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Don't Let Your Industrial Internet of Things Project Fail

The better you plan to avoid the potential pitfalls to your IIoT project, the more prepared you will be to mitigate any surprises.
By Scot Wlodarczak
Jan 04, 2018

The Industrial IoT (IIoT) brings new promises to the plant floor: lower operating costs, better visibility and improved overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) for manufacturers. These results are all in the pot of gold at the end of the IIoT rainbow, but that bounty is sometimes hard to find. A significant portion of IoT initiatives fail. In fact, at the recent IoT World Forum in London, a referenced study showed only 26 percent of IoT projects are considered a complete success. The other 74 percent represent IoT projects that are still in process, those that are delayed and some which failed outright (roughly 15 percent).

So how can you avoid those pitfalls to ensure your project's success?

1. Start small.
If you focus on your entire plant, you will make success much less likely. Try starting with a smaller project in a key focus area—perhaps an area that has the most downtime, the most maintenance, the most energy consumption, and so forth. Keep the project manageable. Make sure you contemplate how to scale—if you are successful, what's next?

2. Define success.
I continue to be surprised by the number of companies diving headfirst into an Industrial IoT journey with no clear goal, objective or full understanding of return on investment (ROI). Determine what you are trying to achieve, then measure it before and after any IoT project. For example, what's your unplanned downtime today? Where do you want it to be? By when?

3. Gain internal company IT and operations alignment.
The days when operations can implement network-related projects without IT are gone, or at least close to extinction. Success is much more likely achieved by working closely together. For example, the tidal wave of data coming from your factory will require data analysis. That might bring new computing requirements where IT can help. It can also bring new security risks—a key area in which IT can help, but only by fully understanding operational requirements. You also need executive buy-in. Not only can this help you with driving support across your organization, but it may help "grease the skids" for approval by aligning with corporate objectives, like sustainability or security.

4. Understand and address security risks.
Connecting to data from the factory to the enterprise, or opening up remote access all the way down to the plant floor, can potentially open up security risks. With any IIoT project, your attack surface is likely to expand. This is where operations and IT collaborating can bring big value to your organization. Carefully evaluate the potential risks and impact of those risks, then focus on the most serious. Trust me, you probably can't address all of them immediately. Find a trusted partner to perform a security assessment to help you evaluate and prioritize those risks. Your entire organization's Industrial IoT effort may come to a grinding halt if a hacker wreaks havoc in your facility.

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