Q&A: State of IoT Adoption

Keith Higgins, Rockwell Automation

Q&A with Keith Higgins, VP of Digital Transformation, Rockwell Automation.

IoT Business News: What is the current state of IoT/IIoT adoption?

Keith Higgins, Rockwell Automation: Scaling digital transformation efforts, including IIoT, is a key priority for organizations that are seeking to continuously improve their digital transformation efforts. In 2019, there was a 400% growth in the successful movement of digital transformation projects past the initial implementation stage. As digitization projects continue to mature in 2020, organizations will shift their objectives away from exploring the primary benefits of data-driven solutions to achieving a firm grasp on how digitization projects like IIoT deployments will help them to scale smart factory initiatives.

What makes manufacturing-focused industries prime for successful digital transformation initiatives? What are the top use cases?

Keith Higgins: Manufacturing customers and trading partners are increasingly requiring their suppliers and partners to possess real-time, end-to-end visibility of operations, as well as the ability to contribute to an agile supply chain. Digital transformation initiatives and use cases enable manufacturers to take a calculated, scalable approach to smart manufacturing implementations to meet these rigorous production and supply chain optimization goals. Identifying and prioritizing which specific digital transformation use cases are most critical to a manufacturer will enable them to achieve the highest ROI for their digital transformation investments. Most manufacturers find that asset optimization, scalable production management, real-time operational intelligence and improving digital workforce productivity are key to their competitive differentiation in the digitized age.

How critical is IT/OT integration? Why?

Keith Higgins: The primary factor when it comes to IT/OT integration is identifying the context surrounding factory floor data and using that context to help OT teams better understand the insights provided by factory floor data. For example, if a sensor simply reports that a machine is overheating, the OT team has no context surrounding the temperature data of that machine or what caused it to overheat. As 2020 progresses, the value of OT context surrounding shop floor data will become apparent as OT and IT teams collaborate and analyze shared data – allowing manufacturers to increase workforce productivity and performance, as well as optimize assets to execute production with accurate predictions gleaned from data.

One of the main concerns for industrial organizations is the growing skills shortage. Can digital transformation address this challenge?

Keith Higgins: Modern technology, such as augmented reality (AR), which are enabled by digital transformation, allow manufacturers to gain competitive advantages when it comes to recruiting, training and onboarding new employees. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the stay-at-home mandates that accompany it, we’ve already seen manufacturers speed up their implementation of AR solutions to train and reskill employees as they pivot their production lines to answer the call for personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators. These digitized, AR-powered training programs enable workers to develop specific skill sets in the manufacturing industry with high precision, while improving operational productivity, safety and significantly impacting labor costs. This shift in training practices demonstrates digital transformation’s ability to increase productivity, tighten production schedules, maximize revenue, and ensure worker safety.

About the author: Keith Higgins is Vice President of Digital Transformation at Rockwell Automation. He previously served as Vice President at FogHorn and CMO at RiskVision until its acquisition in 2017. Higgins was also an executive at Symphony Teleca Corporation, an IoT and connected services company, where he played an integral role in the doubling the company’s revenue leading to a nearly $1 billion acquisition by Harman.

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