The IIoT: "What's in it for me?"

In this installment of Automation Zone, learn to understand stakeholders' needs and priorities to implement the right digital solutions.

By Alex Herbert, Kepware

In many ways, the industrial internet of things (IIoT) is just getting started. However, with the emergence of cloud-aided technologies that can be deployed securely at the edge, we are witnessing more use cases than ever before.

Recent research conducted by IDC found that the industries positioned to invest the most in the IoT by 2020 are manufacturing, transportation, and utilities. According to IDC, the manufacturing industry had a total IoT spend of $178 billion in 2016, and the industry is poised to keep its leading position in that metric until at least 2020.

The research also found that 66% of early IoT adopters in manufacturing say the IoT is now a critical competitive advantage for their business, and 76% say IoT technology has increased insights into customer preferences and behaviors. The benefits that these technologies can have on an organization are significant, so it’s easy to understand why the adoption will continue to increase in coming years and why it’s top of mind for organizations trying to take advantage of untapped data.

It’s clear that the factory is becoming increasingly digital, and the need for connectivity is being felt by every employee across the organization – from the shop floor all the way up to C-suite. Each department has its own motivation for implementing industrial IoT technologies, whether the desire is for better business intelligence, process improvement, or intelligent asset management. To identify the required characteristics of the most effective IIoT platform for your business, it’s important to consider the priorities of all stakeholders involved.

Looking at an industrial setting, there are three main personas within an organization that you’ll most likely interact with when distributing these connectivity solutions: the controls engineer, the plant manager, and maintenance personnel. While these roles may work together to ensure that the factory is meeting business requirements, they also have their own specific areas of focus related to their role, which is where their technology preferences and priorities come into play.

Controls engineers' priority: Secure connections

The controls engineer within an organization is focused primarily on data communications and making sure connections are secure so that no critical production data is lost. When implementing new technology, controls engineers often are seeking a tool that is able to feed a company’s visualization efforts and send messages when a connection is down or in danger of going down. In contrast to having the controls engineer physically standing on the plant floor looking at a panel of data, the latest IIoT solutions can feed data to remote monitoring applications that offer far more flexibility and troubleshooting capabilities.

Plant managers focus on production data

A plant manager is responsible for the day-to-day management and coordination of production, logistics, and maintenance within a facility, so it’s easy to understand why obtaining accurate production data is plant managers’ top priority when implementing new IoT technologies. Plant managers are focused on KPIs (key performance indicators) related to OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) to determine the performance levels of their equipment and make decisions on how to improve if performance is not optimal.

The right connectivity solution can streamline the plant manager’s job by providing operational data earlier in the process, which allows for mistakes to be identified and handled much more quickly and efficiently than they would have been in the past – saving the organization time and money.

For maintenance techs, it's about machine health

Maintenance or service personnel’s role involves closely monitoring machines to focus on machine health, diagnose issues, prevent machines from breaking, and mitigate any downtime. Ideally, it’s the job of the maintenance personnel to identify emerging problems before real damage can occur.

Having IIoT technology in place that’s collecting and analyzing data can help these workers by identifying machine issues in real time. Addressing mechanical failures when they happen and before machine failure occurs has been proven to increase revenue, enhance organizational efficiency, and decrease operational downtime for customers.

Tying it all together

Each of these personas is gathering data from the same line, piece of equipment, or machine, so keeping this information organized is paramount. Having a connectivity platform provides each of these personas with a single source of industrial data, allowing them to oversee entire processes while also monitoring and controlling what needs to be done for their specific job requirements.

Ultimately, these personas rely on each other in one way or another, and having the IIoT technology that best fits your organization is the optimal way to ensure all personas are working as efficiently as possible.

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