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5 tips for a successful IIoT program

By Brian Harrison

According to a Fluke 2019 survey, roughly 50 percent of maintenance and reliability professionals were actively planning Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) initiatives.

This survey preceded the challenges brought about by COVID-19. At the time, more than half of the teams interviewed found the IIoT process to be more complicated than anticipated because of an essential prerequisite—collaboration with other teams and departments. Despite the business disruption caused by the pandemic, teams remain committed to embracing the IIoT and the benefits of condition-based maintenance.

As we navigate toward a post-pandemic environment, companies continue to seek solutions for monitoring asset health, managing teams, and prioritizing maintenance activities remotely.

Fluke Connect™ software enables teams to leverage the benefits and connectivity that the IIoT offers. Whether in the field, at the plant, or working from home, you can store, view, share, and collaborate about data collected by Fluke wireless tools and condition monitoring sensors via the cloud. Teams access it using a mobile phone, PC, laptop, or other smart device and make informed decisions.

1. Properly execute IIoT change management

IIoT and condition-based maintenance (CBM) alter the way we identify, assign, and complete work. The shift requires us to validate the concept through strategic and tactical know-how.

While working with a client on an IIoT initiative, I recall that the organization's management identified resisters first and sought to go around them for pilots. Circumventing personnel can create distrust and friction. A better way to gain support is to find change advocates and influencers within the team and enlist their help.

A person's job and maintenance experience can significantly influence their perception of an IIoT program. Welcome opposition and questions, and address concerns. The IIoT does not eliminate jobs but enables teams to focus on what they do best while automating monitoring equipment functions.

Answering questions about why the company wants to change, why data is essential, and how it will impact personnel must involve cross-departmental teams, communication plans, and checkpoints. And this level of cross-team communication should span the life of the pilot.

Ensure people feel invested and engaged in the outcome.

2. Eliminate project siloes and disorganization

Articulate the desired outcome and the role that IIoT plays in your organization.

We recently worked with an organization where its electrical engineering and reliability group accidentally discovered that they were competing for budget dollars for duplicate pilots to collect the same data—from different assets.

During a cross-departmental meeting, it became apparent that the two departments were working on the same initiative. The groups determined that they could make a more strategic decision by defining a set of slightly broader standards.

Although the awareness disrupted the original schedule, it allowed the organization to position for a more effective selection process and pilot. A one-size-fits-all doesn't exist when it comes to technologies, data, and applications. Make an effort to know what other groups are doing and determine if the outcome was an eagle or a bogie.

  • What did the deployment look like?
  • How was the vendor support?
  • What did the data look like, and where did it go?
  • Could it impact other areas or departments?

3. Participate in an IIoT pilot

Investing too much too soon in new technology can be risky. Large investments mean higher and more diverse expectations. In some cases, even a win can be seen as a failure due to incorrect assumptions. Establishing requirements and determining how a "win" looks will reduce project misjudgments

Most organizations view maintenance as overhead that is usually the last to secure a portion of the budget. Putting too many eggs in one basket can heighten the risk. Deploy both Connect2Assets and Fluke Mobile as trials to experience their benefits without fully committing to the investment.

Take steps to protect any venture into new technology where possible. A launch failure can hinder future chances at innovation. Common ways to manage risk and cost of an IIoT pilot include:

  • Plan a strategic, phased, and prioritized launch
  • Find a partner who's invested in your success
  • See if there's an inexpensive proof-of-concept option
  • Concentrate on scalability

4. Avoid IIoT stagnation and lethargy

Day-to-day responsibilities must continue during a pilot. They are generally led and monitored by subject-matter experts (SMEs) and/or reliability leaders.

Once a pilot launches and the early excitement fades, it can be challenging to maintain interest while everyone juggles conflicting priorities.

How to stay focused:

  • Identify a group of assets to pilot
  • Develop a small project plan
  • Schedule meetings at relevant intervals
  • Open Connect2Assets and Fluke Mobile trial accounts
  • Plan touchpoint, gate check, and milestone meetings
  • Maintain key stakeholder involvement
  • Envision a finish line
  • Determine your next steps once the pilot ends

5. Choose the right IIoT partner

The IIoT journey is unique to each organization. Companies investing their time and money should nurture partnerships that go beyond the typical vendor relationship. Providers should be able to deliver a blend of real-world expertise, technical innovation, and continuous support.

Thousands of companies attempt to sell some version of AI and IIoT. When making your decision, be aware that there are some things that certain technologies do that differentiate themselves from others.

Do the various technologies and functionalities fit into a broader, cohesive vision? Have they built something that doesn't address the needs of the customer (i.e., you)? Do they start with technology or customer experience?

Connect2Assets, whether used alone or with Fluke Mobile, represents a truly connected solution designed to scale with you. Decide which capabilities are essential to your organization and whether the solutions can grow with your organization.

Other critical questions to ask before choosing your IIoT partner:

  • Does their vision align with yours?
  • Do they have a history of successful partnerships?
  • Do they have longevity, and are they stable?
  • What does their roadmap look like?

Now you know why certain IIoT pilot programs fail and have some strategies for achieving success with your plan. Learn more about IIoT pilot programs.

Brian Harrison is the Fluke Reliability industry lead for IIoT. He is a Certified Reliability Leader with more than ten years of enterprise asset management experience.