As the internet of things has gained steam, more and more organizations have harnessed the power of connected systems. The benefits of these systems are vast — they help streamline production, improve employee environments and reduce energy costs.
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There is a general consensus on the value of IoT. In fact, a recent IoT 2020 Business Report by Schneider Electric, which surveyed more than 2,500 decision makers around the world, found that 70% of respondents see business value in IoT and believe it will create new opportunities for their companies in the near future.
While organizations have been quick to adopt IoT solutions and are realizing some benefits, most have faced challenges when it comes to finding a way to make these systems live up to their full potential. This is specifically true in industrial and warehouse spaces, for a variety of reasons including the perceived (or actual) complexity of the system, reluctance from busy employees to fully embrace the system, inability to manage new data sources coming from the systems, and existing infrastructure that’s extremely siloed and doesn’t support data and information sharing. These barriers impact the amount of usable data that companies can collect from their systems as well as the cost savings they are able to generate.
Much of this stems from the fact that “IoT” is often not found in job titles or descriptions, and IoT responsibilities can be found among several different departments, often falling into either the IT or facilities camp, but rarely straddling the two or expanding into others. And while a more formal role might be on its way — in fact, Machina Research predicts that at least one Fortune 500 organization will appoint a chief IoT officer this year — until it is widespread, how can organizations fully leverage the power of IoT?
One way for organizations to usher in IoT initiatives is by identifying one internal person — an “IoT Champion” — that can work with all of the key stakeholders across departments, despite it not being within their job function. Once this person is identified, there are several steps he should take to identify — and deploy — his own internal IoT initiatives.
Start with one goal: Data collection
The goal at the heart of any IoT initiative is to collect data that can be analyzed and applied to benefit the business. Ideally this data can be used cross-functionally, though each function may use it to solve a different problem. For example, in a warehouse environment, IT might leverage occupancy data from sensors that show a lot of activity in certain areas and help spot trends that inform opportunities to implement new systems or processes that further improve productivity, efficiency, or safety and security, while a facility team might use that same data to justify the purchase or repositioning of equipment to ease traffic issues. Understanding that data is the core goal of any IoT initiative will keep implementations focused and help organizations make the most of their investments.
Implement a pilot program before launching a full-scale initiative
As mentioned above, one of the factors holding organizations back from implementing full-scale IoT systems is the perceived complexity. This is true both in the case of organizations that are just installing the first intelligent system within their space and those that are working to integrate systems with one another.
To combat this barrier, start small and be prepared to scale (or iterate). While deciding which pilot program to implement varies by organization, it’s always a good idea to assess existing infrastructure to understand if there are untapped IoT platforms or conduits that may minimize the complexity of starting completely from scratch. In Schneider’s IoT 2020 Business Report, decision makers indicated that the organizations that are piloting IoT initiatives are the ones observing the most success.
Highlight energy-efficiency benefits as proof of concept
A very attractive benefit of IoT is cost savings — in fact, IoT is helping buildings become up to 90% more efficient. A great (and relatively easy) way for IT and facilities teams to make early strides is through energy-efficiency benefits. While IoT benefits go well beyond energy efficiency, quickly realized energy savings are a surefire way to show that IoT is making a difference, thus getting other functions on board.
Understand that it can (and likely will) take time
Given that IT and facilities departments have rarely (or never) had cause to work together before, organizations must recognize that getting these departments to collaborate efficiently, even if everyone is on board, may not happen overnight. By demonstrating early success and pilot projects, it’s easier to inspire everyone, including senior-level management, to get behind the implementation. IoT initiatives require incremental changes that complement existing investments and time to get teams to embrace this new normal.
Companies must examine all projects — especially the non-IoT ones — and consider how they can benefit and accelerate future IoT projects. When updating facility functions or equipping new builds with lighting, for example, think about it as a deployment of a connected system that starts with energy savings and at the same time will accelerate future IoT projects via a connected or open platform.
Assess and make known the benefits and risks of implementing an IoT system versus not implementing it, and again of integrating it with other systems that may already be in place. Additionally, make sure employees are aware not only of the benefits that both the company overall and its customers will see from this change, but also of the benefits that they will see within their own workplace.
While implementing an IoT initiative or integrating existing systems can seem like a daunting task, IoT is here to stay. Organizational data collected, analyzed and made actionable in a scalable manner will soon be the cornerstone of success for agile operations, and companies that do not participate will be at a disadvantage when it comes to their competition. However, by working to communicate the benefits of these types of initiatives and systems to employees, promoting an environment that encourages employees to work together to make the initiative a success, and finding the right person to spearhead the project, organizations have the potential to reap massive long-term benefits.
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