IIoT projects: When mechanical engineering meets IT

Cloud, edge, IT and OT: When it comes to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), it’s not so easy to keep track of everything. Shopfloor and IT collide. What does that mean? It’s about transferring the knowledge of mechanical engineering to the digital world. It also means that experts who speak a different technical language have to communicate and move in a common direction in order to make IIoT projects a success.

For background: The cloud was designed for IT needs, but not for the Internet of Things. The particular challenge is to understand physically existing things in a production environment such as machine tools, driverless transport vehicles or even industrial robots as communication participants.

Production can’t wait for the mastermind in the cloud to work out an answer, or for communication from the cloud server on the other side of the world. This is where the Edge comes in. The Edge decentralizes cloud intelligence and is installed as hardware in the halls of a manufacturing company. After all, not all data has to make the long journey to the cloud. Local data processing is often quite sufficient. The goal is always to optimize processes.  

Machines, vehicles and robots: they are all communication participants in the Internet of Things. © iStock-869287090

What makes IIoT projects so complex

  • The project team must be interdisciplinary. IIoT projects are cross-sectional projects and only work across departments if IT specialists work together with OT specialists.
  • The people who work with the machines every day must be involved. They know best where optimization can be made. They also benefit the most from it.
  • Customers must be recognized as a fundamental part of the project team. Customer requirements are the focus. The market pull should be preferred to the technology push.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is where store floor and IT meet. It is about transferring the knowledge of mechanical engineering into the digital world.

Agile working and proper expectation management

  • Focusing on a use case does not lead to the goal. It’s best not to wait for the perfect use case, but to simply get started.
  • Proper expectation management is critical. Detached IIoT projects do not guarantee the next million-dollar revenue. They must be holistically anchored in the corporate strategy.
  • External project partners must be carefully selected. Too many parties do not always lead to the best solution.
  • Agile working is the tool of choice. IIoT projects cannot be squeezed into existing (product) development processes.

IIoT projects have neither beginning nor end

  • If IIoT projects are to be successful, investments must be made – in the know-how of the employees and in the production environments. Trying to do too much with existing resources will not succeed.
  • It needs the backing of the C-level
  • One important insight: IIoT projects have no beginning and no end. They are a journey.
  • The focus must be on proof-of-value, not proof-of-concept.
  • For industrial communication to succeed, industry standards such as OPC UA must be used.
Sharing information about IIoT projects helps the entire industry.

The good news is that many people are now familiar with the Industrial Internet of Things. There are numerous successful projects. Benefiting from the experience of others helps the entire industry.


Learn more about Digital transformation: Simple connection from the shopfloor to the cloud on the KUKA Blog. Join us for a look at an industry 4.0 showcase KUKA and SAP – Behind the scenes of a strong partnership.

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