Achieving Enterprise Connectivity Isn’t Always Costly

The Road to IIoT Isn’t Always Costly

The many studies surrounding the Industrial Internet of Things agree on one central theme: the potential profitability gains of smart, real-time connectivity across operations and information domains represents trillions of dollars of value.

Rockwell Automation recently teamed up with The MPI Group to conduct a study exploring how ready manufacturers are for the arrival of the IIoT.

The general findings of the study revealed that, while manufacturers generally agreed on the importance of IIoT to their future business competitiveness – and thus recognised a need for associated capital investments – most did not have a strategy on how it should be realised in their enterprise.

It’s not the fault of industry that there’s a general lack of understanding about how they should be embracing the fourth industrial revolution.

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On the contrary; our job as technology companies and advisors is to help businesses understand the wide range of options and scale available to them in which incremental gains in the migration to the smart factory or plant can be achieved.

Indeed, upgrading the connectivity of your operation needn’t be costly. And it certainly isn’t scary. In many cases, unbeknown to them, customers already have a range of suitable technologies – in whole or in part – to achieve at least some quick, and in most cases, sustainable wins.

Instead of conceptualising enterprise connectivity just as a big-investment, high-gain operational jump of impending necessity, discussions need to be had about the role, nature and value of quick, achievable, but most importantly, scalable wins.

Can more value be leveraged from existing assets and processes without additional capital requirements? In most cases, that answer is “yes.”

Targeting these opportunities can often yield tangible gains in productivity, and even cost base, generally for very little investment.

But perhaps even more importantly, they can function as a proof of concept, simplifying the IIoT landscape and paving the way for customers to not only make more robust, better informed business cases, but know exactly at which points in their operation they should be focussing these efforts to reap maximum performance gains.

This goes a long way to addressing the general lack of understanding surrounding how best to implement IIoT that was highlighted in the MPI study.

It also represents the type of investment models that are more relevant today and can be realistically achieved in the currently global economy, where large-scale capital investments remain relatively scarce.

If we begin to align available operational expenditure allocations with small incremental improvements to process efficiencies, migration to an IIoT enterprise – a Connected Enterprise – becomes a self-sustaining exercise that can then be proportionately up-scaled with often minimal balance sheet impact.

As vendors and advisors providing the technological basis for IIoT to materialise, we need to help industry understand the many and varied ways in which a road to greater operational connectivity can be established.

By simplifying the landscape through step-by-step operational improvements that deliver quick, tangible value, we can help customers’ journeys to a Connected Enterprise become much clearer.

Barry Elliott
Posted October 9, 2017 By Barry Elliott, Managing Director, Rockwell Automation South Africa
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