Industrial manufacturing is undergoing a digital transformation. Factories are no longer disconnected from their larger supply chain, and workers are no longer limited to siloed information. Instead, data related to each step of the manufacturing process can now be generated and securely shared around the world, helping to increase efficiency, drive productivity, and lower costs.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is at the heart of this transformation. And yet, despite years of surging growth, critical misperceptions continue to surround IoT, creating anxiety about implementing IoT solutions in manufacturing that keep businesses from realizing its tremendous benefits.
Misperception #1: IoT is only for large organizations
Many organizations believe that IoT is an option only for large enterprises that can afford the time and effort it takes to implement it. In reality, the rapid development of IoT technology in recent years has helped give companies more options than ever while also driving down implementation costs. Open-source software and solutions such as Azure IoT Central make it even easier for smaller companies to deliver IoT-enabled products and services without having to build out comprehensive IoT infrastructures or use dedicated IT or engineering teams.
In any case, the potential benefits manufacturers can get by leveraging IoT should outweigh any concerns about cost or time. For instance, IoT solutions like predictive maintenance and analytics can help cut future costs and extend the life of parts by years. This technology can even help create new markets. For example, Gastromatix, a small producer of smart cocktail machines, used a creative application of IoT technology to create new customer experiences and revenue streams.
Misperception #2: IoT is not necessary
Despite its benefits, as much as 70 percent of businesses still think they don’t need IoT. Others believe they’d never find a use for all the data IoT technology generates. However, businesses with these views are likely not aware of the many ways they can realize benefits from IoT—from gaining insights into how customers use products to improving productivity to creating whole new business models.
Because every manufacturer has its own set of challenges and opportunities, an effective IoT solution has to be flexible. It needs to integrate seamlessly into a manufacturer’s processes to directly address its particular needs—whether that means increasing visibility across the supply chain, creating new revenue streams, or optimizing equipment lifecycles
In addition, with a flexible IoT solution in place, any data that is generated but not used can always be stored for future analysis. According to McKinsey, as much as 60 percent of the IoT industry’s projected $11.1 trillion value in 2025 will depend on the integration and analysis of data. This means that as your business grows, you may never know when any unutilized data may suddenly become valuable.
Misperception #3: IoT is not secure
One of the most significant concerns manufacturers—and businesses in other sectors—have about IoT is that it is not secure. Prominent attacks, such as WannaCry and the Mirai botnets, have only stoked these fears and raised questions about the security of IoT.
Although the physical nature of IoT devices introduces new security challenges, manufacturers should have more confidence than ever in IoT security due to an increasing awareness of holistic security strategies. They can also count on Microsoft’s wealth of experience, from the shop floor to the top floor, in securing enterprise customer and partner systems. This involves working closely with IoT hardware manufacturers to design secure devices, and with IoT solution providers to ensure integrity of data when it is both in transit and in the cloud. Although there will always be some potential risk when connecting devices to the internet, an active security strategy helps reduce threats and increase the long-term value of your IoT infrastructure.
Across the manufacturing industry, IoT is helping businesses become more agile and capable of meeting the demands of the modern marketplace. Don’t let your organization be held back from this digital transformation because of a few misperceptions. If you’re attending HMI 2018, you can schedule a 1:1 meeting with a Microsoft consultant or security expert to talk about our end-to-end solutions and to learn about how your business can start benefiting from IoT.