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  • Jim Gavigan

IIoT - How Cloud is Changing the Landscape - Part 2

This blog originally posted on Jim Gavigan's LinkedIn page here.

I recently read an ISA article on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and this is the last installment to a 4 part series of commentary on the article. Let me know what you’ve thought of the series.

Regarding the cloud, the article states:

"By adding cloud-based solutions, this existing information infrastructure could become the basis for securely sharing certain information with the asset vendors. Companies can take advantage of public cloud services such as Microsoft Windows Azure. These can be a secure private computing platform for software-as-a-service applications that could help ensure that only certain information is shared with specific trusted vendors who can subscribe, subject to constraints and conditions, and possibly payment of service fees. This approach eliminates having to wait for standard ways of doing things to emerge, which in any case, would not likely easily accommodate legacy assets."

"The cloud-based solution enables immediate participation in a company’s connected asset value chain. Asset vendors can monitor their products’ real-time performance “in-service,” and act upon the information gathered from these assets to better serve their customers."

"GE, for example, has been very public about reporting the benefits of connected products, including the company’s ability to remotely resolve 53 percent of service issues in its power and water business. Manufacturers in general can use the IIoT to proactively monitor products in the field and use that information to reduce mean time to repair and the number and frequency of technician dispatches."

"The IIoT promises improved performance of manufacturers’ service operations through remote connectivity, as well as incremental connectivity-based revenue streams that are entirely new opportunities. Clearly, the value proposition for the IIoT extends beyond simple connectivity into the ability to build new products and services using that connectivity as a base."

"Service capabilities increasingly are a means for manufacturers to achieve competitive differentiation. Adoption of IIoT-based device connectivity enables predictive maintenance, continuous uptime, rapid service response, and the opportunity to offer incremental, revenue-producing products and services."

There is a huge opportunity for the IIoT to change the entire supply/asset chain for most companies. As a potential use case, let's look at the capability through likely use cases in the paper industry.

Suppose the paper company could leverage all of the intellectual capital for all of its suppliers on demand? What if those suppliers could see the information as it relates to either their assets or their materials in real time? Boilers would run more efficiently, paper machines would run faster with less breaks, tanks would stay filled, and chemicals and other raw materials would show up just in time with minimal human intervention for ordering or filling the order. Suppliers and subject matter experts could know in real-time the performance of the machinery and the status of supplies at the mill, and be able to help the mills make adjustments for better performance. So, there is significant opportunity in increasing asset utilization and in supply chain optimization.

One of the barriers has always been that the only way to get information like the above was to open some type of "tunnel" to the information and often, that "tunnel" would open the way to more information than the company wanted to share. If a paper mill wanted to only share paper machine data with a paper machine manufacturer or other subject matter expert (SME) outside the company, there was almost no way to segment just that data - more than likely, all of the paper mill's data would be exposed. This presented a huge challenge for IT departments in managing all of these connections and managing their security.

In today’s world, there are ways to segment just the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that the paper mill needs to share for the purpose of optimization and publish that data to the cloud so that the SME can view just what is needed securely as a subscriber to only that data. This takes a huge load off of the IT personnel responsible for managing these connections. Now, instead of many users outside the company having access to all of the data from the company and trying to manage who has what rights, the IT group just has to manage the connection to the cloud and what data actually gets published. Instead of having to keep up with whether a certain person at a supplier still works for that supplier and still should have rights, or whether a new expert with a supplier should get rights to the data.

The other side of the supply chain is that the paper company can share product genealogy with its customers as well. I know of cases where when a customer complains about a particular roll of paper that it deems as subpar, it is an all-day affair to track down all of the pertinent data to find out what may have led to the subpar run. Now, the paper maker can gather all of the data into a report and publish it to the cloud where the customer can look at it on-demand, if required.

There will also be more and more companies that offer this kind of domain expertise that will require secure access to customers' KPIs. With several sharp downturns in the economy since 2000, we have seen the in-house expertise in our customer base shrink and we don't see it expanding any time soon either. Therefore, process and technology companies like ours will be driven by our customer base to be able to provide remote optimization and real-time monitoring services. I have seen numerous companies popping up all around in many industries who are built strictly around optimizing a fleet of equipment of some sort. To run effectively, data published securely to the cloud will be key for these businesses to be viable and for the end users to fully utilize these companies' services.

So, asset optimization and supply chain optimization will be significantly enhanced by the power of the cloud. In my opinion, the companies that successfully learn to take advantage of what the cloud can offer around these two key initiatives will make large strides past their competition. With domain and subject matter expertise dwindling in the manufacturing ranks, it is becoming more and more important for manufacturers to have good partners that have domain or subject matter expertise. The cloud enables manufacturers to best leverage this outside expertise.

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