System integrators helping manufacturers prepare and adopt IIoT

Get tips on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), what it means for manufacturing as a whole, and how system integrators can help in the process from CFE Media’s interviews of three representatives from the 2017 System Integrators of the Year. See video.

By Chris Vavra January 10, 2017

CFE Media interviewed three representatives from the 2017 System Integrators of the Year—Abhijit Jog, vice president of projects, Panacea Technologies; Shawn Campion, president, Integro Technologies; and Jack Woelber, president, Interstates Control Systems—about their views on these topics as well as what they see in the future for their companies, for integrators, and for manufacturing.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is an important strategy for manufacturing. What are your customers starting to talk to you about with IIoT, and how are you reaching out to them?

  • Jog: "Our customers have shown a lot of interest in the IIoT. We have seen a lot of interest in it but we are still in the preliminary design phase for a lot of these projects and we’re asking them to proceed with a little caution until the IIoT security aspects and other aspects are worked out." ·
  • Campion: "A majority of the discussions we have are at a very high level with the chief intelligence officer (CIO) of the companies to work through various security options and how we can penetrate firewalls to gain that information and also gather it and do this statistical analysis."
  • Woelber: "We’re seeing the same thing and in addition to that the market is just continuing to expand and we’re seeing a lot more around that so we’ve taken on some opportunities to do some R&D around the IIoT space and as that market matures and hopefully we can help our customers with what makes sense for them to get involved in and what doesn’t and maybe what technology they can use to make it beneficial for them."

Security seems to be the linchpin in how IIoT adoption will occur. What do you see is the next step in this process once we get past talking about security and how quickly should it happen?

  • Woelber: "For Interstates, we actually have a group that deals with cybersecurity and that is a big issue for us and so as we continue to gather all this data and figure out where to store and being able to keep that information secure within the organization that they have is going to be critical so we think the infrastructure within the facility is going to be critical for the input for the cybersecurity piece of that." 

A lot of the technologies needed for the IIoT are things you already have on the plant floor. It’s a question of how you utilize them. How fast should it happen in manufacturing?

  • Campion: "I believe it can happen very quickly. I think it comes down to the capital expenditures they want to do for a given year. In our case, being a machine vision integrator, the image storage we require for the data storage is much more substantial than other types of data collection methodologies, so our investments are much higher. I think for core data acquisition for your number crunching, it can happen within a year’s time and be fully instrumented within a facility if they make that commitment."

Do you think the cloud has been one of the game changers here around the IIoT and what are the potential risks?

  • Jog: "The cloud is the game changer, but the concerns are around the IIoT devices that people are putting out. In the manufacturing environment, it’s not some website going down. We have people who depend on us for the infrastructure, for the electricity and it’s important for us to protect and it’s our responsibility to do so." 

There are external security threats, but there are also some internal threats to security that happen with the IIoT with so many smart devices and so many tablets available whether they come from the company or from the outside. There’s a lot of security risk there.

  • Jog: "Yes, and are the devices themselves secure? With all these manufacturers putting IIoT devices out, even if one device in your network field has the potential to bring down the whole networking and in the manufacturing industry, that would result in disastrous consequences." 

Integrators’ role is to be an advisor and mentor to manufacturers. What role should integrators play as a whole as we move down this road toward IIoT?

  • Campion: "We work in a variety of different industries, so as we move through these different industries we sort of adopted practices from each one and try to generate our own best practices. I think we’re trying to work through this early adoption phase of some of these companies and then progress into more as the standards become documented." 

How can you really help your end users get comfortable with the idea of this much data and this much change in their manufacturing operation and then take it a step beyond that to implementation?

  • Woelber: "I think that’s where we can come in and help. I think there’s lots of companies that are gathering lots of data and then turning that into information. I think we can help with that on the data analytics side. The next step of that is how do they apply it to their business and we reference that as business analytics. We understand their industries at times, so how can we help them take that information, apply it to their business, and help them become more effective and efficient in the operations that they have?"  

Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media,


Key concepts

There is a lot of interest in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) from manufacturers, but also uncertainty.

Cybersecurity is a major concern regarding the IIoT. An internal or external breach can have major consequences for manufacturers.

System integrators can work as advisors and mentors and help manufacturers utilize the IIoT to its fullest potential.

Consider this

What impact do you think the IIoT will have on manufacturing in 2017?

ONLINE extra

Learn more from these representatives of the System Integrator of the Year firms for 2017. 

Read more about each System Integrator of the Year. 

Learn more about the 2016 System Integrator of the Year winners below.

Author Bio: Chris Vavra is web content manager for CFE Media and Technology.