Driving value from the industrial internet of things (IIoT)

The industrial internet of things (IIoT) has been emerging as an area of technology that brings value through speeding up scaling and deployment of manufacturing projects. Automation of tasks, greater visibility and improving safety and security are all advantages that IIoT can bring, and it’s still growing as new use cases are discovered.

In the industrial sector, however, manufacturers have frequently struggled to get IoT projects off the ground, before they can have an opportunity to drive value. The technology involved has been found to be too complex for users to understand and scale, and organisations are unsure about which software would be best for them.

According to Florian Beil, managing director of Industrie Reply, “there can be a new API released every two weeks, from Azure or AWS, so companies are still figuring out how to build the best solution possible”.

In addition, while possible ways to use the technology are rising, it can be a struggle to determine which can really drive value. Certain considerations need to be made regarding time and money spent on deployments in order for projects to be truly worthwhile in the long run.

Another important aspect to keep in mind when looking to drive value from IIoT is that, much like any IT project, it’s an ongoing process that needs to be continuously improved, and isn’t a one-off venture. When it comes to IIoT, this can mean buying from multiple suppliers and ensuring that each component is compatible with each other.

Beil continued: “This is a complexity that a lot of companies aren’t used to. Ecosystems can feature capabilities from Microsoft, Siemens, and AI startups, and companies need to learn how to manage all of these aspects.”

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Easing the deployment process

Another frequent obstacle that holds manufacturing companies back when it comes to IIoT deployments is the complexity of internal organisation. “If a large industrial company wants to drive an IIoT project, they typically have all these different business units with different requirements, which all need to be brought together,” explained Beil.

“Every department ends up building their own strategy, and nothing fits together. This is one of the most common challenges.”

Any technology initiative can take time to get right even if all stakeholders are on the same page and pulling in the same direction. However, projects taken on in segments such as the automotive space, supported by product data management (PDM) systems, have seen time-to-market get trimmed down. According to Beil, IIoT can bring the same complexity as building a car, but unlike the automotive space, IIoT lacks a standardised process for identifying use cases.

“This is why we built Axulus,” said Beil. “Manufacturers need a proper management system to manage complexity, otherwise finding use cases will be impossible.”

Using intuitive technologies such as AI, alongside the right data for initiatives, can allow users to discover concrete ways to utilise IIoT at scale. Additionally, a management system for this area can bring added security to operations, another area that’s been cited as a challenge by users.

Optimising costs

When undertaking a new technology project at scale within the enterprise, such as IIoT, it’s vital that costs are kept to a minimum where necessary, for value to truly be realised. When a company is venturing into unfamiliar capabilities, this can be easier said than done. Beil believes that working closely with the cost centre operator, and using their knowledge to determine where costs can be optimised, can go a long way.

“These experts need to be enabled and incentivised to contribute to the process of defining a suitable use case,” Beil explained. “Companies need to think about whether savings are being made, and predictive maintenance needs to be in place.

“If these maintenance checks reveal that a failure only occurs once every ten years, it’s unlikely that costs can be optimised here. But if the production line is being stopped every hour, and each line stoppage costs a million, then it would make sense.”

This, according to Industrie Reply’s managing director, needs to be a well structured, clearly explained bottom-up approach led by experts, and not by a supplier or senior management. Once use cases are described to the business, cost savings and the target value should be talked through, which will allow for better measurements of progress.

“Whether a use case is possible depends on the company, and the pain points that they have,” said Beil. “Expert teams should be enabled to contribute in a structured manner that can be built upon, with business leaders providing feedback.

“Also, where possible, management can use a central operating system which can manage these use cases, receive ideas and quantify savings. This way, teams can be incentivised more regularly.”

In addition, keeping use case development and scaling strategies in-house, as opposed to outsourcing IIoT developers, can keep communication simple, and maintain understanding across the team.

To accelerate IIoT innovation, visit www.axulus.io