Six Strategies to Succeed with Industrial IoT
- By /
Sujata Tilak MD, Ascent Intellimation
19 Sep 2018
The pace of technological change over the past couple of years has been nothing but astounding. Concepts that belonged to science fiction movies are now a part of reality. The Internet of Things is one such technology that has changed many industries, manufacturing included. The advancement of this technology along with the progress of technologies such as cloud computing and big data analytics has ushered in the new age of manufacturing, known as Industry 4.0 aka Smart Manufacturing, powered by the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT). The Industrial IoT employs the use of machine learning and big data technologies coupled with advanced automation and sensor technology to make the manufacturing industry ‘smarter’ by enabling truly connected enterprise. Owing to the impact that it can deliver, the estimated IIoT market is expected to reach $123.89 Billion by 2021.
Why is manufacturing moving towards IIoT?
IIoT holds great promise in the manufacturing sector. It becomes the enabler of efficiencies and improved productivity, reduced downtime, and increased cost efficiencies by harnessing the power of data.
With IIoT, manufacturing companies can identify gaps in business processes and improve them, enable predictive maintenance to reduce downtime and ensure that all machines are running optimally, enable greater quality control, improve supply chain efficiencies and traceability, and facilitate better asset tracking and management. Along with this, IIoT is a great enabler of sustainable and green practices to improve energy efficiencies and reduce the carbon footprint…something that we all need to be conscious in today’s age.
Navigating the technology chasm
While automation systems have been in use in the manufacturing sector, the age of IIoT brings in varying levels of ‘connected’ automation. As the objective of IIoT is to improve processes and productivity across the manufacturing industry, introducing new applications and processes is a given. However, those implementing IIoT have to make sure that the new technology solutions are not only built for newer assets, but they work with existing legacy assets as well. The word ‘scalability’ in IIOT context means the ability to scale in terms of variations of make, models, and generations of assets as well as numbers.
Scaling the security challenge
IIoT employs a multitude of devices, much like consumer IoT. From sensors, PLCs and controllers to mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones are the enablers of this connected and smart ecosystem. Owing to the massive volume of data that flows through this connected network, security assumes foremost importance. The sheer size and diversity coupled with the complexity of the IIoT ecosystem make every connection and every component a potential point of vulnerability. It, hence, demands stringent cybersecurity protocols to detect data breaches, intrusions and data leaks, proactive management of security incidents and damages. It also requires an analysis of networks and systems for potential vulnerabilities.
Managing the skills gap
With the advent of the new age of manufacturing, companies have to manage the growing skills gap. With the use of these new technologies comes the need for multiple skill sets that have to extend across different silos and specializations along with the capability to understand the intricacies of the interconnected systems. Thus, companies have to train a few key people who become the ‘experts’ and ‘internal champions’ of IIoT systems.
At the same time, Industry 4.0 touches a large number of people in the enterprise and all of them have to be upskilled. To keep the upskilling limited, organizations have to ensure that the solutions are simple, user-friendly and easy to understand. This becomes especially relevant for the largely blue-collar workforce that exists in this ecosystem.
Inclusion in Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)
As I mentioned above, IIoT systems touch a large number of people and it is extremely crucial that all of them use the system day in and day out. This can happen only if the system usage is integrated in SOP and becomes an intrinsic part of their work culture!
Hand holding users
A lot of handholding is required in the initial days of the system lifetime. The ‘internal champions’ have to play a crucial role here. They have to continuously guide and mentor employees and in general promote the system internally.
Mastering the data challenge
Data is the most critical contributor to success in the IIoT ecosystem. The connected network generates a gargantuan amount of data. However, this data is of no use unless it is managed, mapped and analyzed correctly for it to deliver the insights that will generate business value. Organizations need to have the capability to sift through this mountain of data, cleanse it and use the right data at every level for analytics and insights. Also, for data to deliver value, it cannot exist in silos. Creating unified applications that help in data curating and cleansing are important to drive revenues.
So in summary, I would say….
IIoT means a revolutionary change to the way manufacturing operates as of today. Along with innovative technology adoption and investments in that line for IIoT, it is also essential to identify the right strategy and approach to manage the challenges that come with it. Only once this is recognized should companies move forward in their IIoT journey.