IoT in manufacturing: Voices from the field

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a transformative movement in technology, especially in manufacturing. IoT in manufacturing uses the concept of connected devices for power-smart manufacturing.

To find out how IoT affects Production organizations, we interviewed several industry leaders who are seeing how IoT is changing their operations – and how they are preparing for a more cohesive future.

What are the biggest challenges facing IoT for production organizations?

Maciej Kranz, Vice President of Strategic Innovation, Cisco: There are three major barriers to a wider adoption of IoT, with security ranking as the top one. The latest high-profile security attacks demonstrate IoT’s vulnerability to breach violations as connectivity increases between devices and the Internet. Security is everyone’s responsibility. The second barrier is the slow adoption of open standards and interoperability. This is a challenge for vertically integrated vendors who traditionally prefer to use proprietary or semi-proprietary technologies. Resistance to cultural transformation is another obstacle to success with IoT. As IoT accelerates the pace of change, organizations need to accelerate their internal processes, integrate external partners, allow their workforce to be innovative, and encourage more collaborative decisions across business units.

Dave Rauch, Senior Vice President of Drive Manufacturing, Western Digital: There are a number of challenges. First, the data sources that companies have – for example, production, process and product data – are often fragmented. In addition, sampling plans are not coherent and the payout is unclear. Adding to these challenges is a lack of critical skills.

Aaron Raymond, Senior Director, Electrolux Major Appliances: I think the most challenging aspect is the impact IoT has on speed and innovation. Manufacturing companies are traditionally considered large and capital intensive operations that strive for repeatability and consistency. But with the dawn of the IoT era, it’s not just that our marketplace is changing. In fact, our customer expectations are still developing and in many cases still not defined.

Paul Reed, Chief Technical Specialist, USG: A big challenge is realizing that IoT, combined with analysis, is not simply a calculator that provides the right answer when you want it. Instead, IoT is part of the manufacturing process. It is up to manufacturers to understand that their models and decision-making processes will not be perfect to begin with. They will need to mature in place over time to succeed.

What types of organizations are at the forefront of IoT?

Kranz: Basically, companies leading the IoT disruption today are well-established, large industrial companies with complex operations. They get ROI primarily from using IoT to connected operations, remote control, predictable analytics and preventative maintenance. Consumer IoT gets all that buzz, but the real opportunity and value today can be found in the industrial sector. According to IDC, industries that are expected to make the largest IoT investments are manufacturing, transportation and utilities. The consumer sector today ranks fourth overall in terms of adoption.

Rauch: I think larger organizations have an advantage as they can better absorb projects of this size. Older technology may be a problem, but it is more manageable than not having enough resources. From a manufacturing perspective, I think we can look at the autonomous car as a good analogy. With a self-propelled vehicle, you have plenty of data signals coming in that need to be processed in a short time to make a decision, adjustments are made without human interference and very low tolerance for errors.

Reed: I think process industries have been at the forefront – chemicals, oil and other continuous manufacturing processes. Process management technology is the foundation of IoT. The next step is to provide optimal process control points based on data-driven models. I believe that an ideal IoT facility maximizes employees’ intellectual contributions and minimizes practical work.

What has your organization done to prepare you for IoT?

Kranz: “It takes a village” to implement IoT. I have worked with companies and startups to build ecosystems of partners that can develop and co-implement complete IoT solutions with and for clients. This approach depends on interoperability throughout the IoT universe. Cisco has been a leader in establishing open standards for IoT. We are actively involved in numerous industry standard bodies and consortia working on architectural frameworks and standards for sensor communication, network access, cloud, fog and block chain, just to name a few.

Rauch: The first step is to recognize the potential value of IoT. Then you can commit to a roadmap that allows the organization to make the transition.

Raymond: In our industry, IoT has changed the way devices are bought and sold. We often talk about the “last mile” or the last part of getting an appliance delivered and installed. And while there are many positive things to owning the last mile, there are many risks, especially within appliances. Consumers are likely to want someone to install a new refrigerator and pull the old one away – without being uncomfortable in the process. At Electrolux, that’s what we’re working on and building the ability to do just that. But this idea is relatively new, and 20 years ago it wasn’t even a consideration.

Reed: I think the biggest thing would be to make sure that expert experts monitor the development of your IoT technology. There should be no barrier between operations and IoT development. They must be in sync throughout development and implementation.

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