There has been a great deal of conversation over the past several years about the power of the Internet of Things (IoT), and how it is going to improve lives and businesses by harnessing the power of data. While this all sounds great in theory, there is one critical piece of the puzzle that is often overlooked: the ability your employees have to effectively manage this process and actually realise the full potential of your investment. Depending upon the industry you are in, the impact of the IoT can vary greatly. Some will simply exist only on the periphery while other markets will be completely transformed.
According to Gartner, there will be nearly 26 billion connected devices by 2020, an increase of 30 fold over 2009. This is a mind boggling statistic on its own, but becomes even more overwhelming in asset-intensive industries such as manufacturing, oil and gas, chemicals, and power and utilities. Some of the critical questions that need to be asked and accounted for in asset-intensive industries include: What does the onslaught of connected machines and devices mean for the existing workforce? How will this alter the way they do their jobs and the way your facility is run? What is the plan to train the workforce to capture, manage and act upon all of the new data that is resulting from IoT investments?
The drivers of the IoT – cloud, big data and mobile technologies – bring with them required new skill sets and rapidly changing technology requirements that major industrial organisations in the U.S. and worldwide aren’t yet, or perhaps are incapable of, incorporating into their daily operations based on current workforce assets. The slower-than-ideal IoT adoption is largely due to limited educational resources available for employees, and the increasing skills gap between newer engineers and their more experienced counterparts.
There is no substitute for education and experience, so it is incumbent upon organisations to bridge the gap through a combination of training and technology. The training element instructs the workforce on what to do with the data once it’s in hand, while the technology automates the process of data collection and identifies potential problems while making recommendations on best practices and next steps. This combination allows organisations to speed the process toward IoT efficiency.
The whole idea behind the IoT is better connectivity, which provides access to data and gives the operator the entire picture. However, without the technology to capture this data or the skill to interpret and take action, it provides little benefit to the organisation. The goal of every asset intensive company is to make smarter, more strategic decisions on plant operations and safety. The information provided through the millions of sensors spread throughout your standard facility can provide the total picture that makes the decisions impossible.
In our haste to get to this point, we just need to remember that an educated workforce equals a productive workforce. By investing in the right technology and making training a priority, organisations can benefit from the power of IoT and reap the intended rewards sooner than later.
This blog published by the author Eddie Amos, CTO at Meridium