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Key to successful IIOT adoption in manufacturing organizations – Various analyst reports predict that the IIOT market size would be anywhere between $200 – $400 B by end of 2021. This growth is predicted to be driven by use cases spanning different industry verticals across various geographies.

However, a significant risk to this projected growth is the ability of organizations to drive the adoption of these technologies. In many cases, organizations have put in a lot of effort to start pilot deployments only to see these initiatives fizzle out due to multiple reasons.

In our experience of working with several tier 1 and tier 2 manufacturers across verticals we have seen some organizations successfully embrace IIOT & digitization technologies to reap the benefits of digital transformation while some organizations have struggled to go beyond small pilot projects despite having the right intentions.

Some of the key factors that are key to the successful adoption of digital technologies in manufacturing organizations are given in subsequent sections.

Stakeholder Buy-in

  • Critical to get management backing for all digitization initiatives.
  • This ensures an organization wide perspective is taken into account while defining the scope of the pilot and avoids projects getting developed in departmental silos.
  • Without top management support, successful localized pilots cannot scale out across the organization due to lack of visibility, limited or no budgetary support or due to not being in sync with overall organizational objectives.

Breaking Organizational Silos

  • The success of any digitization initiatives requires participation from multiple departments. These include personnel from Manufacturing, Finance, HR and Marketing in addition to the executive leadership. In some cases, we have also seen the Sales team getting involved as a successful IIOT solution can be leveraged as a competitive advantage in the market.
  • Broad participation ensures that implementation risks are identified early in the cycle and in the development of effective mitigation plans for these risks.
  • A multi-functional team with personnel from all key departments should be created to drive digitization efforts across the organization. It is advisable to have representation from the senior management in this team as well.
  • It is recommended that this team be staffed with personnel who are open to experimenting with new ideas and who have the ability to think out of the box for leveraging new technologies.

Use Case Selection

  • Select a use case that is relevant across all business units and has the potential to deliver significant benefits to the organization.
  • Choosing use cases that are an incremental in nature will provide lesser benefits and may put the larger transformative projects at risk.
  • Use cases considered should tie into overall business strategy and should have demonstrable success criteria.

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Start Small & Scale Fast

  • Choose a pilot implementation area that is representative of the processes to be digitized.
  • This ensures that all implementation related issues can be surfaced during the pilot, mitigation strategies can be devised and enables quick organization wide roll-out post successful completion of the pilot with minimal risk.
  • It is recommended that he pilot line / cell be chosen in a plant in which the plant head has bought in to the concept and is ready to provide full support for the implementation.

Resistance from SMEs

  • SMEs lay an important role in the success or failure of digitization initiatives. The critical operational knowledge and skills possessed by SMEs needs to be codified and incorporated into digitization initiatives to significantly increase benefits that can be derived.
  • SMEs have to be taken into confidence to alleviate any fears that they may have about loss of their importance in the organization if their knowledge is institutionalized through digitization.
  • Some form of reward schemes can also be put in place to incentivize knowledge sharing by these SMEs.

Heterogenous Machinery

  • Most production lines consist of machinery acquired from different OEMs. These machines would have different controllers / SCADA / DCS systems with different communication protocols and connectivity interfaces.
  • Devising a data acquisition strategy for acquiring the relevant data points from these machines is the key for successful factory digitization projects.
  • This requires collaboration with the machine OEMs to understand the recommended connectivity mechanisms and also to get information about tag maps required for retrieving the right data points.

Lack of Infrastructure

  • The OT infrastructure would need to be updated in order to ensure the right form of connectivity on the shop floor. This will include laying of cables, setting up VNETs for production lines / cells, Static IP allocation for machines etc.
  • It is also critical to ensure clear separation between the OT and IT networks while allowing for authorized data exchange between OT and IT systems in a controlled manner.
  • Redundancy considerations also have to be addressed in order to ensure that data acquisition strategies do not fail due to failure of gateways, IPCs etc.

Lack of Internal Competency

  • A successful IIOT implementation requires various skill sets including instrumentation, automation, Cloud technologies, machine learning etc. Traditionally manufacturing organizations, especially those in the SMB segment would have not have all these competencies in-house.
  • Organizations should look to complement their inhouse skill sets with external consultants or partners who can bring the required expertise.
  • Choosing the right partner / consultants itself is tricky since the field itself is new and validating past implementation successes is difficult.
  • Having multiple partners increases the risks associated with lack of ownership and communication complexity leading to increased bandwidth requirements from the project sponsors.
  • Various engagement models can be used with partners to ensure that they have a a stake in the success of IIOT initiatives.
  • The long terms aim would be to build the required competency in-house but having the right partner eco-system can significantly improve the chances of success by reducing implementation risks.

Change Management

  • This is the most important factor that determines the success of shop floor digitization projects.
  • People on the shop floor need to be taken into confidence and educated about the fact that automated data acquisition is not meant to provide another level of oversight but is required
    to accurately identify operational bottlenecks that can be addressed to improve efficiencies.
  • In most cases, existing efficiency baselines and metrics that are derived using information collected from manual logbooks will reduce once automated data collection mechanisms are put in place. This should be consciously be discussed prior to the implementation in order to avoid shop floor personnel from becoming defensive when the new efficiency figures are calculated.
  • In addition, shop floor personnel have to sensitized about the benefits that can be derived from digitization efforts.

Solution Adoption

  • Mechanisms to measure solution adoption have to be thought through in the solution design phase.
  • Cultural factors as well as user characteristics have to be considered during UI/UX design of solutions to minimize user resistance for adoption of digital solutions.
  • In order to drive adoption of solutions, it is imperative to create a team of ‘Digital Champions’ within each department.
  • These champions would be responsible for user training, propagation of digital solutions and for addressing user concerns locally in order to drive acceptance and increase usage.
  • These champions act as a bridge between users and the digital team by soliciting user feedback and ensuring that user concerns are heard and addressed in the solution roadmap.
  • These champions would also be tasked with identifying potential use cases within their departments that can be taken up under future digitization initiatives.
  • A sense of competition should be fostered among departments with incentives for adoption digitization initiatives to drive adoption.

Keys to successful IIOT adoption in manufacturing organizations

IIOT initiatives rarely succeed unless they are tied to tangible business objectives. We have seen quite a few examples where organizations start implementing IIOT solutions as research projects that do not have a clear business objective. These projects then meander along without and executive sponsor and are ultimately scrapped or are forgotten.

Our recommendation would be to start a pilot implementation with clearly defined, measurable goals. Once the pilot has been commissioned, monitor it for a few weeks and then start the process of scaling out to the rest of the organization. This approach reduces implementation risk and ensures that a robust solution is rolled out.

About the Author

Ashish Nene

Mr. Ashish Nene is the CEO of Websym Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

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He can be contacted at :
Email : ashish@websym.com
LinkedIn : https://www.linkedin.com/in/ashish-nene-4620a71/
Skype : ashishnene

Websym Solution Pvt. Ltd. ( https://www.websym.com/ ) offers IIoT and Analytics solutions to the manufacturing industry and industrial & consumer OEMs . Our solutions help organizations utilize the power of IOT, big data and analytics to increase operational margins and improve efficiencies through real-time generation of actionable insights driven by real-time equipment performance and health data integrated with enterprise systems.
Linkedin : https://www.linkedin.com/company/websym/