The vast majority of industrial equipment today is still
standalone and manually operated. Cisco estimates that
only 0.6 percent of physical objects that could be connected
to Io T are currently gathering and streaming data. But inside
the manufacturing world, there has been a 300 percent
increase in the number of connected machines over the past
The potential benefits of deploying the Industrial Internet
of Things (IIo T) are significant for manufacturers. A connect-
ed and automated factory can decrease downtime, increase
output and quality, all while reducing labor costs. The bene-
fits also extend to the suppliers of capital equipment used in
manufacturing who can be the enablers of the IIo T. Consider
• Introducing equipment data tracking, remote equipment
service, and predictive failure analysis can improve prod-
uct reliability and minimize downtime.
• Acting on this information in real time can boost customer return on investment (ROI) through productivity and
• Automating the operation of equipment can result in
lower customer labor costs and increased manufacturing
• Leveraging the knowledge gained from 24/7 connectivity
can ultimately increase long-term market share through
product performance improvements.
By remotely tracking data, capital equipment suppliers
can offer more value to customers by always knowing
what’s happening and why, and being able to diagnose and
fix problems over the Internet instead of the more time-consuming and costly approach of sending a repair person.
Suppliers also can use this data to improve their next-gener-ation machines.
These benefits aren’t hypothetical. The first generation of
smart factories is experiencing them now. Earlier this year,
Intel reported that connecting their assembly and testing
equipment for semiconductor chips to the cloud resulted
in a 2X improvement of their mean time between failures
(MTBF) metric – the statistical benchmark for a hardware
In Amberg, Germany, Siemens’ 100,000-plus square-foot
factory makes automated industrial equipment for manufacturing giants such as BASF, Bayer, Daimler, and BMW.
The facility is now 75 percent automated with machinery
able to retrieve and assemble components with little
As more multinational companies migrate their manufacturing plants from China to the United States, pursuing
more automated production lines to offset high labor costs
is becoming the norm. In 2014, Apple invested a record
$10.5 billion in robotics and automated equipment to make
and test its iPhones, iPads, and other gadgets in the U.S.
Deer in the Headlights
Capital equipment suppliers realize their world is dramati-
cally changing and know that their customers are – or soon
will be – demanding full connectivity and automation for
many types of machines on the manufacturing floor. They
see that their customers’ needs are evolving, yet it is not so
easy to shift gears. For starters, there are no universal con-
nectivity standards for the manufacturing floor. Nearly two
dozen competing software platforms assert they are the best
Intelligent Manufacturing solution. Complicating matters is
that legacy equipment with long lifespans employs a multi-
tude of different connectivity protocols.
Faced with this chaotic situation, many suppliers of industrial equipment are frozen in their tracks as they ponder two
1. Wait for a potential customer to specify their preferred
automated interface as part of the purchase requirements, requiring a large engineering effort with a tight
delivery timetable that would result in a one-off solution
for that particular customer.
2. Pre-emptively pick a solution to standardize on and
develop an interface to the IIo T based on that solution,
ignoring the odds that a customer may choose a different
software standard or platform.
Adopt a Proactive Approach
There is a third option that capital equipment suppliers
may not have considered. Suppliers can develop their own
interface that is independent of the connectivity standards
being used by potential customers. Some suggested ele-
• Aggregate the equipment control and data collection
into a separate layer of the system architecture creating
an “abstraction layer.” This will enable the equipment to
adapt to any communication solution/platform that a cus-
tomer may deploy.
• Include a data and control port in the interface that can
remotely collect data and provide remote diagnostics.
• Include an application programming interface (API) so
that third-party integrators can buy your equipment and
integrate it into automated work cells.
Offering up your API flips the current process on its
head. It empowers manufacturers to stop guessing what
customers will choose for a platform and gives them their
interface specifications instead. The customer can then
bring in a systems integrator to make the two systems
compatible. At bare minimum, this approach gives suppliers a huge head start in creating connectivity rather than
be held hostage to working with multiple systems at the
whim of the customer.
The promise and potential benefits of the Industrial
Internet of Things are real and accessible to all. The biggest
obstacle for many equipment suppliers is likely insufficient
experience and expertise on how to leverage the IIo T in new
systems – and also a lack of expertise on how to retrofit
legacy equipment for connectivity. Leveraging the right technology and product development partner can help manufacturers proactively prepare to meet customers’ needs and
anticipate what they’ll want tomorrow.
Competition in the capital equipment market is intense,
and getting a jump in IIo T connectivity is critical to keeping and increasing your market share. More machines than
ever before are talking on the factory floor. As the growing
demand for more intelligent systems dramatically expands
the Industrial Internet of Things, you can’t afford to be left
out of the conversation. PDD