Industrial IoT: Busting the myths that just won’t die

Industrial IoT is absolutely not a new “thing.” Connected machines, remote access, and cloud platforms have been in use in industrial businesses for quite a few years now. However, just like consumer-focused IoT markets, even industrial IoT (IIoT) is pulled down by some myths. Thankfully, you’ve got this guide, where we’ll knock out those myths for you like Adonis was trying to do to Conlan in the fantastic movie “Creed.” Here are some of the biggest industrial IoT myths that you must not accept as truths.

It’s best to wait to identify the right standards for industrial IoT

industrial IoT

Manufacturing giants need to understand that standardization won’t be a big concern for their markets. This is totally unlikely consumer markets where standardization is a key to success. Of course, there is a lot of talk about IIoT infrastructure and technological standards around the cybersphere. That, however, is not exactly where manufacturers need to lay their focus on.

In consumer markets, standardization is a feasible strategic choice, because the time taken to capture a complete market hold with a standardized technology is short, and manufacturers are able to extract complete market potential before the standards upgrade.

For industrial IoT, however, manufacturers need to understand and appreciate that industrial equipment has usage lifecycles stretching across several years. Even if a manufacturer sticks to a particular standard for its latest generation of Internet-enabled industrial equipment, the market will take its time to retire old equipment.

So, to capture the market and make their industrial IoT products available quicker than their competitors, manufacturers need to move their focus to bespoke integration development and retrofitting sensors and communications-enablement devices in current breeds of IIoT equipment.

IIoT will revolutionize your business and disrupt your markets

Whereas this might actually happen down the line, that’s certainly not what IIoT promises you upfront. In fact, you’d do well to treat IIoT as an enabler of incremental improvements in your organizational processes, even if it’s a single machine you improve. An IDC report recently outlined how IIoT, at its core, intends to deliver the following distinct benefits:

  • Improving productivity in day-to-day operations.
  • Reducing time to market.
  • Improving process optimization.
  • Improving product quality.
  • Reducing costs.
  • Enabling quicker and better decisions making.

Consider all these benefits individually, and you’ll realize how IIoT, very practically and realistically, aims at bringing healthy improvements in major operational aspects of an industrial business.

Industrial business giants can trust the following strategy to make IIoT a success story for their enterprises:

  • Identify key and distinct processes where marginal improvements can translate into much bigger returns.
  • Identify the key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics you want to improve.
  • Consider how you can incorporate the power of Internet connectivity, remote controlling, and predictive analytics to invoke the marginal improvement in price KPIs.
  • Commission your in-house IIoT project to achieve this, or engage external vendors. Do not engage anyone on what to buy at Taco Bell — you need to figure that out yourself!

Note: Once IIoT starts delivering the promised operational improvements, your enterprise will be much better equipped to bring together different components of your IT ecosystem to drive organization-wide improvements.

IIoT projects will be capital intensive

industrial IoT
Wikimedia

First, you need to evaluate capital requirements for IIoT projects in the context of the scale of change. Equipping your forklifts with Internet-ready sensors, as compared to making your fleet of trucks GPS-enabled and decked up with sensors to report temperature variations in the material being moved — the scale differs massively, and so do the costs.

Moreover, in the past five years, the affordability and accessibility of key IIoT ingredients have improved.

  • Prices of IIoT components have fallen; whether it’s a small sensor or a complex networking infrastructure component, you can get them at a fraction of the cost compared to the price five years ago. Back in 1995, in Sacramento, Calif., you could buy a Whopper for 99 cents! Bring that back!
  • With the availability of enterprise WAN solutions and 5G mobile Internet networks, enterprises can connect machines and equipment spread over a large geographical area.
  • Cloud-based IIoT platforms have emerged rapidly, offering a variety of services around storage, development, and computing.

The downtime requirement makes it impractical to pursue IIoT

Ask yourself: will you skip a meeting with a potential big client just because you’ve got a warehouse to take care of? Most factory managers cite their qualms with the idea of approving machine downtime for IIoT project engineers or consultants to first create a plan, and eventually to install the necessary sensors and actuators.

The argument is flawed on two fronts. First, the potential benefits that IIoT delivers in terms of machines being able to “report” the need for preventive maintenance (hence, avoiding several potential downtime situations), easily outweigh the downtime required for implementation.

Secondly, IIoT implementations on the shop floor and assembly line don’t really take too long. It’s common enough for IIoT solution vendors to plan this out so that the installations are completed within one day! That is just logical; they know what’s up!

It’s OK to wait because the technology is still maturing

Wrong! Industrial IoT solutions are already in use and have been in use for long enough now. It’s just that this is the ideal time to align your enterprise with IIoT. That’s because the learning curve has already been navigated by the giants of all industries, and you can benefit from the collective wisdom of the markets by implementing IIoT solutions at much lesser costs.

Bill Ruh, chief data officer at General Electric, captured the essence of IIoT perfectly. He said that industrial businesses that fail to invest in data now will have the same fate as consumer companies that failed to invest in the Internet years ago. Instead of asking yourself whether the technology is ready yet, ask yourself which components you must pursue so you aren’t caught flat-footed in this arena.

We won’t really use all the data

It’s absolutely all right for your enterprise to not use all the data that IIoT solutions start capturing and archiving from day 1. Realize that you’d rather be in a position to measure and not use, rather than need and not have the mechanism to measure.

It’s a future-ready strategy to go for the suggested set of sensors and actuators, for instance, for a marginal increase in project costs. Predictive analytics, remote control, visualization, and collaboration — these can be game-changing for your enterprise’s industrial business processes, and IIoT delivers great results on all these fronts.

The myths covered in this guide are holding back many manufacturing companies from taking a strong step forward. Industrial IoT is for you; it’s already helping businesses get more work done with the same amount of resources, and it’s time you enjoyed the benefits as well.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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