HMS Industrial IoT Blog

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Takeaways from The Industry of Things Conference

by Tom McKinney and Dave Montesano | Mar 26, 2019



Automation experts, networking companies and data scientists came together to discuss Industrial IoT solutions in San Diego in March 2019. The top three takeaways included:

  1. Investment in data-driven automation is accelerating. Companies that invested early in connected systems (> 5 years) are doubling down on those investments based on successful results of their first-generation solutions.

  2. Most manufacturers are still early in the digital transformation efforts. Even the large manufacturers including GE, Stanley Black & Decker, Johnson & Johnson still have significant investments.

  3. The value of both historical data and real-time data is increasing but only if the data is properly contextualized and stored over a long period of time.


Conference topics focused primarily on automation advances in supply chain and manufacturing. A few companies presented complete successful solutions including DHL’s connected electric delivery truck and SKF’s vibration monitoring service. The vast majority of the use cases presented were partially implemented, highlighting the fact that even companies executing successful digital transformation efforts are still building those systems out.

Bill Good of GE presented an excellent overview of GE Appliances manufacturing digital transformation. In this case, the digital transformation motivation comes from two challenges. GE wants to achieve the lowest cost manufacturing platform while at the same time offering customers the ability to personalize the look of their appliances. These two goals are at odds with one and other. Personalization results in more complex assemble options and more components which drives a higher cost. As a result, GE must create a highly automated assembly solution and drive defects down as close to zero as possible.

The automation technology GE is deploying is fairly common. The innovation is associated with the use of data in the plant. For example, GE is using data to create a tighter relationship between design and manufacturing. 3D imagines of finished products are being used to compare the finished product to the design model. Tolerances are evaluated to determine if changes can be made to reduce defects.


"The key to proper workflow optimization is understanding exactly when machines are operating."


GE is also analyzing product movement and machine utilization using real-time data to determine where autonomous material handling systems will generate the most value. The key to proper workflow optimization is understanding exactly when machines are operating. When a machine is not active the reason must be documented and timestamped with the machine data. Capturing this information requires both machine data and operator inputs to be integrated into a single time series database.

Bill Good is pleased with his team’s progress and has multiple metrics that show the investment is generating positive ROI. The next step for GE is to double down on it's investment in automation and data. This theme was consistent across multiple presentations, digital transformation is a justifiable investment and successful companies are prepared to continue to invest. Companies unwilling to invest or unable to invest will be challenged to compete with the companies that do.


Five other companies that are shaping the future of networking and automation include:

  1. Arconic (Hicham Wazni) is using IoT enabled machines and Cloud data to coordinate manufacturing operations among 139 different locations. This includes tracking of manufacturing operations along with batch tracking for defective parts and recall-oriented issues.
  2. Stanley Black and Decker (Yasir Qureshi) are shifting some of their product offerings from a static product to a subscription-based model. They experienced change pains in that they had to train sales reps on how to sell this new ‘product’, and the company itself had to figure out how to bill their customers for services. For a large company like Stanley, this was a huge undertaking.
  3. Mac Sullivan of Toll Global Forwarding discussed with me that the logistics industry, ie global handling of containers by ship, rail, truck, has yet to be transformed by IoT. There are many instances when he and his clients have no idea where a container is located, or there are delays in location information.
  4. Exxon Mobil (Richard Eckhardt) – using IIoT/Cloud to optimize refinery processes among many plants. He emphasized that an IIoT initiator, either internal or external, must prove the concept and monetization with small wins via Pilot programs to continue to gain funding and buy-in from management. Continue to do this on larger and larger scales in steps until there is confidence throughout the organization.
  5. Accenture- Eric Schaeffer – Presented the notion that there is a value shift in Industrial Products from 100% Mechanical in the 1960s to
  • 1980s: 70% Mechanical 30% Electrical
  • 2000s: 40% Mechanical 40% Electrical and 20% Embedded Software
  • 2010s: 40% Embedded Software, 30% Electrical, 20% Mechanical, and 10% Digital technologies
  • Future: 70% Digital Technologies, 20% Embedded Software, 5% Electrical, and 5% Mechanical.
  • This topic is discussed in detail in a new Book to be released soon “Reinventing the Product – How to Transform your Business and Create Value in the Digital Age”. This presentation was a bit of a plug for the Author, Eric Schaeffer.


See what other IIoT shows HMS Industrial Networks will be attending and contact us with any IIoT questions!

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