New smart devices connected to the internet are constantly coming online, expanding the so-called Internet of Things (IoT).
These devices are particularly well suited to the manufacturing industry. In 2016, almost one-fourth of investments in IoT devices was made by the manufacturing industry. Manufacturing was the top industry to spend on IoT that year, and according to the research company International Data Corporation, manufacturing will continue to be the top buyer of IoT devices for the next two years.
While IoT devices are expected to boost efficiency, decrease downtime, increase safety and streamline the supply chain, some see the technology as being a potential replacement for human employees. This fear appears to be somewhat unfounded, however.
When the steam engine was invented, some said the technology meant the end of manual labor. However, the steam engine led to the development of completely new sectors like railways and shipping via massive steam-powered ships. While some manual labor was eliminated, the steam engine created countless new jobs and the modern society we enjoy today.
The same will likely be true for IoT technology. IoT will lead to new product offers and business models, such as machines-as-a-service or on-demand 3D printing. The result will be a net increase of IoT jobs over the next decade.
The dawn of smart manufacturing
IoT allows users to see what is taking place at each stage of a manufacturing process, enabling personnel to apply real-time solutions and decrease machine downtime. In fact, algorithms can use operational information and failure data to turn real-time IoT sensor information into predictive maintenance solutions. Employees can be alerted to prospective failures, or even the machines themselves can “self-heal” – minimizing breakdowns and the downtime that comes with them.
Real-time sensor information can be used to follow raw materials and finished goods before, during, and after manufacturing. Analytics offers essential data for ordering and can lower costs through smart shipping strategies.
Manufacturers can use the tracking of shipments to adjust orders and gain insights on how to make products from recycled, reused or low-emission materials, potentially reducing costs in the process.
Jobs in the era of IoT
As noted above, new technology can cause major disruptions in the labor market and IoT doesn’t appear to be an exception: Some jobs will be eliminated, and new jobs will be created.
Industrial data scientists will process IoT data to gain profound new insights, as well as make minor tweaks to established systems. Machine coordinators will oversee all of the automation on a production floor and react to various machine issues as needed. IoT architects will design smart manufacturing systems and integrate new technologies as they emerge. Industrial computer engineers will develop software tools to extract value from IoT devices.
These and other jobs like them will emerge as some jobs, particularly those involving repetitive, manual labor, fade away.
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