A Maintenance Manager’s Guide to the Industrial Internet of Things, Part 5: How Will the IIoT Impact the Maintenance Team?

22nd February 2018

Let's move on to one of your biggest questions about the IIoT—how will it impact the maintenance team?

Perhaps the biggest impact of the IIoT on maintenance teams is that the skillsets used for work will have to be retooled. The implementation of the IIoT means more data (a great deal more) in real time, and maintenance personnel will need to be trained to take advantage of the value these data streams deliver. Where readings were once done on the floor at the machine, increasingly they’ll be read on a computer screen. The nature of the work changes as the physical and digital worlds of the organization merge. While there is always some natural resistance to change, the manager’s job will be to help their team get past this resistance and stay ahead of the curve as technology continues to advance.

Ultimately this shift will make workers able to do more with better accuracy and less time and effort, as real-time data provides better insights into the assets being maintained. These improvements will lead to greater understanding of how the assets are working and their true costs.

In most organizations, there has been a traditional division between operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT). OT has dealt with the plant, with things like sensors, gauges, and SCADA technology. IT has worked with enterprise software and systems, and taken place in “the carpeted areas” of the company. What’s been missing—and what maintenance is destined to be on the forefront of as the IIoT takes hold—is the convergence of OT and IT.

To understand this convergence better, global professional services firm Accenture contrasts today’s realities with the imminent vision of a connected OT and IT:

A Maintenance Manager's Guide to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)Today’s Realities

  • The software, sensors, and controls running today’s facilities and equipment are outdated and difficult to upgrade. Companies cannot readily incorporate new features and improvements.
  • Limited integration between internal systems (managerial apps, plant data sources) and external partners creates data siloes.
  • Aging operating systems and vulnerable operational technologies pose security risks because they cannot be easily retired or replaced.
  • Limited embedded computing or intelligence control exists at the device, product, or plant level.

Tomorrow’s Vision

  • Sensors, communications, and other operational technologies work together with information technologies, most likely in the cloud.
  • Standard, fast software development techniques are used to create intelligent industrial products.
  • A common data model and sensing and control architecture supports the flow of insights and actions throughout an organization and its ecosystem of partners.
  • The IIoT infrastructure is trustworthy and resilient to inevitable compromise.*

One of the inevitable outcomes of this convergence will be a change in maintenance mentality. Historically, IT has continually looked to improve performance, adding functionality, performing upgrades, etc. IT is, essentially, the maintenance team for information technology assets. The hard assets of OT deserve that same level of attention, and the IIoT enables this shift. Taking that mentality to hard assets will be one of the outcomes of IT-OT convergence; adapting that mentality will be part of the retooling of maintenance skillsets.

Next time, we'll explain why the IIoT isn't coming—it's already here. If you want to jump ahead, you can download the entire e-book here.

In the meantime, contact us with any questions.

* Ibid, Accenture Technology, p 15.

Read the Whole Series: A Maintenance Manager’s Guide to the Industrial Internet of Things

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