Thursday, April 11, 2024

Five misconceptions of retrofitting – and tips to get started

Martin Hodgson

Martin Hodgson, Regional Sales Manager, Northern Europe, Paessler AG 

As the automation of processes and digitalisation continues to accelerate, IT and OT are merging – achieving notable improvements as a result. It’s now possible to combine data in entirely new ways. Masses of data can now be both collated and analysed with ease as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and analytics continue to transform the IT landscape. Adopting effective preventive and predictive maintenance methods has become far easier due to these developments, streamlining decision-making processes.

However, outdated machinery on the factory floor that lacks the necessary components for data collection can still present significant challenges. Legacy IT infrastructure in office buildings present issues too. Required connectivity may be lacking; as well as data interfaces, and data points to support modern data-gathering scenarios.

So, in a world where new solutions are being innovated every day, how can businesses retrofit their operations to keep up with the times and run an efficient company? Here are five of the myths around retrofitting and how to get started.

Myth #1: It’s too costly to bring tech up to date

Tip: The cost-saving benefits behind retrofitting: the practice of making expensive legacy equipment compatible with machines that use modern IT is where the beauty of retrofitting comes into play. By equipping the machines with additional sensors to gather data for IIoT applications like condition monitoring or predictive maintenance is a trend which has grown tremendously as companies look to harness data intelligence to improve and optimise certain processes without breaking the bank.

Myth #2: It’s impossible to address the challenges legacy infrastructure presents

Tip: Examine, process and analyse your infrastructure: when undertaking a retrofitting project, it entails the integration of new machinery, sensors, gateways, and other communication devices into the existing industrial network. To make the whole process as simple as possible, it is essential to have a clear understanding of the capabilities of your current network infrastructure. This involves assessing the performance and capacity of your industrial networking hardware and considering any bandwidth limitations that may exist to iron out any potential problems before they arise.

Myth #3: IT and Facilities Managers lack data

Tip: Take inventory of the data you actually need: the best way to start is to work backwards and write down all the data you need to track, and then analyse the machinery and equipment in place to know where the gaps are when it comes to data monitoring. 

Quite often IT and Facilities Managers are surprised by how much data is at their fingertips, it’s just a question of joining up the dots before and during the retrofit process. Quite often there are a lot of different types of data that need to be collected and analysed about the IT and OT infrastructure that they need a monitoring tool that is able to bring in data from IIoT sensors, OT systems, and traditional IT components.

Myth #4: Monitoring the data centre isn’t a priority

Tip: Environmental monitoring isn’t just necessary – it’s essential: in order to future-proof a building, its hardware and machineryare important aspects of the retrofit process to monitor the environment such as humidity, temperature and air conditioning. This is an essential practice to protect data centres, servers, hardware and prevent downtime, fire hazards or unexpected and costly repairs. 

Additionally, during the retrofit process securing the physical infrastructure involves employing door lock systems, installing alarm systems, the utilisation of cameras, motion sensors, and even heat sensors becomes crucial as well as setting up alerts to promptly respond to any breaches.

Myth #5: There is too much choice when it comes to software options

Tip: Implementing holistic network monitoring should be seen as part of an overall business strategy: while the addition of sensors to machines during a retrofit is undoubtedly crucial, it represents just one aspect of the broader picture. To derive meaningful insights and make informed decisions, it is equally essential to effectively analyse the data collected by these sensors and convert it into actionable information.

By harnessing all that state-of-the-art software tools have to offer, businesses can increase the value of their networking monitoring efforts. When issues are identified proactively rather than reactively, optimising performance becomes easy. Overall operational effectiveness is streamlined as every decision is driven by data. In a market that is increasingly crowded, insights-led strategy is key when keeping pace with competitors.

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