Demystifying Purchasing and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

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Four years in, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is really taking hold in the consumer packaged good sector (CPG), leveraging sensor based technology, the internet, and control systems to provide truly actionable intelligence for conscious factories.

Automation World recently released a supplement called “Industrial Internet of Things: Can the IIoT Produce Concrete Benefits for Industry?” In it, they shared case studies and best practices, clearly indicating that in fact, the benefits are substantive. Even still, this came with an admission from the editors that there are still few examples to point to. This is most definitely about to change.

Editor, David Greenfield, did remind readers of the measurably low-risk nature of the IIoT, and that although the terminology is new, there are “no new, unproven products to buy.” In fact, the main barrier to realizing the benefits of the IIoT is wrapping your organizations head around the potential benefits it could bring, because it seems so new and different.

This doesn’t have to be tough stuff to wrap your head around, and buying IIoT technologies is similar to how you purchase other technology. Understanding the potential benefits shouldn’t be challenging, and in fact, the odds are stacked in a technical buyers favour as you consider purchasing technology associated with the IIoT.

As you consider what the IIoT could mean to your operation, remember that IIoT products can often present themselves as continuous or process improvement projects. As you look for IIoT opportunities, the ball is in your court and you have most of the leverage.

Don’t forget:

  • This is Just Like Buying Other Products and Services: Understanding how the IIoT can benefit you is like any other equipment or service purchase. There should be a clearly articulated value proposition up front, and a way to prove that out through a pilot or test period.
  • You’re the Expert: There are a variety of great technologies being sold that co-opt the IIoT terminology, but the sellers don’t typically run factories like you do. You usually have the leverage.
  • The IIoT Can Cost Less: Traditional cost and pricing structures don’t necessarily apply with IIoT technologies. You can expect new pricing models like subscriptions fees, and new product architectures that support cloud based technology, dramatically driving down the potential cost to purchase, lease, and implement technology.
  • Your Installed Base Can be Leveraged: You’ve got an installed base you’ve invested a significant amount of money into, and in many cases, IIoT products and services can compliment your installed base without unreasonably high integration or professional services costs
  • This Stuff Might Scare Traditional Providers of Technology: The progressive technology providers are investing in the IIoT, but, the CPG sector is comprised of a variety of solution providers, many of whom may not understand the IIoT. Work with partners who can walk you through what the IIoT could mean for you, not the ones rallying against it.

Although it was unintentional at first, we’ve become partners in our customers journeys towards understanding and realizing the benefits of the IIoT. We’ve been fortunate to have a customer and partner base of continuous and process improvement leads teaching us the value of our SITEFLO product, and how it can be leveraged to evaluate IIoT opportunities.

Today, our customers are using SITEFLO to compare packaging equipment technology and performance in operations, as well as the effectiveness of smart, and not-so-smart tape heads.

The results of these IIoT evaluations are compelling, and if you would like to hear more about SITEFLO and how we’re associated with the IIoT, please email us at info@xiplinx.com.

Broken Promises: Data Historians, Control Systems, and Manufacturing Software

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Few in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) world would dispute the significant value that Distributed Control Systems (DCS), Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA), Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC), and Data Historians can bring to a CPG in their manufacturing operation.

For the uninitiated, understanding how sensors and the aforementioned systems feed other software systems to bring value is challenging.  But, generally speaking, data historians are developed to pull data from various systems, often with the promise of forming the “complete context” of a manufacturing environment for a user. The data pulled can be processed and displayed in a variety of ways.

Even with this purported “complete context”, our partners continue to uncover frustrated users of data historians, and the manufacturing software that draws from these systems.

The root causes of their frustration are:

  • extremely long lead times to develop and implement the systems
  • never fully realizing the promised value of the system
  • large professional service charges and a cumbersome development process when making changes to the system
  • significant switching costs if things don’t go as planned
  • user experience issues that make system adoption difficult

Continuous improvement leads are the unfortunate lot, usually left to sort through a patchwork of technology and scrambled big-data, as they attempt to make sense of a machine and human based environment, with spreadsheets.

But, they’re finding a better way to build that “complete context”. Discrete, semi-automated systems can be dropped into operations for a period of time to gain a pointed understanding of an issue or process, or longer term to compliment existing systems.

In fact, discrete systems can be deployed alongside the aforementioned systems to inform future investments about integrated technology.

The cost of answering challenging questions about whether or not you should invest in new machinery, software and technology to leverage the data in your existing systems, can be dramatically decreased and informed with real data.

Those broken promises can be realized, within weeks, and you don’t have to break the bank to do it.

For more information on how SITEFLO is helping our customers realize the promise of some of their other software packages, contact us at info@xiplinx.com.