IIoT / Digitalization / Smart Manufacturing

History is happening: Have we reached the IIoT tipping point?

Thomas Wilk says when it comes to the IIoT, 'wait for it' is not an effective strategy.

By Thomas Wilk, editor in chief

Welcome to Plant Services’ special issue on the industrial internet of things, or IIoT!

This year the Plant Services editors are taking the opportunity in April and September to bring you front-to-back coverage of a single industry topic. And as a colleague noted recently, there just aren’t many shake-ups in the maintenance and reliability field, but we are living through one now in the form of Industry 4.0.

In this spirit, each article and column in this special issue touches in some way on how internet-enabled technologies are enhancing our ability to operate safely and profitably even as they introduce new risks, especially in the form of cybersecurity.

Admittedly, for a few years now the term “IIoT” has held more promise than substance for the average facility, as the buzz surrounding it outpaced the number of use cases and success stories. However it feels like we’re at a tipping point this time: more and more organizations are discovering how less expensive sensors, cheaper processing power, and a new generation of mobile natives entering the workforce are combining to drive new value and opportunity.

In fact the value of the IIoT is expected to exceed $1.9 trillion over the next decade, and a large chunk of that new value or opportunity will be realized by you. Increased asset uptime and plant throughput via PdM, improved planning and scheduling, a smarter, more streamlined supply chain – these are the areas where digitalization is having a strong impact, and when it comes to the IIoT, “wait for it” is no longer an effective strategy. You and your coworkers have a unique opportunity to help stake out a digital path forward for your facility, and your competitors are catching up.

Our coverage this month is led by a cover story by ARC Advisory Group’s Greg Gorbach and Valentijn de Leeuw, who map out the four dimensions that teams should consider when developing a digital strategy. Other features address the two most common questions we’ve heard from plant teams regarding the IIoT: how do we apply digital technology to legacy assets, and how do we keep network intruders out?
The issue also includes several first-hand accounts of digital MRO projects that are generating benefits for their organizations, and a special Asset Manager column from David Berger which includes a reader survey on IIoT project challenges. (To take the survey, click here.)

Finally, this editor’s note was the last article written for this special issue, and I went back and forth on the headline:

  • “You can’t spell ‘history’ without ‘IT’ and ‘OT’ ”? Too much wordplay.
  • “Don’t believe the hype”? Catchy, but we’re past the hype phase for IIoT.
  • “Stairway to IIoT”? It does reference a Plant...

In the end though, it made sense to go with a line from Hamilton. The IIoT is both the new normal and Wilder West.

Do not throw away your shot.