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CWIC 2019: Can digitisation deliver the improvements you expect?

CW News published by CW (Cambridge Wireless)

This blog is contributed by Andy Rhodes, CWIC committee member and Operations Director at 42 Technology,

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As one of the Industrial IoT SIG Champions, I’m looking forward to chairing the manufacturing track at this year’s CW International Conference (CWIC 2019).  In the SIG, we have looked at how industry is using IoT technologies to deliver the required business outcomes, and at how the use of connectivity and data are shaping products, services and operations to deliver business value.

At CWIC 2018, there was a great track on Industrial IoT and the connected enterprise which looked at the role of technology in the heavy construction industry, the role of 5G, how to protect the services in a cross-border ecosystem, and how to secure the devices, data and business within these systems.

In 2019, we’re going to be looking at how the manufacturing industry is actively working with the technology sector and its supply chains to leverage the UK’s world-renowned knowledge intensive sector and to maximise the business benefit.  We will be hearing about how manufacturer business models are changing through working with advanced sensors, next generation connectivity solutions, and monitoring and automation software.

We’ll be looking to hear what outcomes you were looking for and how well the technology met that need.  While the technology community has developed a wide range of solutions, how do you determine what you actually need and, perhaps most importantly, why do you need the solutions?  With all new technology, there is a steep learning curve.  Who in your business is best suited to becoming the owner of the solution, and how will that scale as the system becomes mission critical?

When the aim of the project is to enable a change to your business model, you should have a good idea what you want to know, but you may not initially know what you need to measure or how you will interpret the information generated.  More often than not, the measurement solution you first thought of is not the one you finally use.  Hopefully, the one you do use meets the required business outcomes, but maybe it meets different outcomes than originally expected.

You will need to sense data in some way, exactly how or what will depend on what parameters you believe are necessary to control to meet your business outcome.  Given that you will probably not know which will be the most important to control, you can either start with your best guess, or put sensors onto everything and then experiment to determine what is really needed. But adding more sensors and controls increases the complexity and cost.  Is this factored into the business case and does the deployment schedule allow for this learning?  A limited scale pilot may not satisfy the eventual requirements for scalability, power consumption or security but may enable rapid learning.

Having decided on the plan for sensors and control, what about connectivity?  Wired connectivity is generally fast and stable (and scalable in a busy & noisy environment) but takes time to install / reconfigure and may be undesirable for other reasons.  There are a number of wireless solutions - which one is right will depend on many factors.

And then there is the data storage, pre-processing and analysis to convert all this data into information and knowledge to improve the business.  This creates issues with security, auditing and integrity (and potentially operator privacy).  How will this be managed and integrated with your existing business processes?

If you’re from the manufacturing industry and have started on the digitisation journey, we’d like to hear about your challenges and successes.  And if you’re wondering where to start, then come and chat to others who have already started or are asking the same questions.

To get the most out of the conference, use the opportunity to challenge the technology sector to deliver the solutions that you need to make your business transition a success!

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