The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) continues to permeate the minds of today’s technology decision-makers in the manufacturing industry. There’s no denying the growth of the IoT market, nor the impact the technology is having on businesses of all shapes and sizes. Forrester Research reports that 82% of companies will have IoT applications implemented in some way by 2017. And market research firm IDC recently predicted that the worldwide IoT market will grow to $7.1 trillion by 2020, compared with $1.9 trillion in 2013.
Traditionally, leaders in the industrial marketplace are organizations armed with strong financial, technical, and infrastructure support and are the first to implement new technologies. But in the new era of manufacturing driven by the IoT and the Industrial Internet, companies of all sizes can achieve scale quickly to become major market disruptors. Necessary for this is aligning with organizations that can help make the IoT implementation process seamless.
No manufacturing company can scale its business in isolation from the larger community. To do so would not only separate a business from the big data, networking, and computing resources that are driving the most rapid improvements to industrial efficiency in history, but also it would require everything to be built from scratch, slowing innovation. Strategic relationships within the industry are essential to achieve rapid growth, which can be a vital tool in maintaining competitiveness. So what should industrial maintenance and reliability teams look for in the relationships they cultivate?
1. A track record of success
The Industrial Internet is not a one-size-fits-all solution. A successful implementation comes from choosing a team that has a working knowledge of the manufacturing industry. You want to be sure that the team has the experience necessary to thoroughly consider your individual business case and present solutions that will address your specific needs.
Also, make sure any organization you’re working with demonstrates a commitment to continued investment and innovation. If its platform looks promising now, can you ensure that it will continue to keep pace with technology evolution down the road? How often is the business enhancing its offerings and developing new tools and services? If it’s experienced in creating solutions, does it also have a strong ecosystem in place for implementing them?
Ask questions about available training, service, quality control, ongoing upgrades, communications, and escalations. Look for an organization that’s focused on more than merely the installation of Industrial Internet technology.
2. Ongoing project management capabilities
Some companies specialize in implementing Industrial Internet systems and then move on once they have been launched. But the biggest key to unlocking Industrial Internet benefits isn’t collecting the data; it’s understanding what you can do with the data. A successful relationship will help your reliability team analyze and interpret data by drilling down to see trends or patterns every step of the way, from implementation to identification of actionable insights.
Partner organizations can also help speed operations and results more efficiently than an internal maintenance team operating in isolation can. This is because it’s not about gathering data that optimizes one particular machine; it’s about the connectivity of the entire manufacturing process to gather insights across a whole production line or plant. This enables plant leaders to correlate disparate types of data and use out-of-the-box technology tools to display and report on that relevant data in real time. Then, manufacturers can make the right decisions to increase throughput, minimize waste, or reduce disruption in their operations.
3. Ability to integrate existing systems
Consistent and accurate data collection is a critical first step in improving overall performance using the Industrial Internet. For manufacturers, the initial phase is to connect assets and organize data in a manner that’s simple and straightforward to understand and visualize. Many of the most-effective Industrial Internet implementations involve a large-scale effort, such as equipping your fleet with sensors or overhauling a factory.
But a seamless Industrial Internet implementation doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s built from the ground up. Rather, it’s important for manufacturers to find an Industrial Internet organization that can incorporate a customized solution into an existing framework while leaving room for modernization and growth of that framework. Although you might not need a cloud infrastructure resilient enough to cope with millions of users now, it is possible that you will in the future.
4. Proven data efficiency to generate insights
The Industrial Internet is all about utilizing the insight gained from data to achieve the best possible results. It includes uncovering areas for improvement or adjustments and prioritizing and mapping those to larger goals or key initiatives. This makes it easy to take the view that “we will collect as much data as we can and crunch it in the cloud,” but it’s important to consider the cost and other ramifications of this approach. The more data you collect, the greater the cost, but this also can provide you the ability to gain better efficiencies.
It’s important, therefore, to have an efficient data management system in place so that only useful data is collected. Further, this process must be scalable and optimized. Look for an organization that has a proven record of analyzing industrial data to achieve operational excellence. Optimization is realized when you can take actionable insights from data to help your plant perform more efficiently and effectively, using minimal resources and ensuring more reliability and predictability in meeting goals.
5. Open doors to new business opportunities
Look for organizations that can open doors to new business opportunities for your organization. Implementing industrial Internet technologies offers the chance to modify your industrial business model to incorporate services with a regular revenue stream and/or identify new markets, products, or relationship opportunities for added-value services.
Top-performing organizations are forming relationships with industrial Internet platforms to use the data to offer new services and products to customers based on intelligence gleaned from their current behaviors. An Industrial Internet relationship should let you leverage the collected data to help your organization design more-efficient machines and workflow processes. The continued flow of data on these machines will allow organizations to continuously improve their equipment, in turn increasing business ROI.
As you can see, strategic relationships within the industry are essential to scaling manufacturing business operations to benefit from the true value of the Industrial Internet experience. When looking to work with an organization to help implement the Industrial Internet, seek one that will create a mutually beneficial relationship with your organization. Look for a company with ongoing abilities to manage projects, the ability to integrate an existing foundation, proven efficiency in integrating and handling data, and the ability to open doors for your company to new business opportunities.