The 7 Signs of Highly Effective IIoT Strategies

The 7 Signs of Highly Effective IIoT Strategies

Editor’s Note: The industrial Internet of Things is not a product, but an approach toward greater digitalization and automation, says Christoph Inauen, Vice President Strategy, Mindsphere. Here are seven signs of highly effective Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) strategies that Inauen developed with Andrew Crowley, systems engineer for our partner DMC Inc.


1. The greater context is considered

Deploying IIoT technologies is part of a bigger, multi-year journey toward the next stage in the modernization of production and both inbound and outbound logistics. Many call it Industry 4.0, a fourth industrial revolution characterized by cyber-physical systems, employing digital twins that are virtual proxies of physical production systems. Digital production twins can be used by plant operators to monitor and control their processes in real time. But for many if not most existing factories, the modernization journey is more an evolution, not a revolution. Fortunately, cloud-based, pay-as-you-go platforms, such as the Siemens MindSphere open IoT operating system, can help accelerate progress, while eliminating capital costs.


2. Business outcomes are prioritized

To be most effective, especially in terms of quantifiable returns on investments in them, IIoT technologies must be applied to drive specific business value, whether that’s addressing physical or data bottlenecks, opportunities to redesign workflows, or other issues facing the business. Can an IIoT technology application improve quality, speed, or cost? Consideration should also be made to potential deployment impacts elsewhere, up and down the production and logistics value chain. As industrial engineers well know, changes made in one part of a process can have unexpected consequences on other parts of that process.


3. Specific goals and roadmaps have been clearly defined

The best IIoT strategies are as specific in defining current and desired future states of plant processes. The latter are imaginative but realistic visions of quantum process changes, not step-changes in existing ones. That’s because IIoT technologies can enable whole new workflow possibilities. Highly effective IIoT strategies are clearly spelled out in written execution plans, with details about supporting tactics. These plans have timelines that properly sequence the steps required to achieve plan goals. While third-party IIoT experts can be a big help in facilitating the necessary discussions for breakthrough visions, the goals and roadmaps must come from those involved in day-to-day operations.

4. The goal is data quality, not quantity

While data is the lifeblood of Industry 4.0 models, the most effective IIoT strategies are highly selective in the types of data drawn from machines to update digital twins. After all, not all data is of equal value. There’s informational data, real-time data, and mission-critical data. Sure, adding sensors to existing equipment and linking it to data collectors can capture floods of data. But higher-level systems and analytics need only the most relevant data. That’s why edge processing is growing. It uses intelligent devices on plant premises to pre-process machine data before forwarding specific, relevant data to higher-level systems, whether those are on-premise or in cloud-based ones, such as ones hosted on the Siemens MindSphere platform.


5. Analytics are being applied to solve problems

Advanced analytics, especially artificial intelligence and machine learning, offer a lot of promise to Industry 4.0 models, but at this time, these capabilities can be much more than what the initial steps of an effective IIoT strategy implementation requires. It’s advisable to find specific problems that can have visible and relatively quick beneficial results by solving, then figure out what data is needed to do that. Before data science, problems were diagnosed and resolved by addressing underlying issues of physics, engineering, and mechanics. Today, these are still invaluable starting points for troubleshooting, with data analytics enhancing deeper inquiries into them. But, often, to monitor the health of a motor or motor fleet, all that’s needed is data and a trend analysis on how much current amperage the motor is drawing, not a full vibrational analysis. On the other hand, turbomachinery monitoring could benefit from both, which is how Siemens Remote Diagnostic Services works. So, using advanced analytics is situational, but not necessarily required to get started on using IIoT technologies today.


6. There are industrial cybersecurity safeguards

Connectivity is a core enabler of IIoT technologies and, with it, comes inevitable cybersecurity threats, like what enterprise IT networks and users have endured for two decades. Before, plants typically operated standalone machines and closed networks that kept threats out. But while it’s critical to protect OT operations with layered, defense-in-depth cyber safeguards, those protections must be designed for OT’s specialized requirements, such as high-speed, deterministic communications between machines. That’s why effective IIoT strategies will address industrial cybersecurity to ensure the integrity of OT networks, machines, edge devices, and their data, whether in motion or at rest.


7. All stakeholders are brought together.

Often industrial enterprises will assume that their IIoT strategies and their Industry 4.0 journey are the exclusive responsibilities of their industrial engineering team. Of course, the team’s expertise is core to the effort, but other stakeholders should be enlisted. Obviously, management needs to be, but also the shop floor’s operating personnel, who are intimately familiar with machinery and workflows. Collaboration with enterprise IT staff is critical, too, as OT and IT network integration is needed. Other stakeholder functions could or should include procurement, logistics, finance, and HR. Effective IIoT strategies will identify and document these stakeholders and their roles and responsibilities for the execution of those strategies.


For industrial enterprises worldwide, the journey to Industry 4.0 is one driven by the need for ever more quality, efficiency, productivity, and profitability in their operations. Speed, flexibility, and agility in responding to customer requirements and market opportunities are also keys to staying ahead of the competition. Standing still is not option. Implementing a highly effective IIoT strategy can accelerate a company’s realization of an Industry 4.0 model and these advantages—with external IIoT expertise potentially a big help in developing such a strategy.


Published On: December 11th 2018