What stops us from implementing IIoT?

Jun 3, 2021 | Insights

Singapore is definitely a very interesting place. Especially if you are into a new technologies. Businesses, people and even city itself feels like embodiment of the future-looking attitude. Visiting Singapore leaves you both: inspired and motivated to do more.

Last week, during Industry of Things World Asia conference in Singapore I had a chance to share my experience from the global IIoT implementation program in Life Science. Together with my partner in crime – Joel Nichols – we were also asked to facilitate one of the ideation sessions. The topic: understand what are the IIoT adoption main inhibitors and what can we do about them.

We were blessed with very active participants sharing their experience and ideas with us. Although each IIoT journey seems to be unique there are some common themes which I tried to capture below.

The obvious ones:

  • Inhibitor #1 – no budget for trying things out. Potential solution: set aside a budget which is dedicated for R&D. Make sure that you have this line item secured in every program, project or initiative which you plan. This will remove the pain of explaining the need of money for trying-something-new-and-risky.

  • Inhibitor #2 – security is a huge concern. Connecting manufacturing systems to the internet is unimaginable for some people. Sending data to the cloud is considered as a commercial and/or compliance suicide. Potential solution: involve security officer early in the design phase. Make sure that all main concerns are addressed and discussed. It is good to remember that the cyber security is about the risk mitigation. 100% secured systems do not exist. Proactive preparation is everything.

  • Inhibitor #3 – technology drives implementation. Behind every IIoT initiative there has to be a very solid business case. Putting sensors on every piece of furniture might seems like a cool idea, but… without a clear business value it will be considered failure and a waste of time, money and effort. Potential solution: no matter who is driving the initiative, both – Business and IT – need to work hand in hand. Defining success factors upfront is a good practice. Tracking KPIs and comparing the before and after results is critical.

Not so obvious ones:

  • Inhibitor #4 – strong culture of doing things manually. Apparently in manufacturing environment resistance to automation is still strong as people are very attached to do things by hand. It might be caused by a fear of loosing the job to a robot or lack of understanding of the new tech. Potential solution: whatever is the cause of resistance towards automation it is a good practice to train your workforce in digital technologies. Understanding what it does, how it does it and how it will help “me” is important step towards broader adoption of the new, digital solutions.

 

  • Inhibitor #5 – no overview of the IIoT market. It is difficult to catch up with all of the advancements in technology (both hardware and software). Building prototypes using Arduino is great, but finding industrial-ready sensors and controllers can be a daunting task. Potential solution: be ready to invest in tech-scouting group which will search for ready to use components. Make sure that your network of partners, suppliers and vendors keeps expanding. IIoT is a joint effort – no company can do everything alone in this space.

“Aha” moments:

  • Inhibitor #6 – IIoT implementation is very expensive. High costs are not only related to the infrastructure (sensors, connectivity, etc) but also are generated by expensive industrial players providing sophisticated and complex software. Potential solution: start working with smaller, nimble and specialized players. They can provide you with world-class expertise and are much more hungry for success. Also consider exchanging components to the new ones instead of trying to retrofit the legacy equipment. New generation of pumps, valves, etc. are very often IoT-ready which lowers the complexity of your digitization initiative. Additionally, instead of putting sensors on each and every part on your shop floor, try to sensorize the room itself or create a “mobile sensor station” which travels around the manufacturing space. Such approach might significantly bring the costs down.

I am conscious that there are many more challenges related to the IIoT projects. I would be thrilled to listen to your story and to exchange the experience and lessons learned. Please do not hesitate to leave your comments below or to contact me directly. I am very curious to hear what creative ways you have found to bring digitization to your manufacturing practice!

And above all – if you fill lost or uncertain of the outcome of your IIoT program – please remember: “It’s not an experiment if you know it’s going to work” – Jeff Bezos.