Lessons learned from IIoT deployments

Customers of manufacturing companies have gotten used to Internet technologies and are demanding similar efficiencies and flexibility.

MahadevCisco’s Head of Digital Manufacturing Services RJ Mahadev presents “Lessons Learned from IIoT Deployments” at the Smart Industry 2016 conference this September. Today he chats with Smart Industry about IIoT architectures, deployment complexities and why you should care. Take a look…

Smart Industry: Why do we underestimate the complexity of IoT integration? How does this hurt those looking to adopt the IIoT? 

RJ: In the manufacturing environment we have gotten used to proprietary solutions that are in place for a long time. Complexity and upgrades have been the enemy, however this is changing. Customers of manufacturing companies have gotten used to Internet technologies and are demanding similar efficiencies and flexibility. This requires new solutions to known problems and integrating new applications with legacy equipment. This is new ground, paved with failed pilots and platforms that don’t scale. IoT project-implementers often underestimate the complexity of IoT integration and overestimate the built-in integration capabilities of their IoT platforms. Gartner predicts that through 2018, half the cost of implementing IoT solutions will be spent integrating various IoT components with each other and back-end systems.

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Smart Industry: How do you recommend enterprises combat that underestimating?

RJ: Ask your key stakeholders three key questions:

1. What is the business value of the technology you are deploying?

2. What is the cost to the business if you get the integration wrong?

3. What is the likelihood that the integration could get more complicated than what your team can handle?

Accept that there are too many unknowns for you to take this journey on your own. Discuss your team’s view with your key IT/OT vendors as well as some of their competitors. Then pick a vendor-partner that can pragmatically guide you through the integration and be there when you need them along the way.

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Smart Industry: Describe the differences in approach to adopting elements of IIoT in greenfield and brownfield environments.  

RJ: The approach is the same, the pace of adoption is different. Greenfield environments give you the luxury of starting with a cleaner sheet of paper, but your challenge is to select the right foundational platforms, since these could either be your source of competitive advantage or the anchor around your neck. While it’s important to realize that building a greenfield factory is still a journey, you can leapfrog some of the technology hurdles that hold back traditional factories.

Brownfield environments require more time and effort integrating with legacy platforms and may pose the danger of investing in a downward spiral of decreasing productivity. The challenge here is to be able to recognize when a technology BAND-AID is adequate and when a more fundamental change is required.

Smart Industry: Why is IIoT project-justification tricky? Is it getting better over time? What tips do you have to ease the process?  

RJ: The greatest difficulty with IIoT project-justification is changing the process to include IT and OT stakeholders, and changing the mindset to consider different technology solutions. Since all of this often requires new processes and changes in behavior, the team will take time to accept the reality that "new" often means "uncomfortable." This, however, does get easier with time and practice. Thinking of IoT as an organizational-change issue often allows for necessary restructuring and changes in behavior.

Smart Industry: Describe your theory on building the architecture to support IIoT, even if full adoption at the present time isn't a reality. 

RJ: Understand that this is a multi-stage process that includes prepare/plan/design/implement/operate/optimize. Spend the required time and bring in the required expertise to help you understand what your future state might look like, how you connect this to your existing platforms/processes and what foundational elements are required. Collaborate with your key IT/OT vendors (and their competitors) to understand what they can do for you today and how they can help you along the way.

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