In our previous article on IIoT reference architectures, we explained how these high-level design frameworks help manufacturing companies with a blueprint for connecting the devices of their production sites. Because reference architectures connect legacy OT equipment with brand-new IT tools (or the other way around), they take a wide range of factors into account. These include data types and sources, communication protocols, data analytics, security, and more.
As you can imagine, getting an adequately detailed overview of an entire production site while considering all these factors is essential for a successful digital transformation journey, but far from easy to execute. At Coretecs, we believe that a customised stepwise approach is essential to designing and implementing effective IIoT reference architectures. In this article, we'll explain our approach and its benefits.
Before we get started, we’d like to point something out. We recognize that every client has unique needs and goals when it comes to implementing IIoT solutions. Each digital transformation journey is different, which is why we always modify our approach to suit the specific requirements of each organisation and its goals.
For example, some of our clients choose to omit the pilot phase because the project has limited resources or limit the analysis phase because they’ve already done this for a brand-new production site. What follows is a generalised and comprehensive version of our approach, based on earlier projects.
Before we can design an effective IIoT solution, we need to understand your business problem or case, as well as your current hardware. To achieve this, we start by conducting a thorough analysis, preferably by using the SIRI framework. This helps us identify weak links and come up with a strategy to address them. By completing a gap analysis, we can determine what's missing and what needs to be done to bridge the gaps.
Based on our analysis and input from the client, we design an architecture that's tailored to your specific needs. This process involves organising architecture workshops, on-site visits, and identifying any brand preferences. By the end of this step, we will have a clear understanding of the scope of the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that we'll be developing.
We bring the architecture design to life by creating a functional prototype of the solution. The human element is key at Coretecs, so we make sure to maintain open communication with you. That way, you are informed of the project’s progress, and you get the chance to address any concerns or issues. This phase results in a working prototype that can be evaluated and refined in subsequent steps.
Before we roll out the MVP to the full production environment, we first test it in a small, controlled environment known as a pilot. This lets us test the solution without impacting the overall live production environment. This is a significant advantage of our architecture, as it ensures that the solution is thoroughly tested before being deployed.
After the pilot, we evaluate the solution and optimise it for scaling. This step is crucial for knowing how to proceed. We assess the solution's performance, ensure that the data quality is sufficient, and evaluate the hardware. Based on your digital transformation strategy, we determine whether we're on the right track, and decide whether any modifications are needed. If we used the SIRI framework in the analysis phase, we also compare it with the new SIRI maturity score of your target area.
Once we've defined the final architecture in the evaluation phase, we can begin to scale the solution to its full scope. This involves implementing the solution across the entire production environment, ensuring that everything is properly integrated and working together as it should.
The scaling strategy is done in close collaboration with the sites. We decide the site deployment order together with the customer, based on the impact on production. By setting up a clear line of communication, we can align the deployment plan with the site's activities to guarantee a smooth delivery.
Finally, we create a maintenance plan to ensure that the solution remains fully operational in the long term. This involves regularly monitoring the solution, identifying any issues, and performing necessary maintenance tasks to keep everything running smoothly. We'll maintain the code repository, set up an offline development environment, and keep documentation up to date. This ensures that your new architecture will continue to provide value for your organisation for years to come.
By following these steps, we can help you design and implement an IIoT architecture that's tailored to your specific needs and optimised for maximum efficiency and effectiveness.
There are several challenges to consider when implementing an IIoT reference architecture. For example, integrating legacy systems in the architecture requires a careful choice of gateway devices, so we’ll work closely with you to identify the right solution that fits into your existing architecture. Cybersecurity is also a key concern, which is why we have a dedicated partnership with a security firm to ensure the safety and protection of your systems.
Finally, it’s important to take change management into account, especially for influential projects like implementing a new architecture. At Coretecs, we set ourselves apart by also considering the human element of these transformations. We even offer a dedicated user adoption strategy service which ensures that your brand-new architecture will get the endorsement it needs to succeed.
In today's industrial landscape, IIoT reference architectures are essential for companies seeking to modernise and optimise their operations. By providing a blueprint for designing and implementing IIoT solutions, reference architectures can help companies avoid common pitfalls and ensure that their implementations are successful. We've developed a stepwise approach to IIoT reference architectures that has proven highly effective, and we encourage companies to consider this way of working when embarking on their own IIoT implementations.
Need a guiding hand? At Coretecs, we specialise in digital transformation journeys for the manufacturing industry.
Our unique combination of IT and OT experts ensures that you’ll get the best of both worlds.