Industrial IoT: benefits and applications for manufacturing

IoT and IIoT definitions

What is the Internet of things (IoT)?

The Internet of Things (IoT) connects the physical world with the digital world.

With IoT, devices like sensors and intelligent devices are linked by a wireless connection to the internet so that data can be shared. By connecting these devices to the internet, instant, accurate information can be collected, analysed and then used to improve productivity and efficiency.

What is the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)?

Industrial IoT is the application of IoT technologies like sensors to industry, helping companies to transform their processes and supply chains.

For manufacturers, data generated by IoT devices provide real-time information which can help them to plan more effectively and build products faster. IIoT can hold the key to unlocking increased visibility, security and a better customer experience.

Benefits of IoT in manufacturing

Thanks to IoT, manufacturers can collect additional data and then act on what that data reveals. This means they have increased visibility and control over their processes and can make improvements quickly. In turn, this means companies can build products faster and more effectively.

“IoT brings many opportunities for manufacturers. There are solutions that will help even small companies step into the digital space.”

Professor Duncan McFarlane, Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge

1. Efficiency on the factory floor

IoT solutions help monitor and predict machine breakdowns, so manufacturers can schedule maintenance in advance and avoid unexpected problems. Digital work instructions can help workers find and fix issues more effectively, improving workforce productivity.

2. Product design

Another benefit of IoT in manufacturing is that customer feedback and product-usage monitoring can be more easily incorporated into the design process. This results in better products and improved customer satisfaction.

3. Efficiency in logistics and supply chains

IoT solutions can help transform supply chains, resulting in more seamless and coordinated operations. Sensors provide multiple real-time information points, for example when used to track a truck’s location and the humidity and temperature levels inside its storage area. Combining IoT data can help handle uncertainty across the supply chain.

4. Product design

Using sensors to monitor production processes can provide insights into how fine-grained processing conditions relate to product quality. With IoT enabled technology, the quality of a product can be predicted with more confidence, reducing the need for costly manual inspections.

Applications of IoT in manufacturing

Researchers at the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) have been working on a variety of projects to help the manufacturing industry connect with IoT. These projects have sought to help a range of manufacturing companies overcome the barriers to IoT adoption, offering practical and applicable routes for manufacturers of all sizes.

Connecting supply chains with an IoT data integration platform

Supply chains consist of many different partners, from manufacturers and distributors, to hauliers and retailers.

All of the partners within a supply chain ecosystem are vulnerable to disruption, and without access to real-time, traceable information, it can be difficult to plan for or respond to issues that arise.

This video shows how IoT technologies provide the opportunity for supply chains to become more connected. It provides an example of how a port, vessels, haulier and an importer can all benefit from an IOT data integration platform, providing a clearer view of any issues so decisions can be made quickly and more effectively.


Low-cost digital solutions for small- and medium-sized manufacturers

For many small and medium-sized companies, moving towards digital manufacturing can seem expensive, risky and out of reach.  The perception of digital solutions is that they require significant initial investment and ongoing operating costs.

However, the benefits IoT connected machines and technologies can bring to these organisations can be critical to improving the productivity of their operations and maintaining competitiveness.

To tackle this problem, The IfM in collaboration with the University of Nottingham have been developing a toolbox of solutions that harness the possibilities of IoT and can be readily adopted by small and medium-sized manufacturers, using off-the-shelf, affordable technologies.

Discover more about this project on the Digital Manufacturing on a Shoestring website

Autonomous supply chains

New technologies such as IoT and artificial intelligence (AI) offer the opportunity for companies to transform linear supply chains into autonomous supply chain
ecosystems, resulting in more seamless and coordinated operations.

Research by the IfM highlights how autonomous supply chains could be transformational for businesses, helping them to create better visibility and traceability and automating routine operations without investing in integrated, expensive platforms.

IoT can be used to measure factors like the temperature and humidity of perishable goods, allowing businesses handling them to quickly step in if there is a risk to their condition.” Alexandra Brintrup, Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge.

Read the case study


Related IoT resources


IoT short course – Demystifying digital: An introduction to digital platform strategy and the Internet of Things (IoT)

This course is designed to help management- and executive-level employees with little or no background in IT or technology get to grips with digital technologies and the strategies for adopting them.

Resources from the IfM

The IfM has more resources to help manufacturers take advantage of the potential IoT has to offer.


Pitch-In is a collaborative project led by the Universities of Sheffield, Cambridge, Newcastle and Oxford, together with industrial and commercial partners, was established to show how to overcome some of the barriers to innovation in IoT within the manufacturing, energy, cities and health and wellbeing sectors.