There’s a lot of buzz around the Industrial Internet of Things, or IIoT. That’s good because it’s getting operations technology to consider how smart, Internet-connected devices can improve production efficiency and reduce unplanned downtime. The problem is the flood of industry information often makes it difficult to distinguish hype from reality. This has led to misconceptions that may hold back some companies from implementing solutions that could substantially boost their operating equipment efficiency (OEE) and profitability.
Let’s break down the three biggest IIoT misconceptions:
1. My operation is too small to justify IIoT
Unplanned downtime is costly regardless of an operation’s size. The gating factor is understanding how IIoT could reduce your particular risk factors and improve your operational goals.
Compression stations for natural gas pipelines are generally small operations in and of themselves, typically located 100-150 miles apart along a pipeline. Yet, they are deploying IIoT with success. Columbia Pipeline Group (CPG), for example, upgraded their compression stations and deployed an IIoT solution to optimize their turbine maintenance. By monitoring such things as temperature, oil pressure, and vibration, analytics can deliver insight into the performance of a turbine to predict when it requires attention. Imagine being able to predict the failure of a gearbox or drive motor used in a small production line.
The impact of unplanned downtime, such as safety risk to operators and cost, are critical considerations that can easily justify investment in IIoT—regardless of operation size.
2. Payback time is too long
Payback relates to the value IIoT brings to your operation. To ensure acceptable payback, you need to establish goals and metrics, which are generally part of return on asset (ROA) calculations. Is the goal to reduce unplanned downtime triggered by aging automation systems that fail? If so, would a failure take down production for two hours or two weeks? Then, calculate the cost of remediation, lost revenue, and potential regulatory or environmental impact fines.
Perhaps your goal is to improve operating efficiency and streamline the supply chain. In this case, determine how cost-competitive you could be by improving efficiency just 5 or 10 percent. Then calculate how much additional profit this would drive for your operation.
With these metrics and an IIoT solution sized to meet your goals, getting a desirable payback is possible in weeks or months, not years.
3. IIoT is not mature enough
IIoT is continually evolving. That doesn’t mean you can’t gain value from what’s available today. We recommend IIoT to collect any data you can and use available analytics tools to drive incremental efficiency gains. As IIoT evolves, you will only stand to improve on those benefits.
There are many companies benefitting from IIoT today. CPG is again, a prime example. In fact, CPG considers IIoT so critical they run their IIoT on fault-tolerant servers because if there was an outage, their operators would essentially be running blind and potentially increasing safety risks. And any lost data would compromise predictive analytics they rely on to prevent unplanned downtime.
The good news is that there are IIoT solutions that fit your operation and deliver measurable value today.