The outcry and advocating for industrial internet of things has been anything but quiet these past few years. Slowly, with the introduction of sensors capable of gathering machine diagnostics and the industrial grade computers designed to house that data and craft actionable insight, Industry 4.0 initiatives the likes of IoT interconnectivity have continued to empower manufacturers.

The numbers drawn from a recent study by SME highlight this excitement. According to their findings, industrial internet of things adoption rates have increased three-fold from their rates just two years ago. 84% of manufacturers surveyed even reported that they were either currently implementing or evaluating implementing digital manufacturing strategies. A staggering jump from the mere 27% who answered in kind just two years prior.

It’s likely these numbers will only rise as 2020’s challenges further emphasize the importance of supply chain visibility and resiliency, however, is there a danger in leaping into the deep end of industrial internet of things too early?

A few industry leaders sure do seem to think so. 

Avoid “IoT Wallpaper”

In a recent interview with Industry Week, Raja Shembekar, vice president of Denso’s North American Production Innovation Center, highlighted the concept of what he called “IOT wallpaper”. He uses the term to refer to internet of things applications that seem to bring in value but only serve a superficial, aesthetic purpose. In other words, “cool-looking displays, but with no real problem solving.”

That isn’t to say all IoT falls under this category. In fact, Denso is quite well known for their effective applications of industrial internet of things tech. Nevertheless, there are IoT applications that may seem impressive on paper, but do very little to bring in any new value or ROI.

In another interview, Brendan Mislin, managing director and global lead for IoT at Accenture Industry X.0, further elaborates on the pitfalls of being too distracted by all of the fanfare behind industrial internet of things. He explains that the ease with which manufacturers can run IoT proof of concepts (PoCs) is a “double-edged sword.” Companies often get too excited and over-invest in shiny new IoT functionalities that result in a plant that touts “technically successful PoCs that have little to no business value.” 

This, by Mislin’s own account, can result in IoT programs that unceremoniously fizzle out and lead to burnout over the topic of industrial internet of things and avoidance of future smart manufacturing investment.

The key to resolving this is simple. There needs to be a shift from a proof of concept mindset to a proof of value mindset. Value needs to be emphasized  and proven before simple functionality and means of implementation. So, how is this done effectively?

Ensure There’s Value in Industrial Internet of Things Adoption

The first step to any industrial internet of things program should be to carefully weigh out the pros and cons, the value and risks, that come along with that program.  

Acknowledge the Risks and Costs of Industrial Internet of Things

While IoT infrastructures have become increasingly easier to implement, it’s important to understand that they’ll still take some time and troubleshooting to fully implement.

Speak to your IT team about how long implementation could take and if any new pieces of hardware or software will need to be invested in to get the program off the ground. Furthermore, understand that IoT sensors and programs inherently mean you’ll have more devices on the floor that will be connected to the internet and, as such, available to hacking and cybercriminal activities. 

Understand that these risks are present and that some extra time and money may need to be invested in building out proper cyber security best practices.

Confirm the Data Will be Used

Of course, if this much risk will be undertaken to implement your industrial internet of things program, you’ll also want to guarantee that, once it’s in place, it will actually be used and value will be derived from the data and analytics it brings in.

There are dozens of buzzwords that come prepackaged with IoT programs. Predictive maintenance, inventory planning, demand forecasting, the list goes on and on.  It’s important not to get bogged down in the myriad of ways IoT programs can be implemented and lose focus. Narrow your attention on one or two key implementations you think your facility can benefit from. From there, confirm what kind of data this theoretical IoT program can draw in for your team and then, most importantly, confirm you have the people and resources needed to actually use that data. 

Do you have IT team members who will know how to use this data? If not, do you have an IIoT provider who is capable of training you and your team? What kind of software do you need to consolidate that data? Does your hardware support that software? These are all logistic questions you should float by your team and confirm before excitedly investing in IIoT solutions.    

How to Get Started with Value in Mind

So, you’ve honed in on one or two applications of your industrial internet of things system and you know you have the experts on hand to make use of the analytics and data being gathered. Now, how can you prepare for the actual implementation of your new sensors and connected machinery and prepare to actually bring in value and ROI. 

Plan for Metrics and Reporting

Before you purchase your first sensor and start signing deals with providers, make sure metric and reporting infrastructures are in place. You’ll want to confirm, in cold hard numbers, whether or not these new programs are truly benefiting your operation and these reporting systems will be essential in that. 

Speak to any of your considered IIoT providers about their reporting systems and how they can show you that their systems are actually improving your bottom line. As a plant owner or manager yourself, plan to share these findings with your team, investors, superiors, and more as this will also help them make more educated decisions in the future about whether or not to further invest in industrial internet of things programs or not.

Fortify Your Network

We mentioned cybersecurity concerns earlier. Naturally, you’ll want to ensure your network is properly secured and ready to handle Industrial internet of things integration. Consider things like a network segmentation strategy to cut down on the abundance of connected devices that could be used to spread malware. 

 It could also help to consider what identity authentication procedures you have in place to ensure the right people are logging into your workstations on the floor. Industrial tablets or Panel PCs with RFID readers can provide an added layer of protection against harmful remote access (while also providing several other helpful integrations with your new IoT systems that can be looked into in the future) 

Smart Manufacturing in More Than Just Name

There’s no denying that smart manufacturing and industrial internet of things applications can stand to bring true value to the factory floor. It’s only essential that these innovations be planned for, executed properly, and actually measured for value after their implementation. Neglecting to do any of these things can result in a lot of fancy IoT wallpaper and a plant that, underneath it all, lacks any real substance or efficiency. For more information on how you can successfully implement your next smart manufacturing endeavor, contact an expert from Cybernet today.