Realizing crucial competitive advantages with data-based knowledge
“Knowledge is power”: During the Age of Enlightenment, this maxim from English philosopher Francis Bacon encouraged a focus on scientific methods and discoveries.Today in the age of digital transformation, big data, AI, and machine learning, these words are more relevant than ever. I’ll explain why.
In an economic context, power means competitive advantages and profitability in an increasingly volatile market situation that’s aptly described by the acronym VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity). Knowledge takes the form of data-based, largely automatically generated information. This new form of knowledge allows you to make the best possible business decisions and optimize your business processes with a much clearer focus. It’s the result of a productive interpretation of the vast amounts of data generated every day at incredible speed in large numbers of industrial assets. For companies, it opens up unimagined opportunities for value creation.
Valuable knowledge is often unused
Doesn’t it seem surprising then that most of the data generated in industry isn’t currently being used. Studies show, for example, that field devices in the process industry utilize only about 20 percent of the data they generate. Valuable knowledge lies fallow, despite the great potentials for efficiency.
This is where the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) shows its strengthby generating added value from data and information. And not just from digital devices, but also from objective things in the industrial world that have no intelligence of their own. To do this, the IIoT connects physical objects with smart devices, gathers data, and compiles it all. Using smart methods and algorithms for data use, it provides new insights, derives data-based knowledge, and triggers resulting actions that add value.
My message: No reservations
The Industrial Internet of Things may sound complex and conjure up visions of a technology that’s still in the distant future. But just like the expressions 5G, cloud computing, edge, and data analytics that are widely used in this field, that shouldn’t be a reason to avoid dealing with it. It’s been a reality for a long time.
Let me stress that the IIoT doesn’t have to be complicated, and in general there’s no need for it to be a high-end solution that’s expanded to the nth degree: Simpler implementations can also add value. When data and information that are presumed to be insignificant are collected in straightforward ways and put in the right context, they can generate knowledge with value-added benefits. Let me share two examples.
Example 1: Avoid downtime with simple data knowledge
The devices, machines, and system components on your shop floor should run for a long time with no problems. An outage with serious consequences isn’t usually a sudden event; it’s often signaled in advance by operational irregularities in even a single device.
Recognizing the deviation in advance – in other words, knowledge of the risks – can prevent the components from failing and avert potential losses for the entire production unit. Checking the device, performing timely repairs, or a scheduled replacement are all possible preventive actions.
This advance knowledge can either be acquired in the traditional time-consuming and labor-intensive way by your service team regularly checking the condition of critical components –or you can obtain it automatically using data systems. In other words, when digital values received directly from the component or physical environmental parameters like temperature, vibration, or your power consumption indicate deviations from normal operation by the means of IoT sensors. Alarms then trigger a targeted check of the device in question.
Example 2: Data knowledge prevents time-consuming searches
Data knowledge about where specific important shop-floor assets like transport containers, tools, and materials are located and at what time can reduce or even eliminate labor-intensive problem-solving and searching processes. The key lies in recording these assets automatically. If they’re labeled using unique, machine-readable tags, components like location and identification systems can supply valuable logistical data. The current location or status of your materials, assets, and orders can be accessed at any time from any digital terminal, and even from different locations. This means you have a consistent, real-time-capable information base at your disposal.
Summary: Think big, start small, scale fast
In my experience, enthusiasm for the benefits obtained from simple, data-based solutions often inspires users to come up with new ideas of their own. It isn’t unusual for this to result in modified or refined approaches that produce unexpected added value resulting from skilled analyses and the combination of data and information. My motto for the Industrial IoT is therefore: Think big, start small, scale fast. What I mean is that novel, data-based knowledge derived from IIoT solutions gradually leads to increasing “power” in your business decisions and to crucial competitive advantages. Experience it for yourself – get enter into the Industrial Internet of Things.