Operational benefits build efficiencies into the manufacturing process and strategic benefits build out new business models and revenue streams.

IoT for Small and Growing Manufacturing Firms
IoT for Small and Growing Manufacturing Firms

Dave Tanacea and Martin Focazio | Ness Digital Engineering

Industry 4.0 and Smart Factory capabilities are becoming pervasive in large manufacturing companies.  The top 100 manufacturing companies in the US have over $36B of revenue and are compelled to explore Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) capabilities to stay competitive at scale. However, outside of the top 100, the US also has over 60,000 manufacturing companies with 20 or more employees. How can smaller but growing companies start realizing the benefits of IoT?

Industrial IoT business benefits can be grouped into two main categories: Operational and Strategic. Operational benefits build efficiencies into the manufacturing process and strategic benefits build out new business models and revenue streams.

Attaining these benefits requires the concurrent planning, execution and ongoing management of five key components:

  • Product Engineering. Connected devices are at the intersection of mechanical and software engineering. For an IIoT device to be successful, it cannot just be retrofit into an old device model.
  • Connectivity. The methods of making, using and securing the connection between the device and the outside world range from self-connected via onboard telecommunications capabilities to hardwired. It shouldn’t be assumed that WiFi will be the connection source.
  • Identity and Access Management. Devices can – and should – have or conform to policies that allow and restrict their usage and management.
  • Data Interchange. Devices will need to interact with many different data ecosystems, using multiple standards. Proprietary data schemes are a disadvantage.
  • Digital Platform and Product Management. Manufacturers have the opportunity and challenge of adding new software-driven and data-driven lines of business.


With these concepts and capabilities, the first goal for midsize manufacturing companies moving towards developing an IoT strategy should be to visualize their machines, either factory floor machines or finished products, so that they can better understand their machine inventory and build in valuable efficiencies. For example, Asset Tracking and Machine Status functionality implements both strategies. Machine generated sensory data is used to identify the location of the machine and how it is running. This information can be visualized and merged with logistics plans to create an efficient process to make sure the machine is at the right place at the right time. In addition, information on how the machine is running is the basis for building more sophisticated strategies for condition-based and even predictive maintenance.

Starting the journey with Asset Tracking and Status achieves two ancillary benefits. First, it builds the fundamental IoT capabilities that are the foundation of many more applications. Understanding how to enable the machines, implement edge computing, build out IoT gateways, consolidate data in the cloud and build value-added applications is the core of any IoT strategy. Implementing Asset Tracking and Status functionality also allows manufacturing companies to implement Command and Control applications. Once we know where the machines are and how they are running, we can build applications that can configure the machines, synchronize them, enable and disable them, etc. These fundamentals are necessary for more sophisticated strategies.

Not only large, established manufacturing companies can take advantage of valuable IoT strategies. As small manufacturing companies grow, they need to take small steps towards utilizing IoT to drive growth and efficiencies and maximize the value of their companies. Tracking and monitoring the whereabouts and status of the machines is the first step towards creating a sophisticated IoT strategy that can differentiate a company from its competition.


Dave Tanacea is Chief Domains Officer at Ness Digital Engineering. In his role, Dave cultivates Ness solutions, intellectual property and partnerships to support Ness’s clients in critical business domains, such as Smart Commerce, Customer Engagement, Content, Risk Mitigation, and Internet of Things-enabled Smart Mobility, Smart Living and Smart Machines. Dave has a strong background in helping companies generate business value through technology, having enabled companies from venture-backed startups to Fortune 500 organizations to define, develop and execute effective business strategies from the ground up.


Martin Focazio is Vice President of Advisory Services at Ness Digital Engineering. In his role, Martin provides vision, strategy and organizational development support to deliver large-scale digital optimization and transformation solutions in the content, automotive and industrial IoT domains. His specialties include digital transformation, strategic consulting, innovation activation, training and development, and digital product and platform management.


The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of ManufacturingTomorrow

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