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Value from the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

The IoT and the IIoT are all the buzz these days. It’s a pretty safe bet that the plant down the road, your competition, and/or your sister plants are making plans for an IIoT project. Maybe it is time to get on the bandwagon?

Hold your beer a minute.

The IoT is simply a network of smart things. The IIot might be thought of as a network of smart things that produce value in an industrial plant. The IIot is technology. It is useful technology, not just another craze. But, it is technology. For my 40 years, I have observed that the value in a system or solution is NOT the technology, but the application that the technology enables or delivers. It is how we USE technology that delivers value. It is value that makes our organizations more effective and more profitable. Value is the holy grail, not technology.

When I consult with a client that desires to increase operational profitability, I start by asking what is being measured. What data is already being collected or available to be collected? I have been in facilities that are swamped in data that is not being used. How can we use this ready resource to point to challenges? Accurately understanding a problem and accurately measuring its effect on plant profitability is key to receiving funding for overcoming the challenge. Accurately measuring and loudly touting the value received from an improvement is key to receiving attention and funding for the next challenge.

If you do not have a process, or want to compare your process’ results against ours, I am happy for one of our lead engineers to come in and help you with a Total Process Automation assessment or simply give you the questionnaire so that you can use it yourself. Step one is casting broadly for a lengthy list of problems. Step two is focusing down on the problem(s) with the highest impact on plant profitability (Pareto principle). When ECS is engaged for an assessment, our deliverable is a report that includes a FEL-1 (Front End Loading) project charter for the top one or couple problems/opportunities.

Application of IIoT technology comes into play as we define how to accurately measure the problem and the value that fully or partially resolving the problem will create. When we need to add an instrument to plant equipment to accurately measure the waste, we want that instrument to be smart and to be capable of being accessed from a variety of solutions—not just the controller it is wired to. One of the value propositions of IIoT technology over traditional approaches is that making data available to additional consumers accelerates the improvement process as those consumers use the data to solve more problems faster.

If you have lots of money, go ahead and create your IIoT with lots of smart things measuring “everything.” Good will come. If you are limited in your funding, as most of our clients are, then start with your biggest problem(s), using the value recaptured to fund subsequent projects until one day, you have a top performing plant.


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