Prepare for Industrial Internet

Oct 08, 2018

Manufacturers face three challenges around their adoption strategy for the Industrial Internet of Things:

  1. board-level buy-in
  2. integration of IT and OT
  3. security

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) represents a tantalising prospect for manufacturing management teams, a proven way of gaining greater visibility, improving efficiencies, increasing business agility, and boosting margins.

Many of the underlying technologies may have been around for decades – actuators, sensors, communication protocols, data routing, enterprise applications; but what has fundamentally changed is the cost and ease of access.

How to get board-level buy-in

Think carefully about who your audience is, what factors are important to them, what constitutes an opportunity and what constitutes a threat. Make sure your proposition is commercially focused and that any initiative properly aligns with any wider business strategies or investments that may already be in place or planned for the future.

The other thing to consider is that executives typically think three to five years out. Yes, operationally they need to keep the business running and salaries paid in the day-to-day; but they are always looking at the bigger picture.

That means your proposition needs to have a proper planning horizon, one which ties in with any product developments, supply chain modifications or changes in distribution that the business has planned for the next couple of years.

Integration advice 

All companies already have a lot of systems such as ERP, CAD, CAM, FSM, CRM etc. Adding IoT capabilities means you will add another system and that you most likely will need to connect to the other systems. 

The most important thing is that you don’t need to have everything in place before starting. Your integration strategy may only provide limited connectivity at the beginning, but that may be enough for you to get by and then add functions and integrations over time.

IoT is actually a team sport. This is much more than a IT question. You need to talk to supply chain, finance, sales, customer service and really make sure that you have a solution that will provide the functional benefits the whole business can leverage.

Integration strategy

You might got limited resources and a short time horizon. Then go for a minimal viable product [MVP] approach – i.e. a solution that has a limited feature set, it can operate in a specific envelope, but it generates momentum. Important that focus is on the VIABLE part, not the minimum part. You need something that solves a problem. The MVP concept is not an excuse to take shortcuts and deliver weak solutions.  

Once you’ve delivered proof of concept, then you can move forward and start enhancing your integration.

It really depends on the culture of the organisation. Some manufacturers prefer a ‘leapfrog’ approach for example, where they’ll cut-back investment in some areas in order to take a large technology jump.

The MVP works well with an agile development approach, which should be used in the whole organization to prepare for the coming changes to your organisation or customer service.

Fundamentally, you really need to think carefully and deeply to ensure that your implementation strategy is appropriate to your organisation.


First, get control of what you already have.

Second, understand your connections. Too many manufacturers have operational connections that they’re completely oblivious to.

Third, understand your data landscape. Many people believe that all data lives within the IT function. That isn’t the case; lots of different OT functions hold data stores.

Fourth, if you don’t already, you need a common IT and OT data security strategy. These things have got to work together. The individual policies may have to be developed within the IT or OT world because of functional requirements, but the overall framework must incorporate both together. If not, you’ll never create a secure environment.

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