As many businesses begin to realize the benefits of new IIoT technologies, including edge computing, to optimize their business performance, it’s easy to focus purely on the promise that these technologies bring. However, there are crucial considerations that every company must take into account before undergoing an IIoT deployment in order to avoid catastrophic — and often times expensive — mistakes. Below, I’ve outlined questions that companies should ask themselves when looking to succeed in undergoing an edge computing implementation.
What are our expectations with this effort? When purchasing devices and technology to modernize your environments, talk to your vendor about the level of support that is included. Oftentimes, it’s expected that this technology comes with unlimited 24/7 hardware support, but this isn’t always the case. Additionally, before deploying an edge computing platform, you need to understand the challenges that come with this type of technology. Be prepared to locate and access remote or hard-to-reach areas of your plant — this is where edge devices work best.
How should we communicate ownership in our transformation? A huge mistake that I’ve seen companies make is not communicating responsibilities in a clear way. Before you undergo a digital transformation project of any kind, it’s critical to include all teams that will be involved in deployment and implementation in these conversations, especially your IT and OT departments. You may even want to consider combining your OT and IT teams into a hybrid model to further streamline the process. And while IT teams are crucial, you cannot give them the sole responsibility of managing your plant’s edge computing implementation. It’s crucial that both OT and IT teams are involved since both of them are responsible for important — but different — operations related to your businesses success. Regardless, before your deploying a complex system of any kind, clear ownership and responsibilities need to be dictated and outlined in your plan. Problems arise quickly after implementation when there is no clear ownership at the plant level or when personnel lack technical training.
Do we have the support from both a staffing and a technology perspective to make this transition? On the people front, too often, I’ve seen manufacturers place a low importance on plant floor staff that are tasked with the day-to-day technical support of these complex technologies. This leads to high turnover rates among these positions, in addition to a loss of important knowledge that’s often difficult and time-consuming to retrain. On the technology side, unfortunately, there’s always the chance that your technology will face a disruption — whether it be a security breach or system crash. It’s important that you address these potential issues before they occur, making sure that support is in place if there’s a disruption that arises outside of traditional business hours.
In short, to avoid the most common pitfalls of an edge computing implementation, you need to follow three key steps: setting expectations, communicating responsibilities and establishing support. As with any IIoT implementation, it’s crucial to plan for expected events and disruptions, allowing for you to enjoy the benefits of this new technology without a worry.
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