For most manufacturers, the road to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is an evolutionary journey. And while it may be marked with twists and turns, it doesn’t have to be fraught with risk and uncertainty.
In a recent article I wrote for Manufacturing Business Technology, I explain how manufacturers can learn from other industries that have already headed down the path of IIoT. Here are some highlights from my article:
1. Go for Standards
Legacy automation infrastructures are often proprietary, and upgrades are typically controlled by a single vendor. That’s not only costly, but also limits options for introducing new, modern capabilities like IIoT. It’s similar to the challenge telecommunications faced until some forward-thinking carriers saw the promise of industry-standard solutions and operating systems. That opened the door for delivering enhanced services that gave them a competitive advantage over traditional providers of basic dial tone services. By adopting standards-based technology, manufacturers could open the door to a new wave of business-enhancing innovation.
2. Open the Door to Integration
Operations technology (OT) organizations like to keep their industrial control systems (ICS) walled off from the rest of the enterprise to avoid points of vulnerability. But enterprise-wide connectivity is essential to gain the intelligent automation capabilities of IIoT. Consider how the highly risk-averse financial services industry made the leap. Using the latest network security and continuous availability solutions, they allowed connectivity to business-critical transaction systems. This created a wealth of new business opportunities for financial firms in today’s mobile, digital consumer marketplace.
3. Tap into Distributed Intelligence
One of the hallmarks of IIoT is the gathering of data from a wide range of sensors and systems to gain valuable insights. This distributed intelligence is central to improving production efficiency, enabling predictive maintenance, and sparking innovation. Many industries have already seen this. Take oil and gas companies, for example. They use data collected from sensors at remote pipeline compression stations to run analytics that detect early signs of component failure. With advance warning, these companies can shrink maintenance windows and avoid costly unplanned downtime.
4. Protect the Avalanche of Data
One thing is certain: as manufacturers embrace IIoT, the volume—and value—of production data will increase substantially. So manufacturers must ensure availability of both the data and the automation systems generating it. The building automation and security industry, for example, needs to make sure they protect the fountains of data generated by their video monitoring solutions. To mitigate risk of losing valuable video evidence, these companies make end-to-end fault tolerance a priority. You can do the same to prevent data loss or downtime from the production floor to the historians that store ICS data to the analytics engines creating insights from that data.
The road to IIoT might seem lonely at first. But it’s easy to see that you have good company from firms in other industries that are making the journey. While each industry has its own challenges and priorities, they all stand to gain similar benefits by charting a course to next-generation IIoT automation. Unlocking valuable insights and strategies enabled by IIoT is helping all companies across the spectrum compete better and improve their efficiency and profitability in a meaningful way.