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IOT App Development

Industrial IoT (IIoT) Implementation: The 8 places you can’t afford to go wrong

Nisha Gopinath Menon
January 14, 2020

Industrial IoT as a term, was mainly used to make a distinction between the use cases, to mark a difference between consumer IoT and enterprise IoT applications. On every level there are overlaps, and so this distinction is somewhat artificial. The fastest growing use cases of IoT are cross-industry.

The core purpose of IIoT projects is still to save costs, automate, and optimize in often rather ad hoc and siloed ways. However, it’s essential to have a more holistic strategy and view, wherein there is a shift towards better customer-centric service offerings, goals of innovation, building ecosystems of value, ecosystem-wide digital transformation goals and leveraging different sources of data-driven revenues.

The Industrial Internet of Things holds plenty of opportunities in optimization, automation, smart industry and intelligent manufacturing, industrial control, asset performance management, new ways of servicing customers, moving towards an on-demand service model and the creation of new revenue models, the more mature goal of industrial transformation. Due to many IIoT Implementation challenges, the number of failed IIoT projects is a big concern although there is great adoption of IIoT in the industry. Let’s take a closer look at these challenges.

  1. Management buy-in
    You need buy-in from both IT and Business leaders for IIoT Implementation. IIoT Implementation touches various areas within the organization like OT-systems, machines, the backend IT systems, organization leaders from various departments, shopfloor workforce, and management staff. You need collaboration and support from different departments for a successful IoT Implementation. IIoT Implementation RoI could be evaluated differently by Business and IT. Hence, it’s super crucial to have both business and IT management buy-in.
  2. Clarity in expectations
    Far too many IIoT Implementations fail at the pilot stage as they don't meet management expectations on RoI or results. This is because of the mismatch of expectations. Business needs ideally should be the driver for the technology changes, and not vice-a-versa. However, too often, leaders would like to ride the wave to be seen as the front-runner change agents, get excited due to the technology hype cycle and adopt the change to highlight the progressiveness of their unit. The differences in expectations will soon start profoundly impacting the project outcome. You have to understand that doing IoT at a small scale or in silos may not lead to desired gains. However, without building confidence at a small scale (pilot), no grand rollout will happen. So, to make your pilot successful, it's essential to choose the right use case where results of change could be clearly visible. The bottom line is, unclear business benefits can kill an IIoT project.
  3. The right framework
    The IIoT project value chain is complex and long. There are interdependencies. Hence, for Implementation of IIoT to be successful, everything has to work like a well-oiled engine. It's vital for this to put together a right framework that’s easy to scale from one line to multiple lines, event multiple plants or function units and operate. Choosing the right platform that has enterprise-grade scalability and security is critical.
  4. Ecosystem orchestration
    The Industrial IoT Implementation value chain, as we discussed, is complicated and long. Several parties and teams are involved in making the change happen, such as hardware partners, system integrators, maintenance teams, technology players, platform providers, etc. Constant communication and seamless collaboration are vital for smooth execution. And so, a key task is the orchestration of all the parties involved. Solution providers or vendors have to be agile and flexible with technological readiness, organization culture, and management expectations. Also, there has to be an internal champion who orchestrates these various involved parties. And keep in mind that the OT and IT teams are not equipped to deal with the complexity of the implementation. A major redesign of a company’s IT and OT architecture is necessary when implementing an IIoT initiative. The new digital architecture will come with many connectivity devices, technologies, applications, and management platforms, introducing an increase in complexity that demands significant expertise. Prepare the OT and IT teams for these new, complex challenges.
  5. Culture fit
    There will be resistance within your company when people are pushed into adopting IIoT technology, as with any new technology. The crucial aspect of IIoT is that it soon becomes a single source of truth. Data then supports the decisions. People get more data-oriented and base all future things on it. At the same time, it unearths unwanted hidden aspects of security loopholes, forecasting problems, and management planning, blotted numbers, workers behavioral issues, underutilized resources, and so on. While adopting the IIoT powered digital transformation, keep in mind that it's a cultural change too, not merely a technology change. And companies have to acknowledge this and be in the correct frame of mind and make necessary changes.
  6. Security first
    While partnerships with key stakeholders and the business outcomes are obviously essential, security is at least as much. Look at security from an end-to-end perspective and watch the IoT vendors you work with, as there are far too many components involved: from connectivity to connected applications and devices. Embedded security and security by design is a must. And involve security early on, as in all transformational projects.
  7. Architect for analytics
    It’s all about big data and what you do with it: the action, the intelligence, the automation. It’s about the data that you turn into action, insights, and automation in your IIoT project and the need for analytics to turn new data and the data you have into these insights.
  8. Standardization
    One of the significant challenges to overcome with the industrial IoT today is systems integration, where controllers, sensors, radios, and software all work together as part of a cohesive system. Given the number of competing technologies and protocols, widespread standardization at this level is not likely to occur in the next few years. But that’s no reason to forego the advantages of the IIoT now. So to get started, as trying to implement it on a company-wide level is too complex, do something impactful, but small. Pick one thing you can measure and improve, one problem to solve, and you’ll learn so much about your own organization, not only about technology, and how you would implement things like energy monitoring or asset tracking. Just be careful with the traditional IT partners, like consulting partners or telcos, as the industrial IoT is still fairly new to them, and they don’t have it all nailed either. Often, they bring in other partners, that might lead to a more convoluted system than you would like.

Companies have to create a roadmap, have to have clear expectations, a top-down approach, and a long term commitment for successful new technology adoption at a grand scale. Ultimately, the usage of the IIoT within a broader context leads to connected ecosystems from ‘smart’ IIoT use cases and specific projects. Factories become connected factories, supply chains become connected supply chains, and so forth. The connectedness in this 'sense' stretches far beyond the simple connectedness, and data-driven results of industrial assets and devices to a more connected ecosystem, from which the extended enterprise gets a new meaning. Good luck on your connected journey and we're always here to help if the need arises.

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Nisha Gopinath Menon