Five Steps to Bridge the Gap Between Opportunity and Reality with the Internet of Things

At last week’s Internet of Things (IoT) – North America conference in Milwaukee I spoke about using IoT technologies to drive ROI in manufacturing environments.  IoT technologies support multiple benefits for manufacturers – increasing innovation, connecting the manufacturer to the end user, and reducing risk.  But the most immediate benefit is to increase efficiency on the shop floor.  

Reading glasses on paper and hands holding two gears

No other industry has prized efficiency as deeply or for as long as manufacturing.  From the time and motion studies of Frederick Taylor and Frank Gilbreth at the turn of the 20th century to the  Toyota Production System, Six Sigma and numerous systems of today, manufacturing has focused on ongoing continuous improvement to become more lean.  IoT technologies represent another step forward by using sensor, ERP and other data sources to become more predictive and to identify insights that drive efficiency on the factory floor. 

Enterprise quality IoT solutions are not easy to architect and deploy.  However, the opportunity to find a competitive edge through more efficient processes makes the effort worthwhile.  Here’s an approach we recommend that helps to bridge the gap between the opportunity and the reality of IoT today.

  1. Start with small but impactful projects – Small, non-mission critical projects help your team be successful in a fairly short amount of time, building experience and learnings for future projects.  Selecting an impactful project such as a KPI supports the investment and helps fuel leadership support.
  2. Plan for growth and scale upfront – When new data becomes available, people tend to be interested and find new uses for the data.  This leads to additional requests for more access and more data.  We’ve seen customers who have had to go back and re-engineer projects to respond to the requests for more. 
  3. Create a small team with both OT (operational technology) and IT (information technology) expertise – As I’ve shared before, OT and IT folks are like natural enemies in the wild.  Yet both organizations add value.  The OT/mfg folks understand the data coming from the floor, as well as where value is likely residing.  The OT side is also better able to gain investment dollars and resources to invest in projects that benefit mfg KPIs.  The IT side can bring forward the right tools and partners and ensure programs are meeting corporate security expectations.   
  4. Bring in technology partners as needed, but have an ownership stake. – This is likely just the first of an ongoing series of projects that build capability to predict and improve on operations across your facility and across your organization.    Investing the time to be an active participant will help you make better decisions on what type of projects to take on in the future.
  5. Repeat with larger, more complex projects – Build on your experience to stretch further.

I can see future Industrial Engineering curriculums including courses around how to implement IoT technologies on the factory floor.  What do you think?  Share here or follow me at @kirstenatdell.

Kirsten Billhardt

About the Author: Kirsten Billhardt