The Smart Manufacturing Revolution & the IoT-Enabled Factory

December 19, 2023 by Ersan Guenes
Read in 11 Minutes

In the manufacturing sector, technological advances and the proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT), are enabling companies to build smarter operations that allow for higher productivity and output. From additive manufacturing, location awareness, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to robotics, digital twins, and cyber-physical systems, manufacturing is becoming more intelligent. But what exactly does it mean to be a smart manufacturer?

What is Smart Manufacturing? 

Smart manufacturing is the process of using IoT technology and automation in manufacturing processes to ensure that productivity is continually being optimized. Imagine a factory where every piece of machinery and every step in the manufacturing process is interconnected, monitored, and controlled through advanced digital networking. This approach to manufacturing enables seamless communication and the aggregation of vast amounts of data, all accessible from the cloud. 

Smart manufacturing transforms traditional factories into highly efficient, adaptable, and intelligent environments, capable of responding in real-time to changing demands and conditions, thereby enhancing efficiency, reducing waste, and helping manufacturers remain competitive.

Using Location Intelligence to accurately track assets, help ensure worker safety, increase productivity, and improve security on your production floor is key to activating all the benefits that come from transforming your manufacturing and warehousing facilities into smart spaces.  

Creating a Smart Factory with RTLS

An RTLS (Real-Time Location System) is a critical and foundational component of smart manufacturing. It provides manufacturing plants with accurate real-time tracking and monitoring capabilities for all their assets (including vehicles, materials, and equipment) and processes. The use of RTLS in smart manufacturing systems is on the rise globally, thanks to the numerous benefits that it offers to manufacturers, such as increased asset visibility, reduced downtime, and improved efficiency.

One key advantage of incorporating RTLS in smart manufacturing lies in its real-time functionality, allowing the instantaneous provision of location data.. This facilitates the optimal utilization of resources, reduces wastage, and improves OOE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness). The system uses a combination of radio frequency sensors, and location server software to track and monitor the movement of goods within the manufacturing facility.  It swiftly identifies bottlenecks or inefficiencies and communicates them, enabling managers to make informed, data-driven decisions and implement corrective actions.

RTLS is also incredibly versatile and can be implemented in various manufacturing and intralogistics environments, such as warehouses, distribution centers, or assembly lines. These systems can be customized to meet the specific needs of a manufacturer using a modular or scalable architecture. This means that it can quickly adapt to changing conditions, such as new product lines, increased demand, or shifts in the supply chain.

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The Advantages of RTLS in Contemporary Manufacturing 

The implementation of smart technologies like RTLS, sensors, and IoT in factories brings a multitude of benefits that can profoundly transform the way these facilities operate. Some of these benefits include:

  • Significant savings and efficiency gains: The significant reduction in search times, automation of work steps, and effective monitoring and detection of bottlenecks in on-site processes contribute substantially to annual cost savings. This is exemplified by the potential realization of increased production volumes, depending on the specific operational process.

  • Automated processes instead of manual work: The implementation of RTLS eliminates the need for manual scans by automatically posting to ERP or Manufacturing Execution Systems. Processes are triggered using geofences, which minimizes the need for manual intervention. This reduces the risk of inaccuracies and delays, optimizing the production process and making it more efficient.
  • Increased uptime of the assembly line: The integration of RTLS ensures optimized material provision and timely replenishment, both just in time and just in sequence. This enables coordinated processes, which leads to an overall improvement in system availability.
  • Increased cycle speed: The integration of RTLS increases the speed of processes. This is achieved by capturing production cycles in real time using geofencing and integrating them into the MES. Large-scale real-time verification of components enables customized quality control. Efficiency is further increased by always having up-to-date information on the status of the products and assembly instructions for the workers in each sequence.
  • Automated quality control assurance: RTLS integration ensures automated quality assurance, eliminating human error and minimizing the need for costly rework. This increases production yields and ensures consistently high-quality results, increasing profitability and eliminating errors and production downtime.
  • Reduction of Empty Cycles and Idle Times: The integration of RTLS ensures timely and secure delivery through supply visibility and alerts. Up-to-date and accurate records of supply movements reduce the risks of errors and delays, leading to a decrease in empty cycles and idle times.
  • Employee safety: RTLS integration in manufacturing not only boosts efficiency but also prioritizes employee safety. It enables swift location tracking for missing or injured personnel and provides a visual overview of the site, enhancing situational awareness.
    Automated safety features include industrial truck Auto-Stop to prevent collisions, wristband vibrations for pedestrian warnings, and visual/auditory alerts for operators. Access control restricts entry to authorized personnel, ensuring a secure environment.

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By utilizing the multitude of internet-enabled objects and integrating location-based services, companies can optimize and automate processes. This facilitates increased production line efficiency and faster throughput speeds.

The Evolution of Sensor and IoT Technologies in Industry 4.0 

Industry 4.0 is not reducible to any one technology or even a suite of technologies. It is a fundamental reconfiguration of work in the digital era. For some, Industry 4.0 is characterized by the convergence of many technologies into responsive technological ecosystems. The fact that Industry 4.0 technologies enhance, enable, and augment each other as systems clearly defines that it is a critical change in the industry.

By using indoor positioning, you can make indoor spaces discoverable, either with Inpixon’s award-winning sensor technology or by leveraging your existing technology ecosystem. Indoor positioning systems (IPS) allow users to accurately pinpoint the location of people or assets inside a building using smartphones, mobile devices, tracking tags, or other devices. 

Using a variety of sensors, IPS technology detects and tracks data about a device’s location. This can be accomplished using either internal sensors and radio receivers in smartphones and other IoT wearable devices or with radio frequency sensors installed throughout an indoor space. The location data is ingested by the positioning system, generating accurate coordinates, which are displayed on a digital twin, leading to unparalleled visibility of complex manufacturing facilities and the transmitting environment inside them. 

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The Importance of Location Awareness in Smart Manufacturing 

Location awareness is a prerequisite for situational awareness. Inpixon’s RTLS platform ingests diverse data from IoT, third-party, and proprietary sensors designed to detect and position active cellular, WiFi, UWB, & Bluetooth devices. This multidisciplinary depiction of indoor data enables users to increase revenue, decrease costs, and enhance safety.

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Location awareness and innovative technologies open the door to a whole new world of time-saving and cost-reducing applications. For example, autonomous navigation for robots throughout warehouses becomes achievable when drones are equipped with asset-tracking tags. With digitized maps of an indoor environment combined with wayfinding, asset tracking, analytics, and defined geofences, you can build a system that leverages recursive learning with an AI model to increase efficiencies. One example could be drones moving throughout a facility quickly without bumping into each other.

Ready to start your smart manufacturing transformation journey? Book a short, hassle-free consultation to learn how Inpixon can help enhance your facility. 


This article on Smart Manufacturing first appeared on April 8th, 2021, and was updated to reflect new information on the IoT-enabled Smart Factory on December 19th, 2023.

This blog post contains forward-looking statements which are subject to risks and uncertainties. Please click here to learn more.

Ersan Guenes is the Senior Vice President (SVP) of Product for IIOT (Industrial Internet of Things) at Inpixon.