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Avoiding the traps: The five biggest stumbling blocks in the introduction of IIoT

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16.12.2018 10:11

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Industry 4.0, the Industrial Internet of Things or the factory of the future: More and more industrial users are thinking about digitalizing their manufacturing operations. There is no magic formula to this transformation. But you also do not have to make every possible mistake along the way.

Bosch Rexroth now has more than five years of experience in the introduction of Industry 4.0, experience it gained in its own operations and in other companies as well. In the process, the company’s automation specialists have identified the five biggest stumbling blocks that complicate the job of introducing IoT and drive up its costs. 

1. No planning: collecting data without any payoff

Data is the raw material of connected manufacturing and continuous improvement. So far, so good. But users allow themselves over and over again to be talked into using vast numbers of sensors and collecting billions of bits of data that are then evaluated by a standard software in the world of IT. The problem: The standard software does not recognize specific machines and processes and churns out only seemingly relevant results. To really know what information counts, employees must be brought into the process and be given an opportunity to share their knowledge and experience. The first way to increase transparency in all processes is the visualization of information. Working in a closed-loop process, employees can identify the really important findings and optimize the measurement process. Experience has shown: Focusing on manufacturing is hardly enough. Rather, holistic approaches also add information about logistics, purchasing, development and all other company functions. 

2. Thinking too big: wanting to achieve everything at once

Some users try to do it all in one fell swoop by introducing Industry 4.0 during one major project and smoothing out all of the wrinkles at the same time. This is an iffy approach because it will tremendously increase complexity. As a result, it will become difficult to directly determine cause and effect. In addition, this approach frequently leads to overinvestment because it quickly creates the impression that the digital transformation can be achieved only with new systems and machines. An approach that involves many small steps has proven itself to be the most effective. During pilot projects, effects can be specifically determined and optimized during brief closed loops. At the same time, this process gradually introduces employees to the topic and gains their support. These pilot projects frequently demonstrate that available machines and systems can be easily connected later and can continue to be used – a step that saves time and money. 

3. Wrong foot: Using an incorrect standard

Some machine manufacturers and end users prematurely select a standard for the future. That’s thoughtless because the world of standards for Industry 4.0 is in constant motion. The only sure thing is change itself. A future-focused machine connection must not only meet all current standards, but also must be able to be easily modified in response to future changes. Users can protect their past investments only through openness and flexibility. 

4. Reinventing the wheel: programming everything yourself

You’ll find them in many companies: the tinkerers who come up with tailored, gold-trimmed solutions for internal purposes. But this is a risky proposition. This approach consumes huge amounts of both money and time. Simply writing the documentation for a proprietary solution takes up a tremendous amount of time, not to mention the fact that standard solutions are much more user friendly. With the help of these solutions, users can connect machines within a few hours and centrally manage all IoT devices in their network. One other very important finding: Mixing machine and IoT functions in a machine control system results in unnecessary complexity. Security and certification reasons will restrict updating options. For this reason, it makes more sense to operate IoT functions on dedicated systems and to concentrate on real-time communications between the systems. 

5. Nothing will happen: dismissing security

These numbers are frightening: In surveys, more than half of responding companies acknowledge that they do not feel prepared to fend off attacks launched against their IoT devices. 94 percent said they even expected their vulnerability would grow. They are right, too! There are proven IT security processes that can be quickly and seamlessly extended to production, such as network segmentation and firewalls. Particularly helpful: instruments with which users can centrally manage all IoT devices and simultaneously install security updates at all locations around the world. This step protects connected manufacturing operations, and users can focus on their real jobs with a clear conscience.

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