Digital transformation for huge potential business benefit uses the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Machine Learning (ML) combined. Like any technology or tool, they must be used correctly or the results you want will be elusive.
They are enablers of change, not drivers. The change you achieve is entirely up to you, the user. This is the first of a three-part series on the IIoT, AI, ML, and Digital Transformation.
What I find disconcerting, is that there is a lot of hype, typical of the high tech industries, and relatively few examples to prove the claims. I have a sense of “digital déjà vu”. While digital transformation for huge potential business benefit is entirely possible, today’s hype largely exceeds reality (at least for now). Caution is advised.
25 years ago, we went through a similar period of hype, only to be let down by technology’s promises. In fairness to the technology, much of the disappointment was with the implementation and the users, not the software. In fact, for years we have seen reports that 70% or more of technology implementations fail to deliver the desired results. And for years I have witnessed company after company putting perfectly capable software to poor use. Talk to just about anyone who does reliability work, and you’ll find that the data in maintenance management systems is simply unfit for their purposes without a lot of data cleansing and interviewing to fill in gaps. To this day we see the same thing over and over with increasingly complex and capable systems. We just can’t seem to get it right.
The tech actually works it’s we the users, who have a problem. We rarely want to admit that to anyone, even ourselves, so the software gets the blame. Aspects of the software probably deserve some blame, but the bulk of the problem is not with the software.
What’s going to be different with the IIoT, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence, then putting them together in some sort of “digital transformation”? “Skeptical me” thinks that nothing will be different except the tech that we fail to deploy and use properly. The same people must implement and use it. Little is happening that will change us and our ways.
Tech industry hype: This is always going to be something we need to see through. It’s great for letting us know something exists, beyond that it is just noise. The promise of tech is the same promise that can be made about a hammer. In the right hands, used as intended, it will do what it is designed to do. Use it for the wrong job or use it the wrong way, and it just doesn’t work well.
Advertising and seller claims make us aware, but then we must do our homework. If you buy a high performance sports car, most of us could jump in and drive it, and most of those who do that would very likely crash it. It takes skill and practice after being taught what it can do, and what you (the driver) needs to do to obtain the performance. Software and technology are much the same.
Solution or tool? New technology has a lot of promise. To those few who truly understand, it is a solution to some problem that is just aching to be solved. The salespersons talk about it like it solves all problems (well, maybe not all, but most). They always make it look highly capable to solve problems they know you probably have. What they fail to tell you is that the tech can’t solve anything on its own. It is not magic. It must be set up properly, you must learn to use it properly, and then you must use it properly.
If you view the tech as a “tool”, and realize that (like any tool) it requires some learning, skill, and practice to use well, then you will be less prone to falling into the traps laid out by sales persons and all the hype.
Here’s an example. Recently I started violin lessons. I am 66, so you could say I’m a late starter. The picture above shows me on a typical Covid isolation day at home! The violin I use is designed for students, likely mass-produced, and not very expensive. The shoulder rest is a piece of foam held on by elastics and the green tapes on the bow and fingerboard help me with my technique. However, that violin can actually produce wonderful sounding music – in the hands of my instructor. With me – well, not so much (yet – I remain determined). I am learning: theory, memory, adapting to correct ways to hold and play, and practice, practice, practice. Some 8 months later, I can play 4 songs that you might even recognize. Of course, you can also tell that I’m new to it. Yes, the violin can do wonderful music. But it must be used properly – just like software and technology. The right tool (violin – check), set up (implementation = tuning, check), training (check), practice (check), try new things (check), practice …
In part 2 we’ll explore some of the things you can do to avoid the pitfalls and truly get the results you want. We can help with your information technology strategies, condition monitoring, and your reliability program.