make manufacturers more responsive every day.

About the author: Terri Ghio is president of FactoryEye North America Operations and can be reached at tghio@magicsoftware.com

FactoryEye North America