Automation Column IIoT

Change Requires Decisive IIoT Strategies

Grant Gerke | June 15, 2018

Besides the manufacturing disruption caused by all forms of IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) technology, enterprises are adjusting to new safety regulations, consumer behavioral shifts, new business channels, and a younger workforce. For example, craft-beer producers and the entire beverage industry are calibrating business strategies due to the disappearance of brand loyalty. According to craft-beer maker, Deschutes Brewery, Portland, OR (, consumers are constantly experimenting and looking for the next new beer.

As more IIoT pilot projects begin and management envisions a strategy five years out, companies are recognizing the importance of uniform processes, similar to a unified automation strategy across the enterprise. A 2017 report, Vision 2025, from PMMI Media, Reston, VA (, on consumer packaging goods (CPG), food-and-beverage companies states, “management wants to be able to combine strategies, processes, and tools to accelerate the institutionalization of operational best practices.” 

Many companies, as seen from the recent study and other industry case studies, are beginning their digitalization journey with predictive maintenance. A recent discussion panel on digitalization trends at the Siemens 2018 Manufacturing in America Conference in Detroit, Todd Slater, manager and designer at Amway, Ada, MI (, discussed how better monitoring provides critical insights for new equipment purchases. 

“When data monitoring locks on to older production equipment, companies ask the right questions,” said Slater. Amway started monitoring aging equipment and realized fixing, tuning, and patching pieces together on legacy equipment wasn’t efficient.”

Actionable plant data is having a ripple effect on not only legacy equipment replacement but changing processes within an enterprise and instilling a more responsive approach to plant decisions. “Companies need ‘buy-in’ from production teams using the system—they need to be involved in the entire process,” stated Charlie Sheets, master engineer at system integrator Matrix Technologies Inc., Maumee, OH (, during the CPG and food panel discussion.

The challenge for many companies just starting on this IIoT journey is real-time data for decision-making. “We don’t want operators and maintenance teams spending all day gathering information and not focusing on production,” said Patrick Zambon, controls engineer at Founders Brewing Co., Grand Rapids, MI ( The information needs to be available at production meetings so personnel can have good analytics and decisions are being made based on actual equipment data.”

Zambon also added that the younger workforce expects digitalization to be part of the decision-making process and is one of the key attributes for manufacturing companies to offer when recruiting the younger generation of workers. EP




Grant Gerke

Grant Gerke

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