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In our experience, we’ve seen organizations follow one of two approaches when it comes to digitizing infrastructure, both of which fall short of ideal. They either start fresh with custom-designed machines, software, and devices - the “greenfield” approach. Or, they layer digital capabilities on top of existing operational technology - the “brownfield” approach.
In greenfield projects, operators purchase performance monitoring systems from Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM). These systems integrate directly with specific machines and often come with proprietary software licenses.
The downside of the greenfield approach is that businesses spend significant capital upfront for new, flashy technology from the OEM. To justify the investment, operators need to buy more machines from the same OEMs to drive down per-unit software costs. On top of that, companies still have to pay a systems integrator (SI) to tie machines from various OEMs together.
When it comes to greenfield projects, the real winners are OEMs and SIs, not customers.
Brownfield projects allow industrial organizations to layer “turnkey” IoT solutions on top of multiple operational technology OEMs. In rare cases, companies can work with a single IoT vendor for their unique digital requirements.
Most of the time, however, they have to combine offerings from several turnkey vendors as these solutions tend to be point-specific. For example, a vendor may develop industrial sensors that monitor generators but not pumps.
Additionally, industrial businesses still have to hire SIs to connect IoT devices to all of their machines and operational technology. Depending on the service model, companies may even end up paying IoT vendors at each layer of the data journey.
As with the greenfield approach, the real winners of brownfield projects are not the industrial organizations, but rather the IoT vendors and SIs.
Side note: We discuss these two approaches at length in our blog post on the Greenfield and Brownfield approaches to IIoT.
Regardless of which approach leaders take, they likely won’t achieve their overarching goals. Worst of all, they will invest major capital and pay high systems integration costs without the promise of obtaining great data.
At WellAware, we have been fighting against these forces for years. We understand the appeal of both greenfield and brownfield IoT projects. However, we’ve realized that neither truly set industrial businesses up for long-term success. The IIoT, as we know it today, is strewn with narrowly focused vendors that charge high fees without having to be accountable for data outcomes.
Here, we wanted to share our prescriptive framework for how to maximize success in the age of industrial automation - the next generation of IIoT. It’s time for a new paradigm.
We believe three changes are necessary when it comes to industrial digitization projects.
First, industrial leaders need to move away from old technology. Whether you use one, fully integrated vendor, or several, disparate vendors, technology should be best-in-class, based on IT (not OT) principles, and, ideally, open at each layer of the data journey.
Newer technologies are typically more cost-effective and scalable, especially in the digital world. Open-source technology can also be decoupled in the future as workforces become more digitally inclined and capable of developing custom applications.
Second, businesses should use vendors that are accountable for outcomes. IIoT vendor profits should be tied, in some way, to the success of their clients. By forcing vendors to have skin in the game, we can break down the barrier to entry tied to high upfront cash outlays.
We think the “as-a-service” model would prove effective on the pricing front as well, which leads to our final suggestion.
IIoT partners should be accountable not only for the tools they install but also for the data they help clients generate. We’ll use a SaaS example to bring this point home -
If you use a SaaS platform, the chances are that you have a Service Level Agreement (SLA) that defines the uptime, quality, and support you will receive for that software. You should get similar SLAs for data generated by the Industrial IoT!
Again, the point of pursuing digitization is to unlock data streams related to real-time asset performance. The vendors that you hire for this purpose should be accountable for the quality of the field intelligence their methods and technologies produce!
Like the many other “services” product approaches which have allowed companies to scale with software, platforms, and cloud, the Industrial IoT Data-as-a-Service (DaaS) model has emerged as the leading approach to guaranteeing positive outcomes to digital transformation projects. To fully leverage the power of the Industrial Internet of Things, DaaS should be the next step in the transformation of the industry.
To be clear, we believe the next phase of innovation is less about the underlying tools and technology, and more about empowering workforces with data and digital capabilities.
“You can pretty much buy any technology, but your ability to adapt to an even more digital future depends on developing the next generation of skills, closing the gap between talent supply and demand, and future-proofing your own and others’ potential.”
The benefit of the IIoT is only realized when organizations adopt a data-centric culture capable of rapid, data-driven decision-making. You must transform your business to manifest this culture. If you can’t guarantee great data for your team, nobody will use it. You will fail to create real change that positively impacts the bottom line of your industrial business.
Find a partner who is willing to be accountable for outcomes and the data their tools enable. Doing so will lead you to the Digital Transformation you’ve been trying to achieve - not of your machines, but of your team.
At WellAware, we believe we are that critical partner.
As a DaaS company for the IIoT, we build technology solutions at every point in the data journey that are fully integrated, secure, and open. We accept accountability for delivering quality data to our customers’ employees and partners. We also provide the support needed to help leaders build data-driven cultures that create lasting change.
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