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IIoT Momentum Growing, But Concerns (Real or Perceived) Linger

May 6, 2016
Users of ERP and MES solutions may seem like perfect candidates for extending their business intelligence through the IIoT, but some cited deterrents, at the M&T Show this and in our own recent research.

The Industrial IoT (IIoT) is generating buzz both on and off the show floor of the Manufacturing and Technology Conference and Expo this week, with vendors showcasing their latest solutions and end users like Toyota describing successful IIoT use cases.

"I think that education on the subject, and examples of direct value-add being demonstrated in pilot applications, is causing companies to take notice and begin to ask: 'What could we do to improve our operations?' This is one of the biggest areas that Bosch & Bosch Rexroth is working in at the moment—to show that it is not complex and expensive (small steps can be done), and benefits can be seen from adding connectivity to existing capital equipment and processes," said Scott C. Hibbard, VP of Technology, Industrial Applications, Bosch Rexroth Corp. Hibbard was a speaker at the workshop titled "The Smart Factory is Now: Cutting Through the Clutter Known as Industry 4.0."

One reason why industrial automation companies like Bosch Rexroth are deploying so many IIoT applications inside their own manufacturing facilities is to allow others to see what can be done and demonstrate that it isn't only for greenfield facilities.

From ERP to IIoT

“You could say we’ve been doing a version of IIoT for the past 25 years, inside the four walls of the manufacturing plant,” deadpanned Tom Muth, Senior Manager of Product Marketing and Process Manufacturing, Epicor Software Corporation. The $1B company provides ERP and MES software to over 20,000 companies in manufacturing and retail operations.

And to an extent they have. Manufacturers that are using ERP and MES software are collecting data on the shop floor to improve operations and quality, reduce waste and identify critical issues, which are some of the key benefits of the IIoT.

Users of the software might seem like the perfect candidates for extending their business intelligence through an IIoT implementation. And indeed, many people we talked to at the show said that momentum around the IIoT is picking up.

But some end users are still wrestling with overcoming real or perceived deterrents—a situation confirmed by our recent survey of manufacturing professionals.

Survey respondents were asked to consider a list of deterrents to leveraging IoT in their organizations and asked to select all that applied. The top ten responses appear in the above chart.

Mary Bunzel, Worldwide Industry Leader, Manufacturing at IBM, said that many companies simply don’t know where to start when it comes to the IIoT. At the show, IBM is showcasing its predictive maintenance, quality and warranty solutions, including IBM Maximo, an enterprise asset management software solution, and IBM Watson IoT Platform Analytics.

Asked what would help end users gain more confidence about the IIoT, her answer was unequivocal: “More use cases.”

Use cases can help companies that are struggling to identify the right application, gain confidence in the technology, and justify it. “The thing is, nobody ever comes asking for the IoT. Our customers are now interested in how they can go beyond what they are already doing with the data, But right now many are trying to figure out how to build a business case for it,” said Muth said.

For some, that may be only a matter of time before making the leap. "Initially, most companies don't understand what the benefit is by putting their data in the cloud," said Jeffrey Smith, VP of Business Development and Strategic Accounts at Telit, which provides both an enterprise-grade industrial automation platform and a cloud-based IoT service for factories. "But then it's like the lightbulb turns on and they're saying, "Hey, why aren't we putting it in the cloud?"

Security and data privacy issues remain a concern for many end users. Hibbard confirms that's true, but he has a slightly different take on the matter. "Yes, Security is a high concern, but really the security risks that exist with regards to ERP data are now as high as those that do (or would) exist with a connected manufacturing floor. The same solutions can be used too," he said.

Todd Montpas, Product Manager, Information Software at Rockwell Automation, agreed that while security and data privacy are concerns, it's not a showstopper for end users. In fact, he sees the mindset beginning to shift. “We’re not seeing anyone choosing a public cloud, but I think we will in the future.”

IoTI is, like IndustryWeek, powered by Penton, an information services company.

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