Industrial Internet Now

New renaissance in manufacturing

Smart manufacturing is changing the way we look at automation and manual work. Gary Mintchell, an acclaimed writer, advisor and speaker on technology and manufacturing, shares his views on what are the pros and cons of the digitalization that is currently revolutionizing manufacturing. What will be the role of humans in the process of manufacturing goods?

Mintchell views the development as a natural part of evolution in industrialization. People have always tried to lighten the burden of manual labor with technical solutions and innovations. This has freed their time to focus on other things and has also made work more secure.

“What we are really doing is making things safer – we have removed people from potentially dangerous locations in various sides of manufacturing, for instance in painting and automotive plants. We have always focused on an ergonomic way of doing things in order to prevent repetitive stress syndrome and all that. Current technological developments allow us to focus on how we can further use things like robotics, working alongside people, to make processes more effective and, furthermore, how we can have people and technology working together safely.”

New types of jobs will emerge

With smart manufacturing reducing the need for human labor, some jobs will probably vanish – but new ones should also emerge. The challenge with this is that we don’t yet know what those future jobs could be. Mintchell thinks that new types of employment come from the visionary people that develop new products and services, of which we may not know about today. On the other hand there are actually a lot of jobs that require people skills or relationship skills. That is likely to stay that way.

“I think that people will be displaced from one kind of work and hopefully they will be put into another kind of work that is more human. Work that requires more of the entire human being – not just their hands or their back.”

What will smart analytics mean for manufacturing businesses’ efficiency or their supply production chains? Well, those are also going through a paradigm shift. By harvesting all the data in a plant it is possible to monitor the performance in real time, noticing what works and what doesn’t minute-by-minute. No more monthly reporting that lets you know what happened in the past when it’s already too late to change it. Smart analytics can help reduce the very costly stoppage times and provide better tools for planning all turnarounds and downtime in plants.

“Maintenance people are learning that there is this existing technology in their plants that they didn’t know about that has the ability to monitor things and stop wasting time. No more sending people off to lubricate some bearings or replace some valve just because it’s always been done every five years – no matter whether it actually needs to be done or not. Less money and time wasted.”

Helping and empowering people to adopt new tools

The biggest hurdle with these smart analytics is that people might not know how to use them. Properly capitalizing on industrial internet requires a change in human behavior. This won’t happen overnight.

“It’s about how we can help people become better business managers. How we can use these technologies for business problems, not just for control problems.”

It takes some time and effort to motivate people and explain the advantages of the tools at hand. Unfortunately there are even examples where the technology is there but it has been deliberately switched off because people still believe they can spot things better with their own eyes than with the help of technology. The innovations can’t help you if you don’t let them.

“There is, for example, a technology called HART (Highway Addressable Remote Transducer). Many of the instruments in plants are enabled by HART which is a digital technology over an analog signal. Some people are only using the old fashioned analog signal and have not even turned on the digital part that would provide valuable information to them.”

One way of getting people to use the technology is improving the user interface. According to Mintchell, a lot of effort is being put towards this as we speak. Overall, it has a lot to do with our willingness to try and learn new things and open our eyes to the possibilities of the new era.

“It’s about how we can help people become better business managers. How we can use these technologies for business problems, not just for control problems. Instead of thinking about automation as the end, automation is just a platform where we can control things better and enable people to make the appropriate decisions. I think we are on the verge of a new renaissance in manufacturing.”

Gary Mintchell works as an advisor and speaker. He is also the editor of The Manufacturing Connection:

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Interview w/ Gary Mintchell

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CIOs can help to integrate technology into decision-making

Integrating innovative thinking on all stages of company management requires a new level of technology-savvy capability. A CIO could be in the position to facilitate driving technology all the way to the board and upper management. Hunter Muller, President and CEO of the CIO network HMG Strategy, LLC, proposes that companies should open the doors for their CIOs to truly become CEOs of technology and lead companies towards the future.

Innovation in, for example, manufacturing companies usually takes place in product development and processes inside different business areas or units. Hunter Muller from HMG Strategy, LCC, firmly believes that managing progressive technologies should not only happen on this level, rather it should be relevant all the way up to the top of the company.

“Everyone can innovate, and moving forward does not always result in the development of a new shiny object. Innovation happens at the core of the company when people, chains and business units interact, and the role of the C-suite should be to elevate those core initiatives. In my view, it has to be driven by the CEO and the C-suite, because otherwise innovation can be continually intermediated, cut down or even cut off”, Muller argues.

Especially now during the emergence of the industrial internet, taking technological issues into consideration when making important decisions would be in the best interest of an industrial company. This requires the willingness to transform the company – and giving the CIO a bigger role in compiling the company’s overall strategy would not be a bad idea either.

“The CIO must become the CEO of technology in order to facilitate, lead and enable true innovation. The industrial internet and IoT are largely about innovation and including customers representing different fields and markets in the innovation process. Companies that find a CIO who is equipped with interpersonal skills and can think like a CEO are going to win today, tomorrow and in the future.”

In the people business

Muller emphasizes that in order to propel technology-savvy thinking to reach a company’s management, certain renovations must be made. This requires the right people and the CIO should have a key role in the process.

“To make changes to a company’s culture you need champions of innovation, but also virtual platforms and tools to ensure that new ideas can spread across the whole company.”

In Muller’s view, strategic personal interaction has a strong role in increasing the relevance of technology in the C-suite.

“It’s all about people, and if you are not invited to take part in the right strategic discussions it’s hard to place technology at the forefront. The CIO has to understand the markets and the culture of the C-suite. You have to dial into the company culture and see what works and what doesn’t, a view many CIO’s lack at the moment. Much of the strategy is handled by business executives, and the CIOs are usually more a part of the after plot.”

Many new qualities are required from a skillful CIO and enhancing their role in companies would most likely be very beneficial. According to Muller, however, some companies are finding it a challenge to enable this.

“Looking at the future of technology from the viewpoint of value-creation, competitive edge and leadership style, there has never been a brighter moment in the history of business.”

“The CIO must be confident in and conversant with the latest technologies in the context of what matters to the business. They have a unique view across the enterprise and are able to see where all of the data, processes and people are. The CEO would like nothing more than to see the CIO take care of a whole strategic piece to help drive innovation. However, things like sensor technology and IoT are likely beyond the CIO’s reach, because he or she is often just keeping things running in terms of the core business and transactional systems.”

New management approaches

In order for a CIO to succeed, they also need the right talent behind them, Hunter Muller argues.

“Industrial internet has huge implications towards talent recruitment and poses a big task for companies. Companies across the globe are searching for talent specializing in new technology. It’s a long and tough road ahead for a CIO if he doesn’t find the right kind of people.”

Even though Muller considers that there are still a few obstacles barring access for CIOs inside companies to harness their full potential, he has a positive view of the future.

“Looking at the future of technology from the viewpoint of value-creation, competitive edge and leadership style, there has never been a brighter moment in the history of business. It really comes down to the CEOs responsibility and allowing the CEO of technology to be a key executive. As I see it, at the end of the day, the dusty old automotive or insurance companies will eventually be technology companies.”

Hunter Muller is the President and CEO of HMG Strategy, LLC, the fastest growing provider of innovative thought leadership and networking events for CIOs and senior IT executives. Hunter is a globally respected IT strategist with more than 25 years of experience in IT leadership consulting and research.

HMG Strategy is the world’s foremost provider of pioneering networking events and thought leadership to support the 360-degree needs of the CIO/IT leader. The HMG Strategy global network of more than 80,000 senior IT executives, industry experts and world class thought leaders is the strongest and most trusted network of executives in the world.

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Interview w/ Hunter Muller

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Augmented reality enables a new way of working

The technology called augmented reality (AR) refers to a live, direct or indirect, view of a real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as video or graphics. The technology has been utilized in mobile devices for some time now, but now with wearable technologies including optical head-mounted displays, AR is making its way into industrial environments. Olli-Pekka Nieminen, Senior Innovation Specialist at Konecranes takes a look at the key benefits AR wearables will bring to the factory floors and warehouses.

We have probably all assembled furniture using instructions and thought it would be a one-hour task. Then, after three hours when we have finally finished, we find ourselves still left with a few nuts and bolts. If we could get the instructions in front of our eyes in 3D, we could really see which piece goes where and the task would be an easier one. And, of course, more fun.

The ability to work freely using your both hands is a big advantage. Even though we are able to read instructions from paper, a smartphone or a tablet, there really isn’t any other solution enabling work with both hands than the wearable technology. But how does one navigate without clicking? Operating the glasses is based on the movement of the head or eyes. You can also navigate using voice commands, or in some models, using a separate touch pad.

In the future we will also see gesture-based controlling and virtual keyboards as methods of operating things. One possible development is also the integration of smart watches with AR glasses, where the menu options would be controlled on the smart watch, which would then project information on the AR glasses.

But what sort of possibilities does this technology bring to everyday businesses?

One of the benefits of AR technology includes sales. Using wearable augmented reality enabling eyeglasses, you can virtually bring the product or the equipment to the clients’ premises. Applications that allow you to model furniture through AR in your home already exist.

The potential in customer service is intriguing as well. For instance, a stewardess on a flight is able to get detailed information through her eyeglasses about the passengers with special needs or requests on board.

Equally, house renovations could be planned utilizing 3D-models and augmented reality software. Architects could also depict how a house would look like in a certain landscape. A retail store can plan the placement of products inside a store. When purchasing a new car, the technology enables us to test how a particular fabric or color would look like on the dashboard. The sales person is also able to bring additional information about a car directly in front of the potential buyer’s eyes.

In industrial environments, such as factories, the AR technology enables planning changes in the layout, location of the machinery or simulating material flows in a new way. A production manager on the factory floor is able to get detailed information on the capacity and condition of the machinery right on the glasses just by looking at the equipment. Or if there is a fault, you can get the fault codes and the exact location of the fault right in front of your eyes. The possibilities are immense.

AR in industrial environments

Warehouse picking and maintenance are the key areas in industrial environments where AR can be utilized.

In the picking process, warehouse workers can be instructed where certain units are and they can sign for them instantly. When there is a QR code or a bar code, the application recognizes a certain unit and its information just by scanning it.

The key benefit of AR in warehousing is speed. It enables the right information at the right time and place, as well as reporting at the same time. It also reduces the costs caused by faults, which occur when, for instance, the wrong product gets delivered

This enables better operation. It all comes down to recognizing and scanning a product and providing instructions for next actions. All of this enables working more effectively and with less training when conducting inventories.

The key benefit of AR in warehousing is speed. It enables the right information at the right time and place, as well as reporting at the same time. It also reduces the costs caused by faults, which occur when, for instance, the wrong product gets delivered. It lowers the risk of sending the client the wrong product. It is also possible that this technology improves the circulation in warehouses. The AR technology will also shorten the amount of training that is needed to achieve a certain level of competence. In a nutshell, the preciseness of the work, quality of reporting and employee satisfaction all improve, while the amount of errors reduces.

The possibility for augmented reality also enables better maintenance. When a fault occurs, the maintenance person puts on his or her glasses, opens a video connection to a back office expert who can pinpoint the fault in the equipment and give instructions for any necessary actions. The expert sees the same things that the maintenance person does and they can co-operate. Of course, this doesn’t mean that just anybody with AR glasses can conduct maintenance or that the need for skillful maintenance personnel will reduce. AR technology supports the maintenance personnel, it does not replace them.

Guidelines can be imported to machine operators, such as how a certain operation can be carried out in the most efficient manner or what is the next job in the queue. Machine performance data can also be brought to the operators’ vision scope, which would show whether the machine is operated inside allowed limits and what its current settings are. This would improve both safety and productivity in industrial environments.

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Olli-Pekka Nieminen

Olli-Pekka Nieminen works as Senior Innovation Specialist at Konecranes

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Big data: a key factor at the beginning of the supply chain

Big data can create huge business benefits in process industries – but for this to happen, your organization needs to understand the impact and the transformation that is needed. Jacqui Taylor, CEO of FlyingBinary, explains why people are the key for the Internet of Things (IoT).

“Material handling is a key factor in process industries, such as steel or automotive, because it is at the beginning of the supply chain. In order to reap the benefits of IoT, you first have to plant the data seed”, Jacqui Taylor begins.

In order to make the best use of IoT in a sector like this, it is important to understand your organization and how ready it is to embrace IoT. In order to gain the value from IoT, it is important to understand data. How data literate is your organization? How mature are you at handling data and driving the value from data? These are important issues to consider.

“Data is a key resource, but having data doesn’t get you anywhere. Lots of companies will tell you that they’re drowning in data, but they have no information. What you’re doing with the data is the key”.

One component of that is sensor data and the immediacy it allows, for example by creating live data streams and basing key decisions on that data. This change is essential to reap the benefits for material handling and the transformation of the supply chain, because it helps in understanding the heartbeat of processes and contains the key to delivering the efficiencies of real-time data streams.

Big data technology can also deliver evidence of the challenges that are currently unknown in an organization, it will highlight the key areas of focus to gain maximum benefits for moving into this new arena. This allows a board to change strategy and to drive innovation, Taylor says.

Articulating the art of the possible

Big data also starts to transform the organization.

“People are the key. You have an organization that is set up to do one thing, and that legacy has set up the current supply chain, however people understand the inefficiencies of this and with data can use their domain knowledge to spot the opportunities for change, once they have the data. Ultimately sensors and the changes for IoT need to be embedded across the supply chain, but you can’t change all of this at once, but you can’t ignore it either, data allows you to select the best area of focus”, Taylor says.

To create the change that is needed, people need an understanding of which direction to take and why. This comes down to changing mindsets and being able to articulate what is possible to achieve, with the help of big data technology.

“Data is a key resource, but having data doesn’t get you anywhere. Lots of companies will tell you that they’re drowning in data, but they have no information. What you’re doing with the data is the key”

“You choose wisely where you start and what you do, and you do it with confidence. It’s not only about the process in the organization itself and what you’re creating with materials, but also your impact on the ongoing supply chain. The technology on its own is there, but the question is what can do with it and how you’re going to explain the impact and the transformation that is needed in the organization. So it’s a strategic approach more than something that is missing”.

Change can of course confuse or scare people. Therefore Taylor suggests starting with a pilot plan to create an understanding of what is possible. Looking at a specific project or proof of concept, the understanding then goes into the organization of the challenge that has been solved and the opportunity that exists.

“If you enable people to understand, then they will take those steps – not everybody, you do need the right people to make this transition. If we’re going to change something, you need to understand why. But if we don’t understand what the problem we’re solving is, change won’t be transformative”.

Moving towards results

If you understood what the possibilities were, and the competitive advantages this brings, organizations would rush to do them. To put this in context, Hollywood current invests in a movie with a return of x 3 for every dollar invested. Our clients have evidenced that for every £1 invested in this approach the return is between £2 and £40. Taylor explains.

“Officially, now we’re in a world where we have done digital, and the industrial internet is next. Those people who are going to lead this whole concept will rise above the competition in all sectors by having game changing access to and understanding of the data for the industrial internet. You can’t underestimate the importance material handling will have in this, because it is the beginning of the supply chain. The companies that are involved in this sector have a huge opportunity to make a difference”.

According to Taylor, using big data technology to construct the supply chain in a new way allows you to put your focus on the customer in a way that has never been possible before.

“For example, manufacturing is a global business, and with IoT and Big Data across the supply chain it is possible to understand the bottlenecks and opportunities which exist for any product being manufactured anywhere in the world. Using data from sensors through the production process would mean any delay in the delivery components or raw materials, or an extreme weather event would enable supply chain data to be re configured, allowing pre-production and production processes to be moved to new schedules, “inflight“.

“Whilst there is an opportunity to use big data across many sectors such as construction and advanced manufacturing the fact that you can say, as a material handler, what’s possible and what’s not, is because you’re at the beginning of the supply chain, the rest of the supply chain can’t do that. This makes a material handling business responsive, and it allows for big data to really start delivering on its promise for organizations ready to embrace this paradigm shift”.

The downside of this new approach is that it means using different technologies than those the organization is familiar with. This is not necessarily a problem – it just shows that there needs to be a shared understanding in the organization that in order to get to the benefits, you need big data technologies, Taylor says.

And this, again, brings the people into the spotlight.

Jacqui Taylor is the founder and CEO of FlyingBinary, a web science company that changes the world with data.

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Interview w/ Jacqui Taylor


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Video: Machinery becomes aware of its own condition

The key difference that the industrial internet makes, is that it brings machinery alive, says Juha Pankakoski, CDO of Konecranes. It brings sensing and communicating capabilities to places where they’re not expected to be found. This enables the machinery to sense its own condition, understand the usage situation and support the user to carry out the operation more safely and productively. Click here to find out more on Juha Pankakoski’s thoughts on the industrial internet:

Interview w/ Juha Pankakoski


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  • Juha Pankakoski 23.04.2015 11:03

    Hi Ji,

    Thank you for your question. I think that every material handling company faces the need of skillful employees who understand digitalization. Traditional industries should also embrace a hint of startup mentality into their core operations. This being said, I’d say that the higher education institutes should prepare their students to be equipped with a set of skills that combine business- and technological know-how.

    There is a growing need for analytics experts, who can crush and structure data into information. There is a need for telco-, sensor- and automation experts, who understand the ongoing development in the market and its relevance for the company’s business. There is also need for mobile- and UX-experts, who can create illustrating and inspiring user experiences out of machine data.

    Besides recruiting new graduates, there is also a necessity in finding flexible ways to train further the existing business know-how inside companies. I’d say that there is a significant need for multitalented people, who can combine expertise from various different areas.

    Whatever the task at hand may be, the key to unlocking the benefits of the industrial internet is in understanding and utilizing the ever-growing amount of data.

    Kind regards,


  • Ji Shen 21.04.2015 13:13

    In order to develop and use this type of technology, how should the higher education institutes prepare their students to fit the job market?

    • Olli Nieminen 22.04.2015 13:35

      Hi Ji,

      good point. In my opinion, industrial internet is a cross-industrial opportunity and change between traditional machine- and Information -technologies and businesses. In other words, two worlds of businesses and technologies are converging.

      You are definitely right that, this leads to the challenge of finding more and more multi-skilled employees. I would say the most important issue for the higher education institutes is to prepare multi-skilled employees, which means that the person should have a strong core competence from one area (e.g. major in technical subject) and wide understanding of another area (e.g. minor from business related subject). Last but not least, the students should be able to analyze infromation, technologies and overall phenomenas both from the business and technology pespectives and acknowledge the significance of new phenomenas to organizations.

      Generally, I think this phenomena can be compared to the era of information society in general.

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