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Creating Transformation Across Manufacturing, IT and IoT

Author: Steven Ham , Core Catalysts Executive on Demand

Recently, a few of our executives discussed IoT’s business potential, challenges and competitive advantage in manufacturing. JoLinda Vega, Steven Ham and Brian Howell.

We live and work in a world of rapid change. Businesses must be focused on innovation with its people, process and technology to thrive in a highly competitive economy. Executive leadership is looking to IT to make the connection between the business and technology. In manufacturing, an organization that is efficient and productive is a high performing organization creating growth and economic value. But then, why is this so hard for many manufacturing organizations to transform the business? We can all agree, there are no silver bullets and the need to understand the business decisions for transformation is key to success.

Steve Ham, Manufacturing Operations Executive. It is difficult for manufacturing organizations to transform their business. The lack of goal transparency is a key factor in stifling needed transformation. Company and department goals need to be fully understood and in alignment. For instance, the manufacturing department’s goal may be to minimize downtime. To help achieve this, the manufacturing department wants to put industrial controllers on the network for the ability to share live updates to the appropriate people. IT’s goal is to have network security and may not be willing to put the controllers on the network.

From an Operations perspective, I have never understood IT’s reluctance to put operational technology on to the company’s network. Most controllers today have built in security so proper machine network configuration should reduce the risk. Why can’t we work together to share much needed operational technology items on the network?

JoLinda Vega, IT Executive. IoT is one of the biggest opportunities for businesses across industries. IoT will enhance situational awareness, optimize resource consumption, bring efficiencies, and tracking of real-time marketing behavior. With IoT you enable the connection of devices, machines, systems, and networks to redefine how the tasks, processes and activities are addressed. This is a huge competitive advantage for manufacturing to transform to a smart factory. However, there are no boundaries with the technology which creates challenges. That is why IT is reluctant. The challenges are trust and the handling of data. Risks increases with data scattered in more places than before creating a higher degree for breach of privacy. There are huge concerns with trust. Trust that the data is being handled responsibly.

Transparency is key to an organization’s IoT strategy predicated by trust. Trust is built upon a foundation of understanding across an organization, business units and employees. We have to review the eco systems at its core; business unit by business unit, understand every touch point thoroughly, foresee outside regulatory factors, and explain how IoT can be a trusted environment to the business and its stakeholders.

Brian Howell, Cyber Security. Any implementation of IoT into the enterprise should be coupled with specific, intentional considerations.  First, an IoT strategy must be developed and sponsored by executive leadership on the application of IoT within the business including the types and uses of devices. A key question, and part of the strategy developed is to ask “how will the business enable devices to be connected and interact with the network, systems and data?”

Businesses must reach out across the supply chain, and the security aspect must be taken into account. This means all vendors, suppliers and customers, including technology vendors that will provide a service using IoT, be reflected in contracts and agreements. Working with procurement becomes key to implementing IoT into the business. A business case for IoT implementation reflects how the device fits into the organization’s IoT strategy. The case for transforming to an IoT paradigm must include a detailed operational plan that outlines installed devices, anticipated downtimes and rollback strategy, etc. which becomes the service level agreement with security controls around user access and data.

JoLinda. Ultimately, as enterprise IT and operational technologies converge, the potential business impacts of IoT to streamline customer service and engagement in a new way will become a reality for those who invest in and build out IoT within their manufacturing processes.

Steve. I agree, organizational mindset will need to change. It only makes sense to utilize the data that is already on the factory floor to make better decisions. An overall IoT strategy is a great start. The business goals and objectives need to be understood by the key stakeholders. Most importantly, security across the company takes on a new role in today’s businesses.

Authors JoLinda Vega, Steven Ham and Brian Howell are with the Executive on Demand program from Core Catalysts. Executive on Demand provides short-term C-Suite leaders for business transformations.