Disruptive opportunities

Think again: Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Industrie 4.0 models bring disruptive opportunities to manufacturing and other increasingly automated industries, augmenting human productivity. Five years from now, will you be grinding in first gear while your competitors innovate in overdrive?

By Mark T. Hoske March 12, 2016

For years, automation end users and system integrators have sought greater innovation through interoperability. For years, many automation vendors have hesitated, some, perhaps, fearing loss of market share. Disruption and innovation opportunities from the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Industrie 4.0 frameworks give automation and controls vendors an opportunity to encourage connections and interoperability in ways that will quickly facilitate benefits, according to several end users and analysts at the ARC Advisory Group Industry Forum in February.

Disruptive thinking, changes, and innovation are required for large leaps. Incremental changes produce incremental results, explained Luke Williams, New York University (NYU) Stern School of Business, clinical associate professor of marketing, and executive director at the W.R. Berkley Innovation Lab. Williams, who spoke at the A3 Business Forum, also in February in Orlando, described disruptive thinking as a process that needs to be treated as rigorously as deliberate discontinuity: 1) Craft a disruptive hypothesis; 2) define a disruptive market opportunity; 3) generate disruptive ideas; 4) shape a disruptive solution; and 5) make a disruptive pitch.

Global views on IIoT and Industrie 4.0 follow [ONLINE SAY: are found in March Control Engineering] representing disruptive opportunities for greater investment in automation where it makes sense, in more connectivity and real-time analytics to get useful information where needed for smarter decisions, and in digital manufacturing for greater simulation, collaboration, efficiencies, and optimization. How? 

Be disruptive, innovate

Let go of the idea that you can succeed by reacting. It’s better to be the disrupter, Williams suggested. Lead the disruption. Never has there been a better time to try new things and to re-arrange things in your business, Williams said. In times of uncertainty, companies often return to the old ways, but not moving quickly enough can be hazardous, he said. Ask Nokia, Motorola, and Blackberry about smartphones. Ask Blockbuster about streaming video. Ask a taxi driver about Uber.

"Traditional suppliers have to be nontraditional, or there are others who will help," said Andy Chatha, ARC president. "We critically need innovation. If the automation industry doesn’t provide it, others will." Chatha said that one-third of the ARC Forum audience was attending for the first time, and many are trying to be the disruptors in industry, where the money is.

Don Bartusiak, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering, chief engineer process control, said ExxonMobil is working with Lockheed Martin and other industry participants to define a more open control system, with a plan to deploy in 2019. This isn’t a custom effort, but something that should deliver benefits to all.

Sandy Vasser, ExxonMobil Development, facilities I&E manager added, "We have to make big changes; we have no choice." The hope is that working with suppliers will bring about disruptive, beneficial changes more quickly.

Michael Carroll, Georgia Pacific, vice president innovation and operational excellence, noted the need to not let prior knowledge be the enemy of what may be next. He said there’s more at risk for those who choose not to participate than those who do.

Technology spending for IIoT and Industrie 4.0 are being accepted to a greater degree, Bartusiak observed; it’s increasingly understood that related investments will deliver "a prize at the end of the day."

Most innovation of the next 10 years, Williams said, won’t be driven by what drove the last 80 years. Think again if you believe old methods can suffice. Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media, mhoske@cfemedia.com.

ONLINE extra

See additional images and more information in the articles linked below.

Automation vendors: Connect and interoperate, or someone else will—
Automation and controls vendors need to connect and interoperate in ways that will quickly facilitate benefits touted by the Industrial Internet of Things and Industrie 4.0 frameworks, or other suppliers will make automation functions increasingly irrelevant, according to several end users and analysts at the ARC Advisory Group’s 20th Industry Forum. 

Engineers: Be disruptive in thinking, innovation—To really move ahead of the pack in engineering, encourage disruptive thinking. A lot is gained by creating new markets; little is gained by promoting incremental improvements, noted Luke Williams, New York University (NYU) Stern School of Business, at the A3 Business Forum.

Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.