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Industrial manufacturers are tremendously excited about the digital revolution being driven by the Internet of Things.  While many manufacturing experts often remind us that machine-to-machine communication has around for many years, the connectivity and telematics use cases of yesteryear have evolved from being adequate in the past to better today, with the promise of becoming excellent tomorrow.

What is driving all the excitement?

The evolution and standardization of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) promotes truly disruptive business transformations that were not technologically feasible in the past. The enormous buzz around IIoT is being driven by the promise of thought-leading industrial companies taking market share from the competition by expanding aftermarket service offerings and moving to consumption-based business models as opposed to simply selling original equipment in the classical sense.  Industrial manufactures are making massive IoT investments driven by the allure of new revenue streams and sky-high profits.

So what’s the problem?

Manufacturers of complex industrial machinery and equipment typically expect productive lifecycles of 20 years or more, creating even more excitement for the possibilities of the IIoT.  For example, mining machinery operators are making long-term strategic IIoT investments to run full fleets of equipment from various manufacturers in order to increase reliability, maximize output, and reduce operating costs.  However, these operators often struggle with harmonizing the proprietary processes and technology all of the different manufacturers are pushing down to them.

This extremely challenging lack of standardization is graphically illustrated in the matrix below, where you can see multiple manufacturers serving multiple operators across multiple production lines:

Some of the initial excitement generated by the possibilities of the IIoT wears off when the challenge of making sense out of all of the different protocols and “standards” rears its ugly head.  No matter how much money each individual manufacturer spends trying to outmatch their peers with ever-increasing IIoT offerings, the operators, the end consumers of all this technology, still struggle with trying to figure out how to standardize IIoT processes to reap the financial benefits needed to justify continued investment.  It is difficult for an operator to select one manufacturer over another when the overall concept is so difficult to put into play and the benefits are so tough to quantify.  Manufacturers are often surprised when they see this sort of push-back to their IIoT programs from the operators.

Pouring money down the IIoT drain will just not cut it anymore!

Instead of trying to make sense out of all this chaos, more and more vital co-innovation projects between multiple (competing) operators and multiple (competing) manufacturers are beginning to take shape. The ultimate vision for manufacturers and operators in asset-intensive industries is an all-encompassing NETWORK that will enable new asset provisioning and consuming models and drive true operational excellence.

A network of asset intelligence perhaps?
The future of asset management will include a shared responsibility between original equipment manufacturers, dealers/distributors, service providers, engineering companies, and operators.  The IIoT capabilities widely-available today will soon be shared over a cloud-based machine registry that provides complete visibility of the operational efficiency of machinery and equipment (assets) installed around the world.   The graphic below depicts how manufacturers will connect with operators to make the value promise of the IIoT a reality:

The ‘Service Alliance’ of the University of Cambridge recommends in a recent briefing [i]:

The effective management of assets for the provision of complex services requires communication and collaboration between multiple ecosystem members. Standardizing the way these organizations interact, both at a managerial, and an IT-related information and data level, is important.

Manufacturers who streamline and standardize their IIoT offerings and services can build long-term customer loyalty.  Manufacturers and operators that embrace the vision of an asset intelligence network will reach the unified goal of sky-high profitability for all stakeholders across the entire lifecycle of all installed assets deployed worldwide.

An unrealistic dream?  Light years in the future?  How about NOW?