IoT: definition, obstacles, challenges and opportunities for tomorrow's factories

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The Internet of Things (IoT) is defined as the convergence of the digital and physical worlds, via connected devices capable of collecting and transmitting information and/or receiving information in order to perform an action. In the case of connected objects in industrial environments, these two functionalities are often combined and allow, for example, the monitoring and detection of possible malfunctions in the supply chain.

By integrating these technologies into their production methods, manufacturers are able to take advantage of the key benefits of Industry 4.0: reducing downtime, creating new business models and improving the customer experience, for example. A November 2021 McKinsey & Company study even highlighted how IoT can improve organizations' resiliency in the face of catastrophic events - such as the COVID-19 pandemic:

"Digital management tools and connectivity, for example, have enabled companies to respond to market changes more quickly and efficiently by enabling rapid adjustments in production capacity while supporting remote operations when access to a facility is impeded." (McKinsey&Company, 2021).

Many manufacturing companies have yet to integrate IoT into their production methods. It is critical that they begin this transition quickly. Indeed, the economic value of IoT is significant and growing: by 2030, it could generate $5.5 trillion to $12.6 trillion in value globally, including value captured by consumers and customers of IoT products and services (McKinsey&Company, 2015). The industrial environment is at the forefront of capturing this potential value. Yet, despite these identified benefits (connectivity, usability, operational efficiency...), few manufacturers have managed to extend their use cases beyond the POC, which only gives them a vague picture of potential operational and financial gains.

Given the demonstrated benefits of IoT, what explains the reluctance of some sectors to put it into practice?

The most global answer is concentrated in the notion of change management. Indeed, it has been found that companies very often treat IoT as a technology project rather than an operating model transformation.

As such, "they can be driven by IT without considering the necessary changes in governance processes, talent and performance management. Leveraging the value of IoT at scale requires the collaboration of cross-functional stakeholders to change people's behavior, systems, and processes, and to introduce rigorous performance management" (McKinsey&Company, 2021).

Moreover, many companies have struggled to move from pilot projects to large-scale value capture successfully, (McKinsey&Compagnie, 2021) hence the importance of coaching and choosing a solid structure with expertise in the field.

How do we overcome these technical and operational challenges to leverage the power of the IoT?

The companies that have successfully deployed IoT all have one thing in common: they have designated a person responsible for IoT within the company, and they have integrated IoT into their business results by taking IoT beyond simple pilot projects. The major challenge is also to find expert support, capable of helping the company in this major transition. This is the mission of TEKYN.

For more than 4 years, TEKYN has been developing expertise and technologies capable of supporting companies in the textile industry - from brands to workshops, including suppliers - in this change. In 2021, our teams installed two connected cutting machines in two partner workshops in Romania and Bulgaria. In order to ensure the success of the transition of these workshops to 4.0 processes, our teams have been traveling frequently and providing the local companies with their dual expertise. In addition, TEKYN already has proven solutions to ensure the traceability of materials through RFID technologies deployed on rolls of fabric, on the packages that deliver the garments....

Thus, by supporting its network of partners - in particular workshops wishing to access this digitalization - TEKYN sees itself redrawing the face of the textile industry, in the service of sustainable, profitable, agile and transparent fashion.

In short, the IoT market is growing rapidly. Ecosystems are at the heart of these growth issues: the one that the company will be required to create in the implementation of IoT, as well as the one that will surround it in its transition process. For the IoT to realize its potential, the company must first understand that a solid platform on which to build and manage applications, run analytics, and store and secure data is fundamental to generating value from an ecosystem (McKinsey&Company, 2021). The barriers mentioned can easily be overcome once these concepts are accepted by the market. Thus, a holistic approach to IoT is necessary for its implementation, for its success, and for its sustainability!

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