The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) promises a whole new world of sensors and smart devices collecting information and control, and extending visibility throughout the plant, warehouse and the entire supply chain. But the prospect of installing, integrating and managing an IIoT network can be daunting, indeed.
Kicking Off IIoT Implementation
Some companies will want to start small, adding a few sensors and devices into existing networks while others may be ready to embark on a bigger project to take full advantage of what IIoT has to offer. Either way, the important thing is to get started. IIoT is a basic underlying technology for Manufacturing 4.0 and a key component of modern supply chain management.
How Much IIoT Is Right For Your Business?
Every company will have to decide just how much IIoT technology they want to bring into their environment, and how fast. This first blog in the series we will offer some general advice and suggestions for those who want to experiment with a few IIoT devices before committing to a larger IIoT project. The next blog offers general advice for companies that are ready for a full commitment to IIoT in the plant and/or warehouse. The third and final blog applies to companies contemplating IIoT in the supply chain – outside of the local plant and warehouse.
Any new technology can be scary, so prudent planners and investors in that technology will want to know as much as they can learn before fully committing to what could be a substantial investment with associated risks and uncertainties. Fortunately, it is quite easy (in most cases) to add a few sensors to an existing system to provide some experience and a better understanding of how these devices can work in your environment. Here are some considerations and comments to keep in mind as you start your exploration of IIoT.
- Keep in mind that this is an experiment and the devices you install may not become a permanent part of your new IIoT-enabled systems environment. Of course you’ll want to choose wisely and hope to get a direct return on this investment but don’t let those concerns stop your project before it begins or limit your choices along the way.
- That said, this project, like all others, needs a plan. Follow standard project management processes to outline the goal and objectives of the project, timeline, budget, names of participants and what their responsibilities will be, and how the project will be managed with status tracking, team meetings, and reporting processes clearly spelled out.
- Expect a payback. While it may sound contradictory to the first point above, there should be a (written) business purpose for the IIoT you are planning to install. Keep the expectations modest, however. Your first foray into IIoT should be aimed at replacing existing manual reporting with automated data collection and providing convenient access to real-time data in the plant and warehouse. Don’t try to plow new ground as this will overshadow the real purpose which is to gain experience with IIoT technology and learn how to bring it into your working environment.
- Document what you’ve learned… and not just the technological details. Pay attention to how the devices change the nature of the workplace and the activities of the workers. Was there resistance from the workforce or did they welcome the new tools? Did it really make their jobs easier or more efficient or was it seen as an additional burden? What was the actual benefit (ROI) once these devices were in use (will be important to know when you develop the business case for further investment in IIoT)?
These are just a few considerations to keep in mind as you plan your initial experiments with IIoT. The most important consideration is this: IIoT and Manufacturing 4.0 are fast becoming a requirement of you want to stay competitive and relevant in your industry. Start now to get comfortable with IIoT, then develop a plan to incorporate more connected devices into your system evolution toward Manufacturing 4.0.