What Happens When an Unstoppable Force Meets an Immovable Object?
Yes, the novel Coronavirus made its presence felt at this year’s IFPE in Las Vegas. And yet, while major corporations cancelled their participation and attendance took a hit, the gritty industrial world grinded forward. Far less hands were shaken and most every male I saw in the restroom scrubbed their hands as if preparing for surgery, but conversations continued to move businesses, and our world, forward.
Our part of the conversation continues to be around the connected industrial space. It’s Internet of Things; It’s Industry 4.0; It’s “Smart” (insert whatever here). I was honored to have a speaking slot dedicated to Mastering Fluid Power Efficiency with the IoT and had enough participants, head-nods, and follow-up questions to know that 3 years into this conversation, there remains more questions and challenges than answers and solutions.
Conversations at our booth reflected this notion as well. From a competitive standpoint, I admittedly have a swarming paranoia that hits me weeks before every major tradeshow, that I will finally see an exhibit floor where the majority of companies and attendees are no longer just “talking about” IoT, but are actually using it, and are seeing clear paths to monetization – where the world catches up to our tip-of-the-spear. At IFPE 2020? Not yet. There is good and bad with this: The good? It’s still early enough that EVERYONE, yes, EVERYONE, can capitalize and make money with the IoT. The bad? The earliest deployments of the IoT either haven’t wowed enough or still show the baked-in challenges that don’t make the “wow” worth the “ow” of getting everything set up and connected.
The primary lesson learned that I will share with you here is acknowledging and wrestling with the reality that integration is the widest, deepest moat keeping scalable IoT solutions away from customers. Take it from us, when those entering our booth saw the seamless path between sensor, gateway, visualization, and insight, there was a collective breath of fresh air. And yet, we still must fight through integration challenges with a more holistic and robust solution – ensuring that customers and partners are well versed in understanding their overlapping physical and digital installation space. Common questions to consider:
- Do they “get” the data piece of it (that there’s a scaling cost to gather more data, faster)?
- Do they “get” that there simply aren’t standardizations in place to buffer IoT decisions – and the digital world is moving so quickly that standardization processes, as we know them today, will never be able to keep up?
- Do they “get” that it’s likely not the best idea to use the same sensors that drive PLC logic as the same sensors serving up diagnostic information (diagnostic redundancy is the key to avoiding “garbage in garbage out” bad decision data)?
And do they “get” that connected diagnostics sensors can be a “force multiplier” for factory floors and fleets, better guiding potentially stripped-down maintenance and reliability teams during economic cuts. The math will always hold, 3 staff cannot cover the work of 10 staff, no matter how golden and good they are. They will run out of steam and they will leave (we’ve witnessed it multiple times now).
I’ll leave you to wrestle through those questions and encourage you that whether those are questions you have to ask yourself, or questions you are asking of your customers, there is value to be gained by being the first to cross the moat of integration. Value = dollars. Dollars = sustainability.
After another tradeshow closes, the connected conversation continues (perhaps just remotely for the time being). And while there may not be many more shows this year, this is an opportune time to take stock in all our strategies, processes, and business models. A virus threatens to impact and slow our industrial world, but as it comes to pass, this next industrial revolution only moves forward with speed and force that will leave those behind who’ve resigned to “the way it’s always been done.”
I’m here to help. Everyone stay safe “in” wherever you are and keep the conversation going.
Jeremy Drury is the President of IoT Diagnostics. He is focused on connecting prediction to production with the industrial internet of things. As a veteran of the manufacturing industry, Jeremy has spearheaded product development initiatives and go-to-market strategies in more than 80 countries. His multi-disciplinary leadership offers unique perspectives on implementing strategies for the change-ready and the change-adverse. Jeremy has a passion for communicating, teaching and connecting complicated concepts into digestible stories that provide simple, take-home applications.
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