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Lessons Learned from the IIoT Trenches

Neil Strother
Nov 13, 2018

The Energy Cloud

One of the challenges many corporate managers face as they consider deploying industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies is figuring out what to expect. With little experience, they rely on common sense, gut instinct, and a leap of faith. But they need not move ahead so blindly. A new study sponsored by Siemens highlights what early adopters of IIoT solutions in the manufacturing sector have discovered: deploying IIoT projects can deliver what they promise, though there are bumps along the way.

The Results Are In

The study includes results of a survey that shows IIoT has moved beyond a vague concept, with nearly three out of four of respondents (73%) saying their firm was currently researching or implementing a project, or the company had recently implemented at least one such endeavor. Perhaps more importantly, among the companies having operationalized at least one project nearly nine out of 10 respondents (86%) said the experience met or exceeded their expectations. And the firm was looking ahead at new IIoT projects it could deploy.

A question about measuring IIoT project success allowed respondents multiple responses. The leading outcomes were: reduced downtime (54%), lower operating costs (52%), an increase in productivity (46%), better understanding of equipment usage (46%), and improved visibility (41%). Not surprisingly for manufacturing, these would be the most targeted and meaningful performance metrics for IIoT given how factories operate. However, respondents also noted positive metrics for other strategic business goals, such as better customer service response times (38%), increased revenue (30%), and streamlined business processes (28%).

Despite favorable outcomes with IIoT projects, respondents indicated that some pain came along the way. Nearly nine of 10 said projects were either extremely, very, or moderately challenging, which points to a learning curve with some steepness. The survey was conducted in August 2018, with 277 people in management roles giving responses.

Problem Solve to Build Confidence

The study concludes with sound advice for corporate managers still considering IIoT projects: adopt an iterative approach. Begin with a problem to solve, like how to increase productivity or reduce equipment downtime, or a related set of issues, and then focus there. Once results from the initial project are known, then apply hard lessons learned to the next problem on the IIoT roadmap. By doing so, the teams involved can build steadily with confidence and not become overwhelmed with projects that spin out of control because they attempt to do too much.

This simple approach can work just as well in other sectors such as utilities, mining, or health care. That is one of the conclusions of Navigant Research’s recent report, Industrial Internet of Things, which examines multiple industrial sectors.