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Leveraging manufacturing data in a smart, connected and secure way

Leveraging production knowledge in a wise, attached and safe manner

Recently, there’s been increasing talk about how both the Industrial Internet of things (IIoT) and Digital Twins play a crucial role in an organization’s response to the pandemic. However, the same challenge remains and is potentially magnified by the current crisis. Do we have complete control of the many sources of manufacturing data and can we convert that data into real value for the business? 

This is the topic I covered during a recent IDC Manufacturing Forum in Poland webinar. During our discussion, I was reminded of something that the Harvard Business School wrote in 2016: “IoT is at the peak of Gartner’s 2015 hype cycle, which suggests the next phase will be disillusionment, and it will be years before we see real productivity gains.” 

A recent report shows that almost three-quarters of companies consider their IoT projects to be unsuccessful. Many never actually leave the drawing board. The potential of IoT sensors, devices, and assets is undoubtedly great but so is the complexity. And, that all starts with the data. 

The data tsunami 

Data has been at the heart of manufacturing for a long time but never more so in the digital age.  New data channels have opened – new ones appear regularly – and new information silos have been created as a result. Best-in–class functional solutions generate information to drive localized productivity improvements, but that data remains elusive when it comes to sharing, analyzing or leveraging across the organization. 

The rapid growth of IIoT has only exacerbated the issue. Different IIoT sensors and devices use different standards and protocols to produce data in different formats. If effective data integration was difficult before then it’s now looking like a task of Herculean proportions. The ability to integrate data smoothly and securely is the foundation for IIoT success – it’s also the bedrock on which to build your Digital Twins. 

From digital twin to digital thread 

Last year, Gartner released a survey that showed digital twins entering mainstream use. The results revealed 75% of organizations had either implemented digital twins or were looking to within the year. Digital twins offer real benefits by delivering a digital representation of a product or system to improve operations and drive innovation. However, real transformation for manufacturers takes place when connected assets work together to provide an accurate, real-time record of a product, system, or process throughout its lifecycle. Organizations are looking to deploy a digital thread but the road ahead is not easy. 

The digital thread refers to a communications framework that enables connected data flows and an integrated view of asset data throughout its lifecycle. It enables the controlled interplay of up-to-date and accurate as-built and technical data from a wide range of separate business connected systems and devices. It allows the data to be accessed, transformed, integrated, and analyzed to drive insight and action. 

In this way, deploying a digital thread offers manufacturers many ways to transform and optimize their operations, production, supply chain, and customer experience – it also multiples the challenge of data integration. 

The need for an identity-centric IIoT platform 

Introducing an identity-centric IoT platform enables your organization to manage and collaborate on information in a more efficient way. It provides the data integration capabilities across internal business applications and the external business system, partners, and other stakeholders from a central hub. The platform enables the successful creation of digital threads through: 

Secure device management 

  • It’s essential that new devices can be installed, activated, and managed, regardless of data format, protocol or standard. Secure device management underpins the creation of digital twins by enabling the secure identification and collection of data from all IIoT sensors and devices.  

Ecosystem management 

  • The platform is designed to collect and manage IIoT data with other internal and external data in a data pool. IIoT data is consolidated and blended data from other platform applications as well as other digital twins. This ability to integrate the digital twin facilitates the development of digital threads across production and the supply chain. 

Unified messaging 

  • Unified messaging provides any-to-any communications protocol support via a comprehensive messaging broker. It allows you to perform rapid, secure, and flexible integration of structured and unstructured data from a huge range of data sources. As well as enriching the digital twin, it enables the connection to enterprise application on a digital thread that can easily assets, production facilities, and continents. 

Actionable insight 

  • One of the most important aspects of the central IoT platform is the ability to capture and analyze all the data created at each point from the IIoT device at the edge, to the digital twin, to the digital thread. The ability to gain visibility of all data within your digital ecosystem helps to derive better insights and outcomes. 

By 2027, says IDC, 75% of organizations will be completely digitally transformed – and the rest will be bust. There’s a lot of work to be done to successfully implement and operate the ever–increasing range of IIoT devices and sensors. Without this, you’ll struggle to create the digital twins and digital threads that Challenge Advisory indicates “are the foundations behind a digital transformation”. Deploying an identity-driven IoT platform is a vital step to achieving the effective and secure data integration needed to realize the value of your IIT and digital twin investments. 

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