The industrial internet of things is sweeping across industries from food and beverage to oil and gas to manufacturing, with IIoT devices expected to continue shipping in record numbers in these markets within the near-term — and for good reason. With the rise of IIoT comes the potential for new efficiencies and more optimized operations, leading to new opportunities to manage risk and reduce costs.
However, the real tipping point when it comes to making the transition to IIoT is deriving meaningful ROI — and that isn’t always easy. There is a very necessary balancing act between managing the existing systems and processes against the introduction of new technologies. Combine this with the need for facilities to remain up and running with zero downtime, and the task might feel impossible.
In order to ensure success when undergoing an IIoT project, start by asking yourself these four questions:
- How can we encourage synergies across teams? Operational technology (OT) and IT teams are typically a bigger barrier in the transition to IIoT than the technologies themselves. Because these teams have different goals and cultures, they must be aligned on priorities to truly unlock the potential of IIoT. I’ve seen this best accomplished with the integration of industrial experts who have a perspective from both OT and IT — since they understand each side, these folks can play a critical part in ensuring both teams are executing on priorities that benefit the entire company’s transformation.
- Are applications in the right place? A crucial part of IIoT deployment involves updating existing applications and adding new ones. This process provides a perfect opportunity to assess your edge infrastructure now and in the future. Your networking and computing needs will likely lead you to decide that some data belongs on-premises while other apps could be more cloud-native. I’d encourage the idea of an edge Infrastructure roadmap to align the priorities over time. For example, one of our latest projects has plans to update the computing infrastructure now so they can be cloud ready in two years when their edge network is completed.
- Are you set up to scale the edge effectively? When talking to customers across market segments, we come across countless IIoT and edge sites that aren’t using virtualized servers as they should be. Especially in edge environments, virtualization comes at a fairly low cost while allowing you to easily add more applications and other infrastructure in the future. They also offer many of the same IT benefits that you get in a data center, such as increased interoperability and simplicity in application upgrades.
- What’s the best way to secure this new connected edge? The running thread through any IIoT project is data, so it’s obvious that any impact upon the data has a huge effect on the functionality of your project. The risk of having data compromised or breached is real, so you need to prepare accordingly. This often requires technologies designed with cybersecurity specifically for the edge versus more generic IT offerings. Companies must work to secure their applications and data at the edge to safeguard from potential risks to the business
There is major potential in IIoT when it comes to the efficiency and productivity of your company. However, a more holistic and edge-specific approach will generate the ROI to justify the investment. Asking yourself these questions will put you in good stead to reap the ongoing benefits of IIoT and ensure success.
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