Let’s Face It: IIoT Requires Teamwork

IIoT spans multiple functions

I have had the good fortune to work with many manufacturers facilitating their exploration of IIoT solutions over the past several years. At one IoT quick start workshop, the manufacturer’s IT was leading the effort but were wise enough to bring together production control, operations, ERP specialists and management. It was the smart thing to do because when you start out on any IIoT journey in manufacturing, you will need to span multiple functions within your organization and the sooner you bring them together, the more likely you will deliver what is really needed.


IIoT data flows across multiple responsibilities

An IIoT project, like most other projects, is a collection of small successes that accumulate to a big win. The first success was at the end of the workshop. Everyone critiqued the pre-made list of ‘cool things to measure’ and agreed to focus on just one thing, something that generated value for all stakeholders, all the time and had a face-value ROI. In this case, real-time actual units produced, pre-final-inspection was the KPI worth measuring. Not machine cycles, not post-inspection ready-to-ship units, but actual units produced and by which machine, down-to-the-second, that were actually made, combined with a status of “is the machine running or no?”

But you can’t disband the team after the first meeting, you need more little successes along the way to ultimately win big. If you care to draw a picture of an IIoT solution data flow, most show data flowing from the equipment on the left of the sheet to the analytics on the right of the sheet. Across that sheet you can often draw a series of vertical lines that separates different responsibilities, e.g. Operators, Shift leaders/Supervisors, Maintenance Teams, SCADA/HMI and Network people, ERP support/BA, Production Management, Finance and eventually C-Level leadership.

IIoT requires subject matter experts with different perspectives to succeed

Spanning all of the verticals above is your IIoT solution – most of which are designed to look like Sensors>Gateway >IoT Hub> Analytics: Done. All of which is taking place in a serene cloud architecture way above all the problems of the plant floor, back-offices and board-rooms below. Some would say that isn’t the correct way to picture it at all, because it is complicated down below and ignoring those complications has consequences. Especially as every day those people are thinking about their workload, not your IoT project and only if you can ultimately lighten their load can you expect them to really help. If you don’t keep the team together then perhaps you will miss things like this:

  • Operators’ advice on how the new sensors might get in the way of their normal motion, and how inappropriate placement could trick/confuse sensor readings.
  • Supervisors listing all the scenarios where you can’t accept the sensors readings on face value, e.g. during setup/change over operations and what those ‘signatures’, look like.
  • Maintenance teams not advising and agreeing on initial placement and re-calibration/inspection cycles and advising on the vintage/spec limitations of the machines.
  • IT teams not sharing ideas on the value and consequence of integrating ERP, MES, plant-floor data-capture or certification expectations to use cloud infrastructure.
  • HMI/SCADA teams providing advice on limitations of network, Wi-Fi, blue-tooth and cellular options within the plant and foibles of existing historians and dataloggers.
  • Finance and production explaining how raw counts are refined into ultimate net figures and the realizable value of knowing what the sensor data can tell them.

Teamwork… without that thoughtful and considered insight from all those people, you can spend capital on new sensors you don’t need or procure the wrong sensors, install them ineffectively to measure the wrong thing inaccurately and misinterpret the results. But, if you invite everyone to your IIoT party it is more likely to result in a big win. For everyone.


Peter Darragh | EVP Product Engineering

Peter defines and executes the product roadmap for Mariner.