Do manufacturing engineers really want IIoT right now?

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As leaders in the tech industry, it is easy to assume that every other industry is waiting, with bated breath, to incorporate connected technology. After all, who wouldn’t want to reduce costs through truly on-demand-maintenance? Who wouldn’t want to better understand how their products perform in the field thanks to real-time diagnostics and performance monitoring? Who wouldn’t want those same products to order their own replacement parts based on sensor data?

Well, the answer is that, sure everyone wants that – but our engineering friends (especially those in the manufacturing sector) are an inherently sceptical bunch. In the world of manufacturing engineering, the general consensus on new technology is “build it, prove it, build it again, prove it again…and then prove it again.” There is simply too much at risk (tight delivery schedules, millions of dollars in machinery, and even human safety) to risk incorporating a connected sensor that may perform correctly.

This sentiment is perhaps best expressed in a recent article by James Anderson for Engineering.com. In it, the manufacturing engineer says: “It’s no secret that I’m sceptical of innovations that are labelled as “disruptive” or “game changing”. In manufacturing, there’s very little that is truly disruptive.

“It takes decades to move new technologies from laboratory curiosity to the assembly line. Productivity and quality advantages are already well understood and priced into the market and manufacturers are reluctant to become early adopters of new technology for good reason: in most cases, there’s too much to lose in a new radical and unproven production technology.”

Decades? In the world of tech a decade is a lifetime…just ten years ago IoT was barely a blip on the radar and now we can find it infiltrating nearly every aspect of business.

So how can we prove that this connected technology is worth the pains of change?

Make sure it works correctly…right out of the box

As the saying goes, “you only get one chance to make a first impression” and with this group, that could cost you a lifetime of business. It is better to deliver a well-working, well-proven product than to be the first to deliver something that may or may not pass Muster.

Bring on the data

Oh my, how this crowd loves a good test report. Demonstrate that you have put your product through its paces. Conduct testing in a wide variety of scenarios and be willing to conduct additional testing to meet the specific environment of your customer.

Don’t push your tech jargon

The quickest way to end a meeting is to start rattling-off a bunch of techy-jargon. Learn to speak their language instead of forcing your own.

Honour the tribe

As you may have already figured out, the ME crowd is tight-knit; spoil your chances with one group and it will spread like wildfire.

If you are wondering how to implement these strategies, take a look at a few of the big names that have already started to incorporate connected technology: GE, Accenture and Jeep come to mind. Each of these companies has embraced IIoT and found ways to put it into practice. Dropping a few big names and drawing the correlations between what they have accomplished and your product’s benefits is a great ice-breaker.

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mQ Intelligence
6 Feb 2017, 2:38 a.m.

Hi Alex, I'm about to publish a Blog that'll hopefully cut through the hype of IIoT and manufacturing here in Australia.

In short, the large majority of businesses I visit, and I've been doing this for 30yrs now, don't measure anything, don't have a TPM program in place, don't 'own' the source code in their PLCs so can't get them onto a plant LAN subnet ... and some don't even have a plant LAN or WiFi in their factories! Those that do have purchased equipment that doesn't lend itself to open communication (http://mqintelligence.com/pillar-1-automation/).

It's bit like offering the benefits of sitting in an A380 cockpit, but the client base hasn't even learned to crawl yet. And we're talking about the 'connected' world as if it's already out there.

Unfortunately, in Australia it's certainly not the case ... yet.

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