What stands in the way of progress is not technology – it’s us. It’s our desire to stay inside our comfort zone where we happily repeat familiar behaviors. If you remember my last blog, I challenged each of us to do something digital – something outside the comfort zone of our analog upbringing. This morning I boarded a plane with an electronic boarding pass on my smartphone. A small step for a digital native, but a huge one for me!
So, the technology is a given, which means it’s all about our attitudes and willingness to accept change. We’ve talked before about the evolution of IIoT – this includes evolving not only behaviors and attitudes but also business processes. IIoT invites us, requires us – dare I say demands us – to be more agile and more entrepreneurial. It’s classic market disruption – where barriers to entry are broken down and new entrants will eat your lunch if you don’t respond quickly enough.
When it comes to IIoT I believe that often companies in our industries already have the required skills in place. What’s needed is a new approach – perhaps a “startup” mentality. But I don’t think you have to be a start up sized company to do this. A recent article on Automation.com by Editor Bill Lydon explored the use of Amazon cloud in the process industry. Amazon and “process industry” in the same sentence – who would have believed that a few years ago? And yet, it demonstrates my point – new start ups and also big players that have the discipline to command the agility needed for this evolution are heading our way.
So what to do?
First, accept that IIoT is here, and here to stay. If you don’t make best use of the technology then your competitors will, and it will not be pleasant for you. Second, break down the “not invented here” mentality – embrace new technologies, implement change management programs to adapt work practices and start capitalizing on the advantages technology can deliver.
Don’t be afraid to invest in IIoT. Yes, there’s a lot of hype surrounding IIoT and you have to filter to find what’s right for your business. And yes, for many companies, in particular those in hard hit sectors such as Oil & Gas and Mining Metals & Minerals and those in struggling geographies like China, investing in anything is a difficult sell right now. But one of the promises of IIoT is the ability to get more out of your assets and your people. If we focus our investments in asset performance management and in the augmented operator I believe many of these investments will have relatively short payback periods.
There’s a lot of slideware and noise attached to IIoT right now. For many companies it will be about starting small and building reference cases that demonstrate real value. I really believe this is the right path for many conservative industries. The other points I would make are these: find your first projects on less than mission critical processes, institute a change management process and give it the time and attention it deserves. A good project will justify kicking off another project or two, and eventually you may find yourself with a whole IIoT-based project management office. And, if possible, bring along an accountant from the finance department to quantify the savings and benefits – verifiable payback on a proven test case speaks far, far louder than any PPT!
Read more about how we’re embracing IIoT innovation here.