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Managing IoT devices: Expectation vs. reality

Dec. 13, 2018

Building a solution may be more difficult than anticipated.

Manufacturers must continually meet new performance, budget and output requirements to stay competitive. This includes extracting maximum value from equipment and devices over time to deliver new, meaningful business benefits. Because device initiatives tend to start small and be focused, many manufacturers have elected to build their own device-management solutions. However, challenges related to scale, security and connectivity can compound quickly as a deployment gains sophistication, significantly driving up costs, requiring major fixes and delaying forward progress.

While it’s always good to be bold and try new things in an IIoT journey, it’s also important to shift gears when problems arise. Here are four signs a manufacturer’s DIY IIoT device-management solution needs additional fortification and why it can often make sense to look externally for help.

It’s taking staff longer to do content and/or software updates

Diving into an IIoT deployment, you may have been certain that your staff would be able to quickly and easily provision, configure, monitor, update and eventually decommission equipment throughout the factory. In reality, a simple in-house IIoT project can take a team of 5-8 developers multiple years to build and debug. Not to mention the time and resources needed for ongoing support and any operational costs. So, if your staff is struggling to physically maintain devices, it’s time to consider a less manual approach.

Bsquare's Dave McCarthy

A pre-built solution allows manufacturers to organize devices into logical groups so that over-the-air (OTA) software updates, bulk configuration changes, maintenance and management of software licenses can be done more efficiently. With these real-time change updates, they can also reduce the workload of their IT, operations and engineering staffs.

Unforeseen device downtime is resulting in lost revenue

To accelerate ROI and reduce potential risks of an IIoT deployment, manufacturers need to scale their device fleet quickly and reliably. You may think keeping devices online and connected is easy, but even with just one component down, an entire IIoT project can be impacted, leading to lost production or revenue.

Manufacturers can’t afford insecure cloud connections or laborious practices to repair failed devices, which is why an external solution may be the answer. It can help scale devices and minimize missed opportunities and operational bottlenecks. Though it may mean higher upfront cost, the total cost of ownership will lessen due to reduced unplanned downtime and related maintenance costs.

Device management is larger and more complex than anticipated

Success in the manufacturing sector requires every machine, production line and employee to contribute to achieve optimal yields, high operational efficiencies and cost controls. With so many moving parts and multiple groups of devices with different configuration profiles, successfully managing day-to-day operations may be outside your team’s current capacity.

If your team has purposely limited the sophistication of your device-management plan, it’s time to reconsider your approach. An off-the-shelf solution can ensure that a manufacturer is getting the data they need for insights that drive competitive advantage and intelligence that reduces risk and accelerates time-to-market at a predictable cost.

Field-servicing costs keep going up

Manufacturers regularly collect vast amounts of data from thousands of sensors built into motors, conveyor systems, 5-axis machines and other physical assets throughout their factories. Because downtime can drastically hurt IIoT device management projects, they will often overpay for maintenance services to ensure equipment is up and running again quickly.

A purpose-built solution helps avoid these over-investments by automating and connecting every corner of the factory floor. For example, automation can help optimize processes and material flow for more precise planning, just-in-time manufacturing and workplace safety. This automation enables new benefits such as minimized operational costs, process consistency and reduced duplication.

To spot these and other key risk signs, encourage team members to be forthcoming with challenges they’re experiencing. Note that there will always be inherent limitations to staff resources, so it’s important to automate and remotely manage tasks when able. This frees up valuable human capacity to work on pressing matters…such as continuous innovation to reach new, higher goals.

Dave McCarthy is vice president of Bsquare.