Today – there are tons of articles on IoT – most of the stuff comes from manufacturers of hardware or software, who have a focus on selling a product or service. But, as a customer, before you jump the gun and get onto this confusing digital technology bandwagon – take a pause, step back and ask – what does it mean for me?
There is no generic solution or plug-and-play magic solution out there, which can transform manufacturing overnight. Like other technology and applications, it has a maturity model and some fundamentals hold good.
Some of the learnings in this area are:
- Have the top management buy-in: Like all transformation projects, you want the Board to commit to this and give the right message across the organization – there is significant change management & impact on people, processes and operations to warrant this support.
- Build the cross-functional core team upfront – This initiative cannot succeed if the IT & OT teams do not have a common vision and goal. Rotate people across, so they see each other’s point of view. Smart manufacturing needs both these skills on the team. This is a whole new mindset. In fact, you need a connected team from design all the way to the customer to make a real success. Build in the governance and change management early in the game.
- Sustenance, excitement and funding is an important part of the story, but can succeed only if you have a roadmap and program plan. Investments and success criteria need to be documented in the master plan. Map what you want to achieve from a tactical, mid-term and long-term perspective. Identify, prioritize & quantify business opportunities. Define a value tracking mechanism. Celebrate successes.
- Benchmark your peers – Learn from your competition so that you know what pitfalls to avoid and can leapfrog ahead. Incorporate ‘Outside-In’ Perspectives & Industry Best Practices.
- Get the volume multiplier – Plan to implement solutions where even small benefits get multiplied by the volume of production, and hence, have a major impact. Use metrics and data always, and at each stage.
- Use standards – Keep the interoperability quotient high. It’s easier for suppliers, partners and everyone to understand & comply, compared to developing your own standards.
- Leverage existing infrastructure – There’s a lot of unused potential with existing investments; use this before ripping out what you have for expensive new-age stuff. The devil is in the details, so having an End-to-End Data, Technology & Security Architecture Definition, will help you find the gaps and stay on course.
- Seek expertise – There is a variety of confusing technologies & skills involved – you can’t do it all in-house. Partner with a SI, who has a strong real-life manufacturing background and access to a comprehensive ecosystem of IoT products and platforms. Domain and OT skills are critical when interacting with business users.
Do the basics, which are fundamental building blocks to the bigger plan – put in the data foundations, M2M, smart sensors, data historians, communication networks, security, mobility, analytics, etc. which are needed anyways. The big picture may take time but there’s no reason not to do what needs to be done as a foundation – get quick small wins. OEE, Predictive maintenance, energy management, remote monitoring are good ways to start. Publish dashboards. Communicate!
Finally besides technology & information, it’s the people who will make or break this. Thus, communication, recognition, empowerment, training and cultural transformation is what it will take. Make everyone see the business drivers and its alignment to long-term company goals and targets. Above all, be ambitious, disruptive, dream big and aim for Gold.
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