IIoT technology has become increasingly affordable—especially for small and medium-sized organizations—and as the value proposition is recognized, adoption rates will only continue to increase. However, it’s not the monetary cost of the solutions themselves that act as a barrier to innovation, but rather the technological know-how and time investment required to build a solution tailored to their unique needs.
This is where Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) have an opportunity to swoop in and save the day with the customers who buy their machines. However, many hesitate to do this because of the perceived difficulty and expense this digital transformation may require. Are they correct, and what are the potential risks and rewards IIoT poses to OEMs?
The IIoT overhaul for OEMs is all about integration. It is no longer enough to produce machines that simply perform well. An ideal IIoT-ready machine is connected and integrates seamlessly with a broad variety of data sources, industry protocols and IT systems. The environmental factors where the integration takes place, including heat, dust and vibration, add a layer of complexity. This may seem daunting, but it’s not only possible, but possible quickly.
Take for example, an Italian equipment manufacturer established in 1908 that has had to evolve and adapt through multiple industrial revolutions—but none quite like this one. At the onset of IIoT, it wasted no time in partnering with two of the world’s foremost names in technology to develop an IoT-based plug-and-play solution to make their customers’ machines and plants smarter, and their operations more efficient and effective. The solution takes data from the production line or machines and makes it immediately available through multiple interfaces. Their ingenuity over the years has earned them the role of Telecom Italia Group’s IoT specialist, and the speed and proficiency they demonstrated in embracing Industry 4.0 has solidified their place there.
A Change in Value Proposition
During Industry 3.0, the value OEMs provided was all about the machines themselves. In comparison, IIoT is all about the data that these smart machines generate. One of the benefits most sought out by OEM customers is the ability to control the efficiency of their manufacturing processes in real time, fine-tuning them as needed to improve performance.
OEMs themselves can also leverage this data to monitor a machine’s performance and catch any issues and flag them to customers immediately. On a larger scale, if data is collected from enough machines, the OEM could use it to understand how to improve machine design.
Security Is a Bigger Opportunity
We are well-acquainted with the fact that anything that connects to the internet can be hacked. The profit losses resulting from just one day of halted operation due to a data breach could have catastrophic consequences for an organization, and OEMs should seize the opportunity to be the solution. Offering products with security features pre-built in is critical. One way to do this is by seeking out partnerships with companies who specialize in security solutions.
According to the 2019 Futurum survey commissioned by Dell and Intel, 45% of industrial and manufacturing respondents cited OEMs as critical in helping them improve or accelerate their security transformation.
A Shift in Dynamics
In Industry 3.0, relationships between OEMs and their customers were typically built on a transactional basis. Sometimes customers purchased products under warranty, which required the OEM to provide maintenance on an as-needed basis. Otherwise, proceeding interactions did not take place until the time came to purchase more equipment.
Now that data is the key value driver, OEM-customer relationships require more time and attention.
OEMs should take the position of helping their customers establish an analytics foundation based on their specific operation. For instance, if the IIoT deployment is for a medium-sized supply chain that frequently has issues with cargo spoiling due to fluctuating temperatures inside its vehicles, the OEM should help that customer determine how many sensors are required to gather enough, but not too much, data. Should the customer also leverage Cloud, and if so, which type? The placement and number of gateways, and the interface on which all this data will be read are also key areas in which customers will require assistance. No two operations are alike, and working with each customer to customize their deployments will provide OEMs with an opportunity to build trust and deeper relationships with them.
All IIoT deployments require this type of white-glove approach, no matter how simple. IIoT is still in its early days, and therefore a brave new world for many industrial operations. The Italian company previously mentioned, still offers its customers next-day business support, even though their solution is as turnkey as solutions can possibly be.
Just like the customers they serve, OEMs have the opportunity to reap substantial returns with an investment in IIoT.
John Dauskurdas is vice president, global IoT and embedded PC sales, Dell EMC.