Create a buddy system for the IIoT

Finding the right Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) vendor partner is crucial to success.

By Gal Shaul, Augury October 23, 2018

Adopting the Internet of Things (IoT) for your home can be as simple as ordering the latest smart fridge, thermostat, light bulb, or doorbell and plugging it in. Adopting the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), however, can be a multilayered effort. From initial planning and achieving buy-in, to implementation, maintenance, operation and repair, every step requires significant time and effort.

Digital transformation plans should include new controllers and automation tools that seem to come out weekly; yet nobody tells you exactly how to adopt them. The IIoT just seems to materialize.

While this may sound daunting, IIoT adoption is a process that, when complete, will put you years ahead of your competitors and offer greater insights into your business and processes than ever before possible. Adopting the IIoT is a matter of just making the leap.

The problem with legacy IIoT

Chances are your company already is considering the IIoT as a solution—one recent study found that more than 60% of companies were engaged in or planning an IIoT project for the next year. Corporate discussions for exploring the IIoT are common—but they don’t loop in the valuable facility level personnel.

From installing sensors on turbine engines, to connecting hospitals for remote monitoring, cloud-based IIoT projects are proliferating across industries. It’s important to stay up-to-date on the evolution of the IIoT.

Companies that were ahead of the curve in taking advantage of the previous wave of industrial automation are finding that these pre-existing solutions are simply not scalable. Legacy solutions can be constrained by on-premise technology which cannot scale comparably to newer cloud-based solutions and integrate with other data sources. Traditional predictive maintenance solutions reflect an IIoT approach that uses real-time monitoring of assets to prevent breakdowns and provide highly efficient operations. However, local solutions silo machine data, which could benefit an organization as a whole instead of a single asset.

Traditional predictive maintenance systems often rely on expensive custom hardware monitoring solutions, specialized software, and highly-trained engineers to dig manually into machine performance data to deliver insights. While these implementations have succeeded at outperforming traditional non-IIoT calendar-based preventive maintenance solutions, they simply can’t be expanded to deliver results companywide.

In recent years, technological advances in cloud storage, computing power, sensor technology, mobile devices, and Internet connectivity have brought about affordable and scalable solutions. But how do we achieve buy-in and successfully implement these new IIoT solutions?

Align goals with a partner

There are a number of predictive maintenance techniques that can help monitor equipment for wear and tear and potential breakdowns, but not all of them will apply to your unique situation. You can put VR glasses in a factory and see some very interesting and cool things, but if you don’t understand the impact it has on your decision-making process, it will be difficult to justify the cost of the glasses. You can place sensors on all of the fans, and belts and pumps in your bottling plant, but if there is no central way of monitoring and optimizing how all parts work together, you won’t be able to implement an effective predictive maintenance program.

IIoT vendors that are forward thinking, provide easy system set-up, and will work with you to prove return on investment quickly and enable faster implementation of a larger program. Note that with all the hype around the IIoT, not every vendor will be as specialized or willing to partner with your company as you may think.

For that reason, try to understand your vendor’s mindset in advance. Have them answer how they will help your team gain insights and then make decisions based on their response. It is important to analyze their plan to find the best technology for your needs.

When selecting your IIoT vendor, try to look at it like managing an internal project. Define your target, set milestones, identify a champion to oversee the program, explore a few vendors and make sure you select the one that best fits your objectives. Your goal is to find the perfect match between your needs and your vendor’s vision.

The path forward

For many companies the easiest path to IIoT implementation, after partnering with the correct vendor, is to enable them to act similar to an outsourced research and development department. This way the vendor test features and products in the facility while working to provide you with the insights to complete your objectives.

By working to implement the IIoT now, you will not only gain first mover advantage, you’ll likely be able to shape the technology that will be used in your business for years to come.

Gal Shaul is co-founder and CTO of Augury.