Services Can Jump-Start Your IIoT Modernization Plan

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Moving toward a more digital, connected manufacturing enterprise has tremendous benefits, but getting to that point does not seem easy. Most companies are operating with at least some obsolete or older systems designed without connectivity, security, or data analytics in mind. With technology advancing at a rapid pace in this digital economy, manufacturers need help to create and then execute on a plan to get them to the next level.

But where do they start? Many manufacturers today have a growing list of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) initiatives, but couple that with uncertainty about the growing list of new technologies, and they can suffer from paralysis by analysis. What they need is a solid modernization implementation plan to ensure they can thrive in the digital age. This is where service providers can help.

Industrial Automation Services

Take this case in point. One plant manager at a batch manufacturer had an old control system and was looking to the future when he asked “Why are we doing this? Just tell me what we need to buy.” But in working with a services provider, they got more people involved in looking at the project and thinking about their needs objectively. The operations manager said, “If I could switch products on the fly that would make us over $1 million a year.” Then another member of the manufacturing team came in and said, “If we could cut 30-second cycle times out of each of the batches, that would make us $500,000 a year.” The plant manager thought about it and said, “If I could consolidate my batch control and my continuous control that would save me $300,000 a year.” All of a sudden, they realized they were living with this old technology and if they modernized their control system there was close to $2 million to gain out of it. They had just never had the conversation.

Modernization and the move to the IIoT is a rapidly growing space – one recent study had the global size of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) market at $135 billion in 2017 and by 2022 projected to reach $231 billion.

While the market is growing, there is still quite a bit of education that needs to take place in the manufacturing market about the value of data-driven modernization. The manufacturing sector generates more valuable data than any other sector of the economy, but few companies have gotten to the point where they can harvest it and use it for solid business growth intelligence. One report found that many Oil & Gas companies delete 99 percent of their data before decision makers have a chance to use it. And yes, while not all data is vital, 99 percent is way too much to throw out!

In the movement toward a more modern digital environment, manufacturers need to use that important data to gain knowledge which will increase productivity, quality, and efficiency, leading to greater profits.  Amongst other things, that data can give plant managers a better view on raw materials and parts, which can help them schedule factory operations and product deliveries to cut costs and improve efficiency.

While manufacturers are just learning that they can apply data analytics in an effort to optimize operations, utilize equipment to a greater degree and cut down on energy consumption, there are examples of improvements in many different industries – including a major metal plant that went digital by employing real-time performance visualization which helped lead to a 50 percent increase in the production rate in one of its lines.

As the last example showed, one of the reasons to modernize is to make operations more competitive. Which means the traditional axiom of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” has got to change. A more modern environment enables users to bring their operation new benefits from the latest tools, which will give them more value. This is also where a solid services plan can come into play.

There really isn’t any value to the user if they replace an old system with a new system that does the same thing. Modernization is all about enabling new capabilities. Whether it is an IIoT application, or one that provides diagnostic analytics or a more secure application, it is modernizing to add value rather than modernizing to replace it with a newer version of the same thing.

Having an outside services organization come in to start the modernization journey can help smooth the process where they can provide an objective perspective to assess the situation and then apply the proper digital tools to upgrade and migrate. In addition, a services team can reduce the time a manufacturer will require in the migration process.

There are not many new facilities being built these days, but a services team can focus on brownfield facilities to help upgrade older legacy systems, integrate additional functionality to their existing plant, or even migrate systems to a new platform.

One goal in the modernization effort is to work with a consulting team to help apply the IIoT to their plant and their existing situation. They can review business goals and industry trends and recommend where it makes sense to implement more modern capabilities.

It is important to understand that implementing IIoT applications is a process, where it doesn’t mean you scrap everything you have. But rather take it one step at a time. That is the beauty of today’s technology environment; manufacturers can adapt simple things where they can add on without changing everything they already have. That is all part of the plan and services can be the key to unlock new value.

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