Preparing for the IIoT: How to Get Your Factory Ready
The industrial internet of things (IIoT) is often misunderstood. Sure, it’s a network of interconnected sensors and beacons, designed to gather and aggregate data about factory operations — but it’s also much more. It represents an entire culture shift in your factory. It requires broad adaptation beyond the technological aspect. Companies that understand this upfront will find success in their scale-up to Industry 4.0.
Because the IIoT spans virtually all facets of operations, it touches entire workforces. Floor technicians have as much interaction with the sensors as engineers interpreting the data gathered by them. Managers use the data to present to the C-suite, who will make decisions about how to engineer better results. Then it all trickles back in reverse.
Success with the IIoT means adopting a cohesive understanding of what it means for the factory as a whole, at every level. It won’t happen overnight and requires a shift in culture.
Pillars of IIoT success
Even the most robust IIoT network will fail if it’s not understood. To that end, there are four pillars for success that precede device adoption:
- Define language: Make sure everyone understands the goals, terminology, and deployment of the IIoT at scale. Your team should be able to communicate about the IIoT with ease.
- Have a plan: Sporadic upgrades to the factory or daisy-chained devices aren’t a foray into the IIoT — they’re a piecemeal approach. Successful IIoT deployment requires a plan that’s internalized by all stakeholders.
- Understand evolution: The IIoT is in its infancy. Devices and technologies are still evolving. Expect to change and evolve alongside it. Don’t see iterations for their cost — instead, see the value in growing alongside the future of technology.
- Hire accordingly: New technology requires new skillsets. Hire technology experts with the capability to guide your rollout. It’s not just about setting up the infrastructure, it’s also about protecting data, tailoring solutions, and setting up protocols.
Ramping up to the IIoT is as much about readying your facilities and staff as it is about buying and installing devices. In many ways, this pre-IIoT foundation is even more important, since it sets the tone for sweeping digital evolution.
Emphasize a culture of improvement
The shift to Industry 4.0 is all about empowering better results through data-driven analysis. This isn’t only about having the right equipment, it’s also about having the right workforce.
Most factories have skilled, experienced employees. But their workforce needs to grow in tandem with the IIoT, to learn how to leverage technology into what they already know. The answer is continuing education, ongoing training, and encouragement to embrace technology.
Once workers realize the IIoT isn’t here to take their jobs, but rather simplify them, a culture of improvement can take over. Make the model of your factory not to fear change, but to embrace its potential.
Getting the IIoT right from the start
A sound foundation for IIoT adoption and scale-up starts not with devices, but with people. Technologies such as machine learning, AR/VR, and sensors pave the way for better initiatives, including condition-based monitoring, advanced process control, and robust operational analysis. But they can’t enact these systems — they only power them. Recognizing the IIoT as a tool for enablement is the key to introducing it to every level of your factory operations.
Before you focus too much on getting the devices and ecosystems set up, make sure your facilities are ready for them. It’ll make the ensuing adoption and evolution infinitely easier.