Why Your Process Data Is Useless.


The potential of IoT lies in the right approach, not just the right data. Sean Robinson, service leader at industrial automation provider Novotek UK.

For many plant managers, the internet of things (IoT) can at times seem like an industrial get-rich-quick scheme. Sales people will tout an endless stream of benefits of an IoT enabled device, from high return on investment (ROI) to enhanced operational insight, but this value is often exaggerated at best and businesses don't experience the benefit. Here, Sean Robinson, service leader at industrial automation provider Novotek UK and Ireland, explains why the data from your new IoT device probably isn't meeting expectations.

There are three main questions that many plant managers ask of themselves, their operations and the equipment underpinning their processes: what is the most beneficial thing I can invest money into, how can I make more money from this, and how can I get more value from the things I've already spent money on?

It's these questions that make the IoT such an attractive concept to plant managers. The idea that a plant manager can uncover unknown cost and energy savings, simply by attaching a wireless sensor to a piece of equipment, is almost too good to be true. Unfortunately, this can sometimes be seen as the case.

Modern industrial plants are complex and contain hundreds of devices and pieces of equipment operating simultaneously. This is often managed by an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to oversee everything from a top-down perspective. Plant managers investing in a smart sensor for a pump aren't going to get an effective solution to their wider problems. They're going to get a sensor with equipment-specific information, which is useful but not in its raw, siloed form.

It's understandable why plant managers invest in new equipment in this way. After all, a salesperson isn't going to openly admit that their product isn't a standalone solution and is instead most valuable when you take a holistic approach to digital plant management. The problem this causes is that plant managers begin to think of their systems as being completely independent rather than visualising how each device acts as a node in the wider...

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