Industry 4.0 adoption started with OEMs. Motors are a perfect example. As data-driven momentum began to build, motor manufacturers introduced ways to pipe data to their cloud, providing a single dashboard to monitor the performance of all motors. Monitor usage hours, temperature, vibration, and current consumption of your mechanical systems, and use that data to predict when the motor needs to be replaced. Wonderful, truly.

Then your vision system did the same. Now you have a stream of vision data flowing into a cloud-hosted, machine learning application that improves system performance, and you have a second dashboard to monitor.

Then the manufacturer of your drive introduced their own cloud space. In the hopes of improving the lifetime of your drives, you begin to monitor a third dashboard.

Then your PLC manufacturer, your power monitor, your circuit protection device, and your HMI - all introduce their own ‘data analytics’ platform that promises to enable your Digital Transformation and usher your company into Industry 4.0.

They’ve also introduced a tremendous burden. An OEM’s data analytics initiatives differ from those of their machine builder partners and the end-users who will ultimately install the machine. An OEM wants to monitor individual assets to improve performance and predict failure. A machine builder monitors holistic performance to optimize their system. An end-user might monitor machine data to automate consumable parts ordering, improve their throughput, and more effectively manage their production environment.

Getting the necessary data from each OEM’s silo, requires lots of work and continuous engagement from anyone who wants it. While this model has proven effective for the OEMs who own the data lakes, it’s been cumbersome at best for the machine builders and end-users hoping to use the data. This is a mezzanine stop on the way to Digital Transformation.

Along the way of digital transformation

Fully realized digital transformation requires breaking down data siloes. Each player along the way has their initiatives and therefore requires their own data lake. Rather than a game of data telephone (remember the game where you whisper a message in your friend’s ear, they whisper that message to the next person, and on down the line until the message becomes so warbled, it’s unrecognizable?), each stakeholder needs direct, secure access to grab the relevant data to their contextual pool.

This requires future-proof, scalable infrastructure with reliable cybersecurity and an openness to communicate agnostically with all software, hardware, protocols, and platforms. Legacy systems that depend on communication drivers and restrict integrations to those applications for which they are specifically built stunt a company’s data-driven growth. Digital transformation is about improving lives, not complicating them. Build your digital ecosystem to solve today’s problems AND prepare for tomorrow’s technology.

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Blog post is written by Skylar Dhaese - OT Network engineer helping integrators and manufacturers monetize their digital transformation.