The connected era: How the manufacturing industry will adopt and adapt to IoT

After figuring out how to network devices together and how to analyse the data streaming from them, the industry now has to focus upon how to use these two to form definite business engagements to derive profitable outcomes.

By 2020, more than 20 billion connected things will be used across the globe, says research firm Gartner. Research firm IDC predicts a total spend on IoT to reach USD 772 billion globally in the year 2018, and the APeJ (Asia/Pacific excluding Japan) region is expected to spend about half of it – USD 312 billion.

The one industry that has benefitted immensely from IoT is the manufacturing, especially the automotive companies. Connected cars are no longer a thing of the future, and smart factories are taking the industry by storm. The manufacturing sector will be spending over USD 189 billion on IoT solutions, reveals reports.

But with so many IoT projects failing to generate any significant RoI, or failing to even take off, how can Indian manufacturing CIOs hope to avoid the same failure? How can IT leaders ensure that their IoT projects do not face the same downfall?

IoT 3.0: Just another stepping stone in the journey

The first wave of IoT, or IoT 1.0 witnessed companies learning how to network devices together, followed by IoT 2.0 that focused on gathering data from these devices and analyzing them. The third wave, or IoT 3.0 is all about the “connected customer” that is expected to drive measurable outcomes by connecting a device, an IoT platform and a business.

According to Vijay Sethi, CIO at Hero MotoCorp, IoT 1.0 and IoT 2.0 projects aren’t really IoT in its essence. Rather, these two waves are mere steps on the journey to implement IoT successfully in an organization. “It’s imperative to understand that you cannot claim to be deploying IoT just by networking devices, but you also have to go through both steps in order to actually achieve a successful IoT implementation,” he adds.

Sanjay Chakraborty, Head – IT, L&T Heavy Engineering seconds this opinion. “While many manufacturing organizations are implementing IoT with varied perspectives, it may not be beneficial in all organizations as there may be a need to craft specific IoT implementation strategies that’s best suited for a particular environment,” he says.

The manufacturing space has proven itself to be a frontrunner when it comes to newer technologies. The sector has already successfully leveraged not only IoT but also artificial intelligence (AI), 3D printing and computer-aided design. While this might put the sector miles ahead in the journey of digitization, it also comes with its own burdens.

Challenges abound

Terabytes of data flowing back and forth between networks and devices, the need to analyse this horde of data and to be able to derive actionable insights from them in order to gain business benefits are just some of them.

“In a company where you are implementing IoT inside the organization and also in your products, it is important to distinguish between the two data streams in order to ensure actionable insights as well as implement appropriate security solutions,” says Sethi.

However, the perils do not end here. One of the biggest challenges faced by the industry at the moment is the lack of skilled workers in order to implement these technologies. And there might be a very valid reason behind this shortcoming.

“A skilled workforce can only arise when the technology plays to the sensibility of the workforce. Today, the technology might not make sense to a lot of people, and hence the need to understand it hasn’t risen. Like any other technology, the skills to master IoT will improve when the market and the people in it understand its significance,” adds Sethi.

With connectivity and customer services growing exponentially, the third wave of IoT is here to stay, bringing forth a true connected enterprise. And the manufacturing industry will be leading the revolution of the connected enterprise.