Asset-intensive industrial IoT environments that deliver the full data picture consistently and reliably, perform instant analytics, utilize machine learning, and run IoT apps at the edge while stretching all the way to the cloud—to achieve all this, industrial companies can no longer afford to miss out on the possibilities opened up by IIoT platforms. But the path to efficiency and agility is not straightforward. From identifying the right data to selecting the right strategy, you first need to map out the road to your kind of IIoT platform, buy, and make the most of it. How do we get there? It is best to start with a quick goal analysis.
Setting transparent goals and being clear on what you want from the very outset can save you time later. And once you have drawn the trajectory of your manufacturing deployment and have identified the KPIs, the time comes to see what product will align best to those needs and will serve your purposes.
This is why we have compiled a list of critical questions to ask at the start of your IoT deployment. These will help you scope up your current capacities and optimize budgeting. The aim is to create a deployment trajectory aligned to your future needs, with an eye towards mid-term goals.
With these priorities in mind, you will be better suited to identify the product capabilities that matter to you.
Get the IIoT Buyer’s Goal Analysis and Checklist
What is your purpose? What exactly do you want to achieve?
Be as specific as possible. To be able to see how an IIoT platform will help you meet your targets, you first need to be extremely clear on these targets, set realistic goals, and assess the status quo with an eye towards measuring improvements over time.
- What data do you want to collect from IoT devices? Where do you need more machine data?
- Which metrics do you want to monitor and improve? What would be a realistic target?
- What processes do you need to digitize and what exactly are the projected benefits?
- Where do you want to eliminate or minimize errors?
What data do you need?
Now is the time to dig deeper into the question of what data you need. On the shop floor, just about any operation could be improved with larger volumes of better data. So you need to laser focus on the exact need with the highest ROI potential, be it for increased operational efficiency or better machine accessibility.
Putting your finger on the data that matters and fleshing out why you need it will make a huge difference when looking for the right product.
Who will be working with that data?
When looking to buy, consider the people whose lives will become easier once you introduce a new IIoT platform. What are their needs? What do they want to see in a product? Would this be a tool geared towards upper management? Or would that rather be something for IoT engineers and data scientists? Would you like to have different levels of access? Does the product need to be tangible to non-tech staff?
At the end of the day, any piece of technology loses its value if there are no people to stand behind it and breathe life into its various functions. And you help your people create more value by knowing what is important to them.
How long until deployment?
When it comes to IoT implementation, especially in legacy-intensive environments, your timeline is nearly impossible to predict. However, you still need to make sure that things are as realistic as possible. Communicating clear goals and trajectories to your vendor and making sure that the IIoT platform can deliver is an essential part of this process.
Your PoC will usually start with a small pilot deployment. After onboarding, you will get started by adding a number of machines or PLCs for a small-scale use case that involves IoT data collection from a number of endpoints, data transformation and analysis, plus tracking of the first KPIs and the preparation of initial data visualizations in dashboards.
Moving on to a production-level deployment and scaling to multiple sites with thousands of endpoints is a completely different challenge. Here an IIoT platform can significantly speed up operations. It can show you results within months in areas where things took years to accomplish.
How easy is it to monitor, update or opt out?
How about the distribution of your resources? Can you orchestrate everything within the platform, from device status monitoring to app updates? Or do you need to chase your colleagues down the hall every time you need to run an update or take a closer look into a critical asset?
When selecting an IIoT platform, you need to make sure you do not end up with even more workload and raised tickets than before.
Multi-tenancy, platform collaboration, clear asset distribution with the possibility to create professional workflows are the features that make an IIoT platform stand out in today’s crowded space.
And when the time comes to add solutions or completely migrate to another platform, your existing tool will need to provide a seamless experience. To avoid any misunderstandings, ensure that you are looking at IIoT platforms that offer the necessary breadth of critical capabilities. They need to be able to address your needs for enhancement. So sustainability matters here as well. You need a platform that is flexible enough to serve you over the long term.
Will it integrate with your existing systems?
And even the most flexible and elastic IIoT platforms may come to their limits when confronted with the complexities of brownfield environments, meaning loads of legacy equipment and multiple heterogeneous assets. The typical IIoT platform you will buy may still not be able to cover every software and hardware requirement. So identifying the most critical assets you need to integrate, prioritising, and fully investigating the possibilities will set the ground for a successful and timely IIoT solution.
Once these critical questions are answered, you get a much clearer picture on your smart manufacturing efforts over the long term. This will allow you to better assess the credibility and timeline of IoT projects, plan for full industrial connectivity, create robust concepts for managing IoT endpoints, and accommodate a number of scenarios for your industrial applications, and ultimately gain a competitive advantage over other industrial enterprises. While the decision to buy an IIoT platform introduces new complexities into your operations at first, it paves the way towards a winning industrial IoT solution over the long term.
About Record Evolution
We are a Data Science & IoT team based in Frankfurt am Main, committed to helping companies of all sizes to innovate at scale. So we’ve built an easy-to-use development platform enabling everyone to benefit from the powers of IoT and AI.