Industrial IoT — Pilot and Deploy for Impact

In the digital transformation realm of manufacturing, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is the number one technology. According to Gartners’ Hype Cycle IoT is somewhere in or just clawing out of the trough of disillusionment. As so often happens, IIoT has too often been seen as a great technology innovation that is looking for a problem. Now that we’re starting to have a better perspective, we see how IIoT can solve real business problems and understand how money can be made.

New Business Models

The value that IIoT can bring above and beyond these direct business benefits is also becoming better understood. Improving worker wellbeing, increasing operator safety and growing engagement and motivation — all increase indirectly revenues. This is also becoming a transformative ability for the whole organization.

IIoT’s biggest opportunity, however, is connecting things with new business models.

Think about the field maintenance engineer who uses augmented reality (AR) to diagnose machinery equipped with IIoT devices and who is guided by a home-based expert using a digital representation. Or, think about outfitting a machine with built-in sensors to market that machine as a service rather than a product. A service allows the owner to monitor the machine remotely and deliver maintenance, repairs and upgrades automatically. Instead of worrying about the condition of the equipment, it allows clients (manufacturing companies) to focus on the work at hand.

PTC reports that equipment manufacturers are digitally transforming their customer relationships through IIoT. They’re moving beyond selling a machine to providing ongoing value throughout the life of their product. Digitally transforming service lowers costs and drives more recurrent service revenue — selling outcomes by shifting to a predictive service model.

A Collaborative Effort Across The Whole Organization

These advantages however form the biggest hurdle: integration across the various parts of the organization, building the right organization mindset, finding the right talent, creating the right KPIs to measure success, and the lack of infrastructure to underpin it all. So how do you go about this?

IIoT is a Transformative Effort

Technology is not often the challenge, rather the business strategy and the organizational capability are.

Ask the impacted operators to participate in a multi-disciplinary group to design a solution, if relevant, an IIoT based solution. As the technology is likely new, ensure that employees and operators are educated in the new technology in terms of its capabilities and how it can solve problems. Assess how this new solution will affect your current operation both asset and people-wise. Define metrics to measure impact of the solution proving that an IIoT solution is the way to go. These are not just your typical increases in efficiency and/or productivity or overall impact on workforce. The learning aspects are even more important in order to build momentum in your organization.

Lean startup and agile techniques need to be taken with a grain of salt too.

One cannot move fast without breaking things in manufacturing. Agile innovation pilot projects could put sustainable operations at risk. Therefore, a collaborative business-driven approach is paramount — because if not, operations experience will eat IoT optimism for lunch.

Once the solution is validated you can replicate it across other similar assets and start experimentation on other problems. This scaling and further experimentation needs to continue along the same pattern of business, people, technology. Obviously architecting a solution needs to encompass the capability to operate at scale and requires the buy-in of the operators.

Not following this path will likely result in failure: overspending because tackling a too big project, frustrating employees because not involved, demotivating business folks as not solving real problems, keeping data in organizational silos.

In sum

Thierry Van Landegem is Executive Director of the IIoT Accelerator at mHUB, www.mhubchicago.com, the hardtech innovation center based in Chicago

Incubates and accelerates businesses (ventures in corporations, startups in incubator or accelerator). Business and digital transformation thru innovation.

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