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New superpowers for your old machines

Plant Managers, do you feel your plant is "missing out" the wave of Industrial IoT (IIoT) innovation, held back by legacy equipment? If it is any comfort, you are in the majority! Our recent retrofit deployments may bring some promise to realize the fruits of IIoT here and now.

Superpowers are now within your reach..

At Ramp Digital, we have witnessed a renewed focus among equipment vendors on wireless, non-invasive sensors with longer battery-life. This focus make retrofit use cases more viable and opens new possibilities for you, the Plant Manager - real-time visibility of your production process, insight into bottlenecks, probable causes of breakdowns and wait-for-it...predictive maintenance (with lots of caveats reserved for a future post..).

But tread carefully..

While the promise suddenly got a lot more real, success does not come easy. Several obstacles remain that you, the Plant Manager, has to navigate deftly to deliver promised production efficiencies and cost savings. Here are some of our top learnings from recent deployments, that may improve your chances of success.

1. Begin with the end in mind

Drawing from the famous Steven Covey 7 habits, clarity on how sensor-data will be used, is critical to keep scope and costs in check. Sensors are not panacea for all your problems, so starting small with a crisp outcome in mind, drastically improves chances of success.

2. Get your Plant supervisors and production staff on board

IIoT deployments often fail due to lack of buy-in from your plant-staff. Such projects are often met with suspicion of "big-brother" watching over and anxiety of impending automation. Clearly explaining the objectives of your project and involving production staff in planning and deployment makes everyone a stakeholder in success of your project.

3. Blueprint your entire retrofit system from a professional before selecting hardware

Interoperability between your retrofit components will make or break your project. I covered in detail, the factors that make interoperability such a challenge in a previous post. Hiring an experienced partner or professional will help you avoid expensive mistakes and delays.

4. Plan for easy and scalable installation

Installation will likely constitute a significant portion of your projects cost. Keeping installation simple and scalable should be a key goal of your project and should be addressed in the blueprinting stage.

5. Avoid distraction of fancy dashboards (well, at least try..)

Dashboard that show time-series charts of temperature readings are great eye-candy, but we haven't seen many people, especially production staff having the time or reason to look at them. Integration with existing production and reporting systems delivers far more utility and value.

This post will not be complete without a marketing plug - at Ramp Digital, we have partnered with Plant Managers through their retrofit journey; developing business cases, carving out project scope, blueprinting solutions, selecting sensors/gateways, integrating them with enterprise systems, installing retrofit kits and supporting installations remotely/on-site. If you have a question or want to learn how Ramp Digital can help you with your retrofit project, please send us a note.

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