The IoT (Internet of Things) is and has always been rife with growing pains. A 2017 Cisco survey of IT and business decisionmakers in manufacturing, government, retail, energy, transportation, and healthcare showed that 60% of IoT initiatives stalled at the proof-of-concept stage. These initiatives just didn’t quite have legs, sometimes due to a lack of IoT expertise. In the IIoT (industrial IoT) arena, one growing pain industrial business leaders frequently identify with is not having success scaling IoT projects, which may have to do in part with legacy devices and software.

The IIoT market, according to research firm MarketsandMarkets, is projected to reach $91.4 billion by 2023, which is up from $64 billion in 2018. Manufacturing is expected to hold a large and growing share of this market, in part because the push for smarter factories is encouraging the increased and continued adoption of IIoT technologies. The fourth industrial revolution or Industry 4.0 promises to enhance industries like manufacturing through smart and autonomous systems and, of course, data.

Even those industrial businesses that have heard all about the benefits of smart factories and the IIoT and have begun implementations may not be able to quite achieve the desired results. For many, scaling the investment across the entire enterprise is one of the top hurdles, if not the top hurdle. It’s a common story—one a recent research study vetted via a survey of respondents at large manufacturing companies, particularly in the heavy industry and automotive sectors, and a corresponding results analysis.

Software AG’s survey suggests that for a majority of manufacturers, IIoT investments are limited to one sector or department within the organization. As a result, these businesses are missing out on the full benefits of Industry 4.0. They may also fall behind the innovation curve as competitors figure out how to scale and more fully implement IIoT technologies across the enterprise. Manufacturers aren’t in the dark on this point. Eight in 10 respondents agreed that if their processes around IIoT platforms aren’t optimized, they will face a competitive disadvantage. Considering most of them aren’t optimizing their platforms, though, this may be easier said than done.

One of the key painpoints for manufacturers, according to the survey, is integrating IT (information technology) with OT (operations technology). More than half (57%) of automotive manufacturers, for instance, replied that difficulties with IT-OT integration has kept them from realizing the full potential and ROI (return on investment) of their IIoT investments. Software AG suggests manufacturers follow a set of five best practices when scaling their IIoT investments. These best practices include ensuring clear collaboration between IT and the business, creating a transparent rollout process and keeping all plants and departments on schedule, and putting systems in place so that plant and field-service workers can work relatively autonomously thanks to analytics and centralized batch device connectivity and management.

As the era of smart factories continues to dawn, manufacturers and other industrial businesses trying to maximize IIoT solutions also face questions about safety, security, and the socioeconomic implications of increased automation in factories and beyond. To learn more about how emerging technologies like AI (artificial intelligence) are prompting ethics discussions, read this month’s feature article.

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