A recent survey of manufacturing executives indicates many respondents (67 percent) are pressing ahead with plans to invest in data analytics even as they pare back spending in other areas to combat tough business conditions.

 The reason: Many say they view data analytics – a key component of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) – as a viable solution to a cycle of problems that lead to downtime and lost revenue.

More than 200 North American manufacturing executives took part in the survey titled “Data’s Big Impact on Manufacturing: A Study of Executive Opinions.” The survey was jointly conducted by Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS) and KRC Research Inc., from May 23 to June 8, 2016.

“Executives need to keep their businesses running smoothly and safely, and they’re banking on IIoT technologies to help navigate challenges, even during cash-strapped times,” said Andrew Hird, vice president and general manager, HPS Digital Transformation.

Among other key findings of the survey:

  • Some companies are feeling pressure to continue working under the threats of unscheduled downtime and equipment breakdowns, which are viewed the most detrimental to maximizing revenue.
  • The majority of companies say they are already investing in data analytics technology.
  • More than a quarter said they don’t plan to invest in data analytics in the next year; of that group, not understanding the benefits of data analytics and inadequate resources are among the most cited reasons for this lack of investment.

A tough cycle of downtime

 Unscheduled downtime was ranked as the top threat to maximizing revenue, but 42 percent of respondents admitted to running equipment harder than they should. When asked how often their companies experienced a list of issues in recent years, 71 percent of respondents said they experienced equipment breakdowns at least occasionally, while 64 percent said the same for unscheduled downtime.

 “Running plant equipment harder than appropriate presents a host of issues ranging from equipment breakdowns to potential safety incidents,” said Hird. “Those issues inevitably lead to more downtime, which leads back to lost revenue. It’s easy to see how many companies feel they’re caught in a vicious cycle. Predictive analytics can help companies break out of that cycle.”

 Forty percent ranked unscheduled downtime as the biggest threat to maximizing revenue.

Other threats included:

  • Supply chain management issues (39 percent)
  • Inadequate staffing (37 percent)
  • Off-spec products (36 percent)
  • Equipment breakdowns (32 percent)

Data analytics as a viable solution

 Data analytics is a key component of a successful IIoT implementation for manufacturers. Most respondents had favorable views of the benefits of data analytics as a solution. For example, the executives said they agreed big data analytics can reduce the occurences of:

  • Equipment breakdowns (70 percent)
  • Unscheduled downtime (68 percent)
  • Unscheduled maintenance (64 percent)
  • Supply chain management issues (60 percent)

Respondents said they believe data can enable well-informed decisions in real time (63 percent), limit waste (57 percent), and predict the risk of downtime (56 percent).

“It’s easy to put that puzzle together – these executives correctly believe data analytics can help them combat the biggest threat they see to business: unscheduled downtime,” Hird said. “This is why they feel it makes sense to continue investing.”

Additionally, more than two-thirds of respondents (68 percent) said they are currently investing in data analytics, and 50 percent said they believe their companies are right on track in their use of data analytics. Fifteen percent said they believe their companies are ahead of the curve as it relates to data analytics usage.

Not everyone is sold

 While the majority of respondents said they are already investing and/or planning to increase their investments in data analytics in the coming year, 32 percent said they are not currently investing in data analytics. Meanwhile, 33 percent said their companies are not planning to invest in data analytics in the next 12 months, or are unaware of any plans to do so.

 Of those who currently have no plans to invest:

  • 61 percent believe their organizations already have systems in place to ensure safety, yield and success
  • 45 percent said their companies have seen some growth without data analytics
  • 42 percent said they don’t fully understand the benefits of big data
  • 35 percent believe people are overstating the benefits of big data

Sixty-three percent of respondents who said they have no investment plans indicated they just don’t have the resources to appropriately do so, while 39 percent said they don’t have the right staff to make the most of data analytics.

“For some companies, hurdles remain before the IIoT can be fully adopted,” explained Hird. “Some don’t believe they need it while others say they lack the resources to do it right. The good news is that IIoT is something that doesn’t require a wholesale change – it can be phased and scaled depending on an individual company’s circumstances.

For information about Honeywell’s IIoT comprehensive technologies and solutions, go to www.hwll.co/iiot.