Accelerate Your Industrial IoT Journey with These 3 Best Practices
For years, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and other industrial companies have explored the use of remote equipment monitoring, predictive maintenance, Equipment-as-a-Service (EaaS), and other Industrial IoT (IIoT) applications to transform their businesses. Recently, many of these companies have moved from just exploring the use of IIoT applications to actively using them today to lower their costs, increase revenues, enhance customer engagement, and improve other business outcomes.
For example, Axibio is using the IIoT to obtain data on how its biowaste collectors are being used by customers. Meanwhile, Ekatra built an IIoT application that collects data from liquid fertilizer tanks to determine if they are leaking. And Thermigas has rolled out an IIoT application that extracts data from its industrial hot water heaters, allowing them to determine if these heaters need maintenance.
What can industrial companies who want to move beyond the IIoT exploration stage, or who have tried to move beyond this stage but have seen their initial IIoT projects fail, learn from companies like these?
My experience working with dozens of companies on IIoT projects has revealed three best practices — start small, think big, and don’t recreate the wheel — that have enabled companies to accelerate their IIoT project timelines, lower the risk of their projects, and increase their projects’ ROI. By adopting these three best practices companies that have been hesitant to embrace the IIoT, or had difficulties doing so, can more confidently move forward in taking the next step forward in their IIoT journey.
The IIoT’s potential to fundamentally transform how a company does business can tempt project leaders to launch large, company-wide IIoT digital transformation projects. However, these project leaders need to resist this temptation, especially in the early phases of their IIoT journeys.
Instead they should smart small, with a simple IIoT project, such as a remote monitoring application for a specific piece of equipment. An application like this allows the company to troubleshoot problems without having to spend money or time sending an employee to evaluate the equipment on-site. This reduces maintenance costs for the company, while at the same time enabling them to lower their equipment’s downtime and increase customer satisfaction. Smaller projects like this are also quick, low risk, and able to deliver the company a clear, immediate ROI.
Another reason to start small is that it offers an opportunity for the project team to build out their understanding of IIoT technologies. All-in-one IIoT application platform and infrastructure solutions have greatly simplified the IIoT for industrial companies. But there is still a learning curve for these companies as they embark on their IIoT journeys. By starting small, companies can acquire the knowledge they need to develop and deploy larger, more ambitious IIoT projects down the road.
While starting small with their first IIoT project makes sense for most industrial companies, they should still think big when it comes to IIoT, with a plan to expand the reach and functionality of their initial IIoT projects over the long term.
For example, often a company’s first IIoT project will reveal to them the benefits of collecting different types of data from their equipment than they expected when they launched the project. Or it may reveal that they can use the data they have collected for other, more complex IIoT applications – like predictive maintenance or EaaS — that generate additional value for them and their customers. Though they might be starting small, these companies should make sure that they can grow their applications over time.
This is why companies should ask themselves at the start of an IIoT project if the solutions they are using for the project can easily manage more data, connect to other types of machines, and scale to support thousands of pieces of equipment located around the world. They should also make sure they are using solutions that allow them to update edge device programming and other aspects of their IIoT application over time, so they can quickly update the functionality of the application without having to build a new one from scratch.
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
Just as industrial companies do not want to have to build new IIoT applications from scratch when they need to update these applications, nor do they want to find themselves having to build from the ground up the secure IIoT application platforms and infrastructure these applications require. IIoT technologies are quite complex, and if these companies try to build the platforms and infrastructure needed to support IIoT applications by themselves they are likely to find themselves needing to acquire a lot of specialized expertise.
For example, to build the infrastructure needed for a remote monitoring application, a company would need expertise not just in cloud application development, but also in IoT gateways, wireless connectivity, and IoT cybersecurity, among other subjects. Most industrial companies do not have this expertise, and without it is they will find it difficult to integrate together all the technologies they need to build the application platforms and infrastructure required for an IIoT application to function.
However, today there are a wide variety of IIoT application platforms, infrastructure solutions, and other packaged technology offerings that feature this IIoT expertise built in. By allowing them to avoid building the IIoT application platform and infrastructure themselves, such offerings free companies to focus on developing IIoT applications that meet their specific use case requirements.
A New Industrial Revolution
While new IIoT offerings are making it easier for industrial companies to use the IIoT to transform their businesses, the need for these companies to move forward on their IIoT journey is becoming more urgent. If they hope to stay one step ahead of the competition, companies need to differentiate their products and offer their customers new value-added services, all while reducing their maintenance and other costs. Most of these companies are finding the easiest, fastest, and often the only way to realize these goals is to use the IIoT to connect their equipment to the cloud.
The time when a company could delay its IIoT journey is over. However, by starting small, thinking big, and not reinventing the wheel, today companies can follow the example of others who have successfully used the IIoT to reimagine their business — and in doing so, reimagine their own.