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September 7, 2020

Top 5 reasons why companies’ IIoT initiatives fail

By Brian Harrison

According to a Fluke survey done in late 2019, some 50% of maintenance and reliability teams were actively planning Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) initiatives.

This, of course, was before the massive change brought upon us all by the spread of the coronavirus. Still, at the time, more than half of those teams interviewed found the IIoT process to be more complicated than they’d expected due to the need to collaborate with other teams and departments.

Despite those challenges, the teams remained committed to realizing the value that IIoT and condition-based maintenance can offer.

Today, as we start planning for the post-pandemic “new normal,” more companies than ever seek to develop strategies to jumpstart condition-based maintenance.

They want solutions to remotely monitor assets as well as manage teams and prioritize maintenance activities from afar.

So, with all this in mind, we thought it would be helpful to address why statistics show that 80% of all IIoT pilot programs fail to roll out successfully. Here are our top 5 reasons why.

  1. Change management is executed poorly

IIoT or condition-based maintenance (CBM), whatever you call it, is changing the way we identify, assign, and complete work. Because of the step change that IIoT represents, it is incumbent upon us to formalize the concept and be both strategic and tactical in how we pursue it.

I remember a couple of years ago working with a client on an IIoT initiative. This company’s management right away sought to identify resisters and go around them for pilots. Avoidance can create distrust and friction. Instead of avoiding individuals, look for who the leaders (without titles) and influencers are and earn their support.

A person’s position can significantly influence their perception. Resistance and questions should be welcomed and addressed. The goal of IIoT is not to take away jobs but to help team members focus on what they do best while automating the robotic functions associated with monitoring assets.

How can the IIoT impact technicians? What does it mean for them? What’s in it for the company? What kind of data is valuable? Is it data that can be used today, tomorrow, or both?

Answering these questions must involve cross-departmental teams, communication plans, and checkpoints. And the communication should stretch across the life of the pilot. When people feel engaged, they’re more invested in the outcome.

  1. Projects are siloed and scattershot

Have some idea of the desired outcome as well as the role of IIoT in your organization.

We recently worked with an organization that had its electrical engineering group and its reliability group competing for budget dollars to spend on duplicative pilots to collect the same data –from different assets.

A chance, cross-department meeting stumbled upon this reality allowing both groups to share for the first time what they were working on. A further review of requirements revealed that working together, the groups could better define a set of slightly broader standards and make a more strategic decision.

While this disrupted the original schedule, it allowed the company to position for a better selection process and a more successful pilot.

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to technologies, data, and applications. It is worth knowing what other groups are doing and seeing in the results, was it an Eagle or a Train Wreck?

  • 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?
  1. The pilots are just too costly

Investing heavily in a big-bang approach with new technology can be risky. Larger investments mean higher and more diverse expectations. In some cases, even a win can be viewed as a failure due to outlying assumptions. Formalizing requirements and defining what a “win” looks like helps curtail misjudgment on projects.

Because most organizations view maintenance as overhead, maintenance teams are often the last to get a piece of the budget. By putting too many eggs in a single basket before we know what it can hold presents a serious risk.

That is why we should take steps to protect any venture into new technology where possible. A failure to launch successfully can inhibit our future chances at innovation. Common ways to manage risk and cost of an IIoT pilot include:

  • Plan a strategically phased and prioritized rollout
  • Find a partner invested in your success
  • Determine if there is a low-cost, proof-of-concept option?
  • Focus on the ability to scale
  1. Projects stagnate and lose momentum

Day-to-day responsibilities don’t go away because of pilots. These projects are generally led and monitored by high-demand resources such as subject-matter experts (SMEs) and reliability leaders.

As pilots launch and the initial excitement fades, it can be hard to compete for time on the calendar and to keep eyes on what is happening, why it’s happening, and what it means.

To help avoid this, here are some steps to follow:

  • Select a group of assets to pilot
  • Create a mini project plan
  • Schedule meetings at meaningful intervals
  • Hold touchpoints, gate checks, and milestone meetings
  • Keep key stakeholders involved
  • Have a finish line
  • Know what your next steps are when the pilot ends
  1. You’re missing the right partner

The IIoT journey is unique to all organizations. Companies investing their time and money should seek partnerships that go beyond the usual vendor relationship. Solution providers should be able to deliver a blend of real-world expertise, technical innovation, and support.

Thousands of companies attempt to sell some version of AI and IIoT. When considering options, keep in mind there are some things that certain technologies do that are differentiators.

How do these various technologies and functionalities fit into a broader, cohesive vision? Do they build something but don’t address the actual needs of the customer (i.e., you)?

Or do they start with the customer experience and work backward to the technology?

What capabilities are essential to you? Can these solutions scale as you grow?

When selecting an IIoT partner, be sure to answer these additional questions:

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

Now you know some of the biggest reasons why IIoT pilot programs fail. Work to avoid them as you launch your own program.

Brian Harrison is the Fluke Reliability industry lead for IIoT. He is a Certified Reliability Leader with more than 10 years in enterprise asset management.