I’ve attended tech conferences for years, and I have come to expect a certain amount of grumbling from users about vendors. But at the IoT for Manufacturing workshop at Georgia Tech, there didn’t seem to be much in the way of bad vibes directed at vendors.
Indeed, most speakers and attendees expressed a sense of gratitude that vendors were providing solutions to some of their very real problems on the plant floor. They know that it’s impossible to design these solutions on their own (although some have tried with limited pilots with off-the-shelf hardware and software) so they have to work with someone to get the results that they want. Occasionally that involves academic partners such as the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute(which has architectures and designs for retrofitting kits available to manufacturing partners, as shown in the slide below) but often vendors and systems integrators get involved in a big way.
In addition to supplying much-needed technology solutions, I heard over and over how much people appreciated the declining costs of components. Heath Cates of Mountville Mills mentioned the use of low-cost hubs to connect sensors, PLCs and other devices at their main facility. William Hill, who helps run digitization efforts at Delta Airlines’s sprawling machine shop said the company spends about $1,200 to $1,500 to retrofit a piece of legacy equipment, which he considered to be a reasonable cost. He also praised the cost structure of one of Delta’s main IoT partners.
Lance Johnson of aerospace supplier Moog Inc. said they were able to develop low-cost IoT systems working with its IT team and vendors. However, he also acknowledged that during the evaluation phase they identified enterprise software vendors whose high cost and “nebulous ROI” was unworkable. “It was a no-go for us,” he said.
One attendee questioned the “false promises” offered by many vendors, which he said leads to frustrations down the road about what the products and solutions can actually accomplish. But that was one of the only comments I heard that was generally negative on vendors in the IoT space.