• Dylan Wingrove

Navigating IoT in Manufacturing

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a fascinating webinar hosted by the IoT World Forum. The keynote address was delivered by veteran technologist Michael Kriger who brilliantly explained how IoT is being harnessed in the industrial sector, the challenges it is facing and innovative solutions to overcome these roadblocks.

McKinsey estimates that by 2025, IoT applications in manufacturing are expected to generate $1.2 to $3.7 trillion of economic value annually.

The question is no longer if your factory will transform, but rather when & how it will transform. Below is a brief synopsis of the discussion presented by Kriger and parts of the strategies we recommend to clients when guiding them through their transformation journey. We truly believe that this technology will drastically change the way our manufacturing clients do business, improving efficiency & safety. So where do you start?


We’ve all heard how data is more valuable than oil- with the current oil prices, that doesn’t make it very valuable, however, in the IoT space, data is crucial for ensuring you have a basis on which to build and scale your solution.

The 4 Stages of Data
The 4 Stages of Data

Data availability is the biggest challenge and must be overcome in order to progress. While this may seem like a simple problem to solve, it’s a key weakness in many organizations transformation strategy and if not thought through can result in failure before you have even begun. The difficulty is due to legacy devices & silos of information Kriger explains- while you may have all the information you need on a number of parts/hour on one machine, for example, that info is rendered useless when it is not able to be shared with other devices involved in the production process.

Ideally, all of your data should be readily available on a secure cloud solution and in the same readable format & structure for maximum efficiency. Availability & access to data are the 2 most crucial steps and you can’t move onto your data doing self-analysis in the proactive phase or eventually automating solutions without them. If you are able to achieve these, then the door for smart manufacturing & data automation is wide open and allows for simple solutions to produce remarkable results. Harley Davidson is the perfect example of this, in their Smart Factory in York, Pennsylvania they were able to reduce production times on new motorcycles from 21 days to 6 hours. This wasn’t a one-hit-wonder either, currently every 89 seconds, a new motorcycle comes off the production line.

Data won't be your only challenge

There are several challenges which you will face during your transformation outside of data. These challenges should not stop you from pursuing any lofty ideas of automation but you cannot ignore them. Understand the challenges other companies have faced and be aware of them early so that you can build proactive solutions in your transformation strategy.


We’ve already dived into this, but it’s so important, I'll mention it again. Without the right data availability and accessibility, building a smart factory is a near-impossible task. Make data a priority in every part of your business strategy going forward.


The problem with data is that it used to require very smart people to do very specific statistical analysis. This is becoming easier with the availability of business intelligence tools and more staff understanding how data works. If you have the resources to, find the right people externally, if you don’t then start training the right people internally to fill the roles of data analysts, scientists & chief data officer.


Security must always be stressed when taking on IoT projects and the reason is quite simple. The more number of sensors you have, the more you are opening yourself up to a cyber breach. In order to combat this, you should ensure that your IoT Network & your general organization network are separate and keep security top of mind every step of the way.


Integration should be a part of transformation which adds benefit, not create problems but this is easier said than done. It’s why when tackling such transformations, having an integrations specialist on board is so crucial. Make sure they understand the broader transformation goals and think through each integration which will be required in the solution.


From the shop floor to the C-Level suites, every member of your team needs to understand the transformation strategy & get behind it. Without buy-in from all parties, a perfectly built IoT solution can go to waste. Make your strategy clear & easy to understand, with reachable KPI’s and don’t forget to consider the people who make tech work, without them, transformation cannot occur.

Don't let the challenges stop you

While the challenges wide-ranging & seem immense, it’s important to remember that with the right partnerships, people and strategy they can be overcome. While there’s no exact blueprint for transformation, as each business and sector is so different, Kriger shared a couple of recommendations to help your organization.

It's not all about technology, think about people

Remember that while your organization may have the best technology, security & integrations- if you lack buy-in from the whole team, your transformation will likely not succeed. This can be achieved by having consensus & clear direction from your exco team which can be communicated down all the way to the plant floor.

Define KPIs & communicate

It’s critical that the entire organization understands what is expected of them by providing transparent KPI’s and effectively communicating the broader vision for the company. When thinking of transformation, not many people consider partnering with a training & communication firm but we believe that this is vital as so much of a successful transformation is reliant on the entire organisation understanding the reason for transformation, having a clear direction of where the company is heading & transparent simple KPI’s. It’s for this reason that we partnered up with WinWin International, who are specialists in communication & immersive learning.

Don't reinvent the wheel

Although it’s tempting to want to build your own solutions, you should look to partner with industry leaders & buy technology wherever possible. MIT-Deloitte found that 51% of Digitally Maturing Companies agreed that external partners were vital in digital innovation. Look for already built solutions which have proven results and with the rise in open source technology, this is becoming much more efficient and cost-effective.


BhekaDala Digital is your Fourth Industrial Revolution partner, helping organizations and cities throughout Africa & The Middle East make their digital transformational ideas reality. We've partnered up with industry leaders such as WinWin International to ensure that the relevant onboarding, communication strategies and training are in place to successfully implement and scale your 4.0 workforce.

If you have a project in mind or simply just want to learn more about what the 4th Industrial Revolution is, make sure to join our mailing list and follow us on social media for the latest in transformational technology.

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