The Industrial Internet of Things for Mid-Sized Manufacturers: The Impact of Legacy Systems on Medical Device Manufacturers

  • October 3, 2022
  • Terri Ghio

In recent years, many mid-sized manufacturers in the medical device industry have been missing out on incredible benefits that can be achieved with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). This industry needs to stay flexible enough to adapt to any new regulatory requirements, but some mid-sized manufacturers are unclear on how technology can help them achieve this flexibility. The IIoT utilizes connected machine-to-machine sensors and smart devices on the factory floor to provide real-time and actionable data to key operators. This helps mid-sized manufacturers reduce costs, increase efficiencies, and better prepare for future challenges or disruptions. Since the medical device industry 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The IIoT and Industry 4.0 technologies are leading the digital transformation narrative, easily converting outdated factory floors for medical devices into modern, digitally enabled organizations.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 are not embracing digital transformation at the same rate as their larger competitors. The World Economic Forum reported that there are stark differences in the rates of IIoT adoption between large global manufacturers to mid-sized manufacturers and that those differences are “exacerbating economic inequality, stifling opportunities for social mobility and dragging down global industrial productivity.”


Why aren’t more mid-sized manufacturers investing more in IIoT?

There are three main barriers that keep medical device manufacturers from implementing the IIoT and other Industry 4.0 technologies: a shortage of skilled labor, a 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 manufacturers can see a noticeable ROI from Industry 4.0 are product quality, machine availability, efficiency, and energy consumption. Since these KPIs help prove the value of new technology implementations, mid-sized manufacturers should set up key performance indicators (KPIs) before, during, and after any IIoT trial on the factory floor.


A Clear and Affordable IIoT Roadmap

The benefits of IIoT implementation becomes clearer for mid-sized manufacturers in the medical industry when demonstrating achievable returns to entities like 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 is 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 that smaller manufacturers generally want to see improvements in overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) from any new technology investments within weeks. This is why helping mid-sized manufacturers to 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 adoption of IIoT, including the improvement of the skills, technologies, and already 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

IIoT can help mid-sized manufacturers to boost their efficiency, productivity, and safety through better connecting the various legacy manufacturing processes, devices, and systems (MES, PLM, QM, MM, ERP, CRM and so on) that have historically developed over time to 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 the varying types of legacy systems and machines is essential for mid-sized manufacturer in the medical industry. However, expectations must be grounded in that the adoption of IIoT does not need to be a complete overhaul–something that mid-sized manufacturers feel pressured to pursue with new technology implementations. Technology upgrades that create pressure to overhaul the entire production process are one of the largest roadblocks to IIoT adoption for mid-sized manufacturers.

Instead, the adoption of the IIoT and other Industry 4.0 technologies can be implemented in incremental fragments that are controllable, affordable, and easily executed. It is 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, therefore mid-sized manufacturer should start implementations on the production floor and scale up gradually. 

Following implementation, real value can be found from consolidating data from previously siloed sources into a single, digestible platform with a closed feedback loop to help employees on the factory floor make faster and better decisions. Unifying collected data can transform mid-sized manufacturers into masters of their own IIoT destinies. 


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 and more on smart manufacturing technology to help them 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. 

Ultimately, medical manufacturing is a lucrative business that impacts millions of lives and data-driven decision making can enable manufacturers to be more responsive every single day.

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