The risk of niche solutions
Today’s Industrial Internet of Things platforms enable the quick development of customized applications. But manufacturers might find that they are tied to a tool that doesn’t meet their long-term goals.
The advent of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platforms has made it possible for a proliferation of narrow solutions that target specific and well-defined problems. Most of the available platforms provide a development environment designed to build any kind of application, not necessarily specialized in manufacturing. Part of the value proposition of these platforms is flexibility and fast development. They focus on easy connectivity, easy data transportation, easy cloud storage and fast front-end development, not having any specific module for automation, manufacturing execution system (MES), quality, maintenance or any other typical functionality required in the operations. They leverage the concept that, in any case, a solution based on any of the “traditional” platforms would need to be customized and tailored to the specific needs of the client. So why not just provide a good tool to start from scratch and deliver fast?
Fast and free is intriguing, and I listen to many clients consider trying to start solving a small problem without spending any time or money to do an analysis of their real requirements and of what the requirements could be in the near- or long-term future. There’s value in a fast and cheap solution, but there’s a lot of value in an integrated, scalable solution as well. When I approach a new client I always tell him: “Spend some time in thinking how you want your company to be in five years, and then start building what you need the first year.”
Moving fast to solve some niche problem – and, by the way, perhaps implementing some great solution from a technological standpoint – can compromise the possibility of reaching the long-term goals. It can at least make it much more difficult. I’ve already seen some clients implementing specialized solutions, or subscribing to specialized services, to solve a problem, and then in a couple years being bound to that solution and unable to expand it or integrate it in a more holistic approach.
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