Future of IOT in the Manufacturing Industry
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IIOT is one of the spokes to the technology hub that is driving the wheel of fourth industrial revolution. That's in fact quite critical one as businesses would be able to have operational visibility to make instant and effective decisions to boost quality and optimize cost and time.
For consumer-based applications, IoT has been more of a replacement to existing technology or a new layer to an existing layer such as connected cars, home lighting, television and smartphones. But on the industrial side, it has been ideated, built and executed for the first time, since large enterprises and manufacturing units have been running on legacy machinery and ways to track and analyze data to decide on the quality of those machines and infrastructure. Hence, implementation for large firms is the real problem.
"Almost all our customers have deployed IoT for the first time instead of replacing an existing infrastructure," says Abhishek Latthe, Chief Executive Officer, SenseGiz. The start-up offers enterprise and industrial IoT products for sensor-based monitoring to avoid machine failure and track assets and employees at the shop floor to boost productivity. SenseGiz usually run trials of 100 such sensors for a prospective client for a month to understand the changes required before implementing. The biggest use case for Latthe has come by exploring association with the Indian Army to deploy its sensors for surveillance at the Pakistan border. "We have already run trials for one kilometer fencing. The army has asked for some additional features in the sensor which we would present in March this year."
The time to adopt IoT products by industrial units is however unique for every product. If there is something critical to the operations of the plant, for instance pipeline leaks in an oil and gas plant, then acceptance and adoption takes less time as more than improving efficiency it can help avoid any casualty to the plant and lives of people. Chennai-based DeTect Technologies' IoT product - Gumps monitors oil and gas pipelines even at extreme temperatures, detects any corrosion and transmits the data to the cloud for early detection of any defect. "For such a problem, while it takes time for client to be educated about it, but the acceptance to IoT products is there.
Companies are now open to change," says Daniel Raj David, its Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder, launched in 2014. The best way to move ahead, suggests David, is to be transparent to the client for errors to be made. "We seek their help in understanding with our errors in order to derive value out of it." Then there is other big variable attached - manufacturing in India versus China due to cheaper costs. In a way most enterprises are still toying with IoT through pilot programs in some locations and hence scale up currently is bit out of sight. "Unless start-ups start doing it they will not see the implementation benefit. This is the challenge even as none of the startups have been able to scale in this space," says Dr Sumit D Chowdhury, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Gaia Smart Cities.
The former President at Reliance Jio launched Gaia in 2015 monitors to improve public services and citizen engagement under his smart citiy solutions, industrial and supply chain automation and product tracking for logistics companies as part of its enterprise solutions. Due to diverse applications, Gaia has been able to scale to more than 105 cities with around 35 clients in IIoT vertical. For instance, it uses sensors to monitor quality for Amul's milk containers when they are at third party collection centres. Amul's quality control team can access data via single dashboard. While for MNCs, the appetite to adopt IoT is high as globally it has been around for few years, large enterprises are still trying to understand the size of value it would bring to them while SMEs are least bothered. "Beyond metro cities, IIoT awareness and discipline to use such technology is lacking.
SMEs in fact are debating on the basic fact that since manpower is cheaply available to them then why should they invest in IoT. Hence, for them it is cost centric and not future value centric," says Neeraj Verma, Executive Director, Management Consulting, KPMG India. Then there is inconsistency around having enough data and reliable connectivity. While the former would be mitigated as more solutions are deployed across industries, the latter is an infrastructural issue beyond the control of businesses. "Moreover, you need expertise. For instance, in building algorithms to interpret thermal data we have oil and gas experts and nondestructive testing (to analyze materials, components without any damage) experts," adds David.
The opportunity nonetheless is higher on the industrial side. While the sales cycle can stretch up to a year or more but having large multinational clients on-board can boost the order book with orders worth crore rupees. Going forward enterprises should not look at creating IoT use cases in the entire value chain in a siloed fashion. For instance, automating the factory would give only that much benefit since the remaining value chain is still manually operated. This means that one may manufacture smartly but he/ she won't be able to procure, distribute and sell it smartly. So, there won't be benefits of the entire process.
(This article was first published in the March issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)