12 Feb Industrial IoT in Bite Sized Nuggets: Industrial IoT Lessons Learned from the Eye of the Hurricane
Anyone who has sat in the CEO or President’s chair has been through the grind of annual budget meetings. These meetings are an annual dance where department heads ask for funding for strategic initiatives for the upcoming year, hoping that their boss leans in to their presentation and eventually giving a thumbs up for the requested spending. Too often, the sexy, high profile projects get the nod, whereas the mundane, routine maintenance and necessary upgrades to infrastructure get put off another year; after all, “if it ain’t broke, why fix it?”.
In my 1.0 career, I sat in that chair. I remember approving the pretty, shiny projects which were easy to sell further up the chain (even Presidents have bosses) and ignoring the boring ones, putting off for next year things that I knew were important but lacked the sexiness of a new revenue producing initiative.
Hurricane Maria reminded me why that was a bad idea.
There was an architectural feature in our building in Puerto Rico, a skylight that our facilities manager and insurance experts repeatedly stressed was a weakness in the case of a hurricane. There was a reasonably simple but somewhat expensive fix, and I could never seem to find the additional funding necessary. When Maria exploded upon Puerto Rico, none of those sexy revenue projects kept the rain from pouring through a giant open hole in the roof where the skylight once stood.
Your plant or business likely has a similar situation with your IT infrastructure. Things hum along until they don’t, and when that happens there’s someone in the building with that institutional knowledge of exactly where to hit something with a hammer to get things going again. “Line 3 is down? Did anyone reboot that old computer with the floppy disk drive? If its been more than a month….”
But at the end of the day, once that old computer is rebooted and Line 3 is moving again, we are on to the next crisis and never fix the root problem.
You would need to be living under a rock the last five years to have not heard about the Internet of Things and all that it promises in an industrial environment. Predictive maintenance leads to less down time and real time data provides insights to greater efficiencies and productivity. Wow, sign me up!
But like anyone who has tried to put the cool new app on their old cellphone and found that it won’t run on a model that old (is five years REALLY too old for a perfectly good phone?) , the Internet of Things requires infrastructure newer than the one that exists in most manufacturing environments. I’m pretty sure that you’re not using a dial up modem in your home anymore, so why is your manufacturing environment stuck with the equivalent? Before you can implement IIoT, your wired and wireless networks need to be able to withstand the hurricane of data that will be produced. I’m not an engineer, but even I can figure out that the if the little plastic clip on the cable that runs from my computer to the jack in my office breaks under mildest conditions, it doesn’t stand a chance on a plant floor. You won’t believe the number of plants that I see with those little plastic connectors deployed, just waiting to fail! In fact, it is reported that 80% of network failures are caused by just 7% of your infrastructure investment, that being the cabling and connectors.
When your Director of IT and your Plant Engineering Manager show up at the annual budget meeting talking about IIoT, make sure that their plan starts with upgrading the infrastructure, the least expensive yet crucial part of taking your plant into the future. You generally can’t replace an outdated piece of machinery with new one without having the electrician come in and make the necessary improvements, and this is no different. While this may not be the sexiest of projects that you will approve in the next 12 months, it could be quite possibly the most impactful, the longest lasting, and with the fastest ROI .
After a 25 year career in leading television stations and networks in the U.S. and Latin America, Sands has pivoted to his 2.0 career: Leading Monarch Information Systems, a Systems Integration company with its roots in structured cabling, physical security and data center build and design. Monarch has evolved into a leading IIoT integrator (Industrial Internet of Things) in the U.S., Mexico, Guatemala and Costa Rica, securely connecting the plant floor to the C Suite. He can be reached at email@example.com.