Nerdery: How manufacturers can avoid common IoT pitfalls (Reader Forum)
The internet of things (IoT) is making its entrance into the workplace of every industry – and manufacturing is no exception. This technology is changing the way manufacturers do business. Successful implementation is critical to ensuring the business not only adapts but thrives in the era of Industry 4.0.
The manufacturing industry is expected to account for 15 per cent of all IoT spending in the U.S. in the next two years, so it’s clear manufacturers are ready to make the investment in IoT. But before industry leaders rush into implementing new IoT solutions, they should understand the common pitfalls to avoid.
Pitfall: Trying to run before you can walk
The buzz of digital transformation can force business leaders into a frenzy, leading many companies to scale IoT solutions prematurely. Committing to large-scale change and bringing in new technology before validating the solution is a costly mistake.
Solution: Establish goals, avoid committing to fixed timelines and build prototypes
Success stories begin with a clear understanding of the problem and a clear articulation of what the company is trying to achieve. Establishing success criteria in the form of small, achievable goals – such as what percent you are going to increase efficiencies – is a great way to validate your investment. Once you have measurable success criteria, be aware that you will be experimenting with multiple iterations before you develop the right solution.
In this state of experimental ambiguity, do not commit your team to delivering the perfect solution by a fixed date – instead commit to demonstrating actionable progress with lean prototypes. These small-scale prototypes allow your team to be nimble and will rapidly accelerate your path to accomplishing the overarching business objectives. Only after validating your solution’s success should you entertain the idea of scaling.
Pitfall: Trying to make it on your own
Too often, IoT projects get thrown to IT departments that don’t necessarily have the capabilities or bandwidth to take on new ventures. Some manufacturers don’t even have an IT department and rely on operations or administration teams to set up technology. When starting from nothing, it takes a particular expertise to build, deploy and manage IoT technology. Relying on existing teams can prolong implementation and reduce optimization of the IoT investment.
Solution: Find an experienced partner
Before you start the IoT journey, find a partner or consult an expert who has a successful history of deploying IoT for manufacturers. Industrial IoT is used for optimizing product lines and improving internal efficiencies. The quickest path to realizing a return on investment is not to start from scratch but to find the right partner to accelerate your learning curve leveraging IoT in the manufacturing industry.
Pitfall: Siloing the lines of communication
There are many moving parts within manufacturing companies – from supply chain operations to procurement – and it’s easy for department heads to work independently from each other. But siloed lines of communication in upper leadership can create unnecessary gaps and overlaps for IoT solutions. The beauty of IoT is that it cohesively solves challenges facing IT teams, security teams and operational teams, but if these teams aren’t working together it’s impossible to find a one-size-fits-all solution.
Solution: Gather upper management to align strategies
Bringing cross-functional leaders together on a regular basis to discuss challenges allows businesses to break down barriers and solve common problems. Before any IoT investments are made, manufacturers need to break down communication barriers and make sure all leaders – from managers to executives – are working together instead of getting in each other’s way.
Pitfall: Not collaborating with frontline employees
Bringing in new technology and making procedural changes will directly affect floor managers and workers on the front lines. Leaving them in the dark about these business decisions instills fear and causes resistance to adopt new technology. They will be the ones interacting with the tools on a day-to-day basis and ensuring it’s used successfully.
Solution: Listen to your employees
During your initial analysis, survey frontline employees to find out what their pain points are. If IoT doesn’t solve those problems, then prepare for an uphill battle. Determining their challenges is a good starting point to discovering which kind of technology will be most effective.
Once you’ve considered how employees will be affected, communicate changes early on with employees at all levels and explain the value of IoT. By showing workers how new technology will make their life easier, they’ll be quicker to adopt and learn the new skills required to leverage the technology.
By avoiding these common mistakes when implementing IoT, manufacturers can see a faster return on their investment. The time spent researching and planning, money spent on experienced consultants, and energy used communicating with employees will pay off when business objectives are met and the organization has a future-ready plan to address its biggest challenges.