Overwhelmed by the IIoT?

July 16, 2015
In this Big Picture Interview, Kevin Davenport urges mapping technology to business needs, not vice-versa.

Kevin Davenport is senior manager of industry business development for manufacturing with Cisco in San Jose, Calif. Previously a controls engineer, he currently is part of the Cisco team developing the Industrial IP Advantage, an online community created to help manufacturing industry professionals bridge the gap between information technology and operations technology. In February, he showed how growing interest in customized products is affecting industrial manufacturing as part of a panel at the 2015 ARC Industry Forum in Orlando, Fla.

PS: At the ARC Forum, you said that consumers’ growing expectations that they can get products customized or tailored to their specifications is affecting industrial manufacturing, and that the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) can allow for greater flexibility and customizaton on the production line. Can you expand on that?

KD: Sure – customization is a huge deal. There’s a phenomenon – from customizing Nike shoes to customization in terms of the car you order. For example, (automaker) Tesla doesn’t have traditional showrooms. Theoretically, you can order your Tesla from your laptop or your smartphone, connect with an expert remotely via a safe and secure connection, and then be able to configure your car on the fly.

That seems pretty easy to the user, the interface does, but traditional (production) systems were pretty siloed. Now, with the connected factory architecture, we can tightly integrate all those functions from the customer touchpoint all the way through the supply chain, and the supply chain can connect with their partners, and then they can communicate information in pretty much real time to the production floor. All those different systems were pretty much disparate and siloed before. And so what we’re doing with the connected factory architecture is we’re tightly integrating all of those systems. We’re being able to tie that to production and their suppliers in a way that makes customization easier.

PS: With so much manufacturing conversation revolving around the Industrial Internet of Things, what do people still not understand about what the IIoT means, its implications or how we get there?

KD: That’s a great point, because for instance with data analytics, you’re connecting to so many different devices now, but once the data comes in, you really don’t have any experience or history with how to use all this data. So one of the things we’re trying at Cisco to do is change the conversation: Instead of focusing on technology, focus on the business outcomes, and then map the technology to those different outcomes.

People are still trying to grasp what to do with all of this connectivity and information. But if you can start with, for instance, that people are ordering products online and they need them within a day instead of two days, then you can kind of map the business processes that you need and what organizations need to connect, what organizations need the information and what time they need the information, and how do they access they information. Are you using automated warehouses where they’re going to have RFIDs in the pallets? You can say, “Oh, OK, I’m going to need a really intricate WiFi system, because I can see how efficiencies can occur if the forklifts are able to locate a pallet using RFIDs more efficiently.” You start with those questions, and then you start filling in the possibilities that technology can bring.

PS: What do manufacturers need to do to move the IIoT forward and make this idea of the connected plant a reality?

KD: You have to have those IT-OT conversations, and the IT organization has to know a little about the care-abouts and how to integrate with OT.

Cisco is partnering with Rockwell Automation and others, and we’re creating training and certification programs for that IT-OT convergence. Rockwell has the OT expertise and we have IT, and we’re creating programs for training online and in person. And then we have this Industrial IP Advantage program that’s an agnostic online community that’s being developed by Rockwell, Cisco and Panduit. The Industrial IP Advantage program is about providing the education to have the conversations needed to converge. The networks are converging, but we need to have the organizations converge. This online community is helping with that education. It’s really exciting. This is a pretty significant time to evolve technology and make some pretty big steps forward.

For more on realizing the potential of the IIoT, see our related reading (top right) and visit sister site

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