In a recent blog, “The pitfalls and payoffs of IoT,” Jeremy Drury from IoT Diagnostics, Cincinnati, related some of the barriers fluid-power manufacturers and users face when embracing the Industrial Internet of Things. The posting is based on a recent webinar “IoT, are we there yet?” hosted by the National Fluid Power Assn. Now in part 2, Drury lists some important areas to consider on the road to successful IoT implementation.
Involve IT immediately. If contemplating an IoT project, he said, the first step is to be proactive and get your IT department on board. Whether the IoT conversation starts with your fluid-power customers or your own operations, points of investigation include: the level of device encryption required; and details on the data being transmitted: to whom is the data is being sent, how much, and where the data will be stored. There’s an underlying cost to capturing, storing and securing data, Drury explained.
And they’ll want to know what breach protocols and responses are in place. “IT gets a bad rap, but the IT world is tough right now. The latest statistics show that some sort of cyberattack in business is happening every 39 seconds and almost four million records are being stolen on a daily basis,” he said. About 43% of breaches target small businesses, and Distributed Denial of Service attacks are up 140%. “So cut the IT department some slack, they’re busy trying to keep up. And maybe posture the conversation on how, instead of just being defenders and guardians, it can actually be a value-add resource by measuring and managing a big piece of navigating the data,” he said.
Physical and digital constraints. On a more practical side, users need to consider the digital and physical environmental constraints for any install environment, Drury continued. For example, don’t put a connected device in a Faraday cage, a shielded enclosure meant to deaden signals. If the networked hydraulics are mounted in such a location, engineers must reroute the data connection. Likewise, subterranean mounted devices could make it difficult to transmit signals. A workaround might be necessary to boost the networks or arrange a set-up to manage data connections.
Also be aware of other devices already on the network. It’s much like the home with three kids all streaming video and games to phones, laptops and tablets. Take care when scaling IoT devices so that network speed doesn’t degrade appreciably. And be cognizant about the nearest access point, as well as not putting too much noise on the Wi-Fi.
Embrace common sense. Common sense will always be the best “hype buster,” and there is currently a lot of hype surrounding IoT. Marketers are making amazing claims that are not actually backed up by details on data sheets. “That’s frustrating, especially for customers, because in this state we have to be the experts for a lot of our customers. If we go in pushing bad insights or over-promising, that really hurts the build-out of trusted IoT networks. So just be aware. Ask lots of questions, whether you are serving your customers, or if IoT companies are trying to get into your business,” he said. Be willing to dig into the details and understand what they’re really talking about.
Leverage decision data. “The last piece is probably the biggest for us and something I’m a huge advocate for—what we call decision data—and we need to start leveraging that,” said Drury. There are countless parameters one can measure in a hydraulic or pneumatic system when it comes to IoT, everything from pressure and flow to wear, vibration or contamination.
“There is an infinite amount of things to be measured, but the problem is sometimes we get overzealous and want to measure everything.” Well, nobody wants that because any time savings from IoT-enabled systems is quickly negated by attempts to manage too much data. “So we advocate for what we call mission-critical types of data,” he said. For instance, identify devices that actually deal with efficiency or performance scores. Find out what data is mission-critical for your business. For instance, let’s say efficiency is reported on an asset. How does that notification, a single data point, ripple out through the organization and trigger other actions? Potentially the issue affects not just one machine, but other assets on the production floor. That information gets up to the conference table and suddenly now we can start looking at having this issue across regions, or with suppliers, and ultimately even with your partners.
“And we believe that this triggers the idea that data is a shovel and not a solution. Imagine the amount of KPIs you can get from just one data point. You can start to compare supplier to supplier, OEM to OEM.” Who performs your service? At what level of efficiency is your asset operating at before and after service. How long before efficiency drops again? Especially in fluid power that requires so much critical operating data, judicious measurement and tracking can give you these critical insights.
For the connected fluid power’s road ahead, Drury summarized with these take-way points:
• Strategic data plan. To realize the full potential of the Industrial Internet of Things, build your strategic data plan. “Have a strategic data end game, and know that in every business data is going to become a line item and then some on your balance sheets and your income statements moving forward. So what does that look like for you?”
• Critical partner evaluation. Industry 4.0 doesn’t happen without IoT partners, so choose wisely. Ask a lot of questions, and find out what they’re working on behind the scenes.
• Supply chain evaluation. How secure is your supply chain? “A big one that ultimately surprises a lot of people: how cyber secure is your supply chain? Just because you may have things nice and locked down, cybercrimes can travel. So who are you getting your parts from, who are you sending your parts to, how does that work for you?”
Along those same lines, can your company handle smarter inventory? Many businesses rely on stocking and shipping parts. The consulting firm McKenzie is saying that by 2020 smart inventory systems with IoT will cut inventory needs by 50%, according to Drury, because people won’t be ordering parts just because it’s the middle of the month and it’s time to place a new order. Instead, deliveries will be based on metrics like efficiency and wear on the actual parts currently in use. “So if you bank your revenue on this blanket order fulfillment, be careful because that may change for you in the very short term.”
• Don’t leave money on the table. Monetization is a key part of IoT. That could be time savings and less downtime leading to cost savings. Or perhaps tapping expertise in your network, or sharing data, that adds value to your operation.
Thanks to rapid updates, companies will witness the build-out of IoT through 2018, 2019, and 2020. “So to end, talent is the big piece of this,” he said. “How do we navigate from today’s workers who love to get their hands dirty to a future generation that is nose deep in code and technology? Because they’re going to need each other and that’s going to be really important on how we manage to get from one generation to the next, and how they actually collaborate and share expertise. I encourage you to take an active part in that.”