The driver behind the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is not production. It’s not engineering. And it’s not procurement, design, warehousing or shipping. All of these functions are involved in IIoT, but they’re not the driver. The driver is the front office—the executive suite. That’s where the data from all the connected devices across the enterprise and its supply chains will be used for overall business assessment and improvement.
Of course, this does not imply that each functional area of an industrial business will not make use of IIoT data. This is already happening and will only increase over time as more connections are made, new insights are delivered, and people are trained to work in a continuously-developing industrial environment.
But recognizing the front office's impact on IIoT is important to understanding where the IIoT and Industry 4.0 movements are ultimately headed. To date, initiatives have largely involved the usual technology suspects—enterprise resource planning (ERP), manufacturing execution systems (MES), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), human machine interface (HMI), controllers, sensors, etc. However, with the recent announcement from ABB and Salesforce, we can see new front-office connections being made—this time with customer relationship management (CRM) software. (The photo atop this article shows ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer, on left, and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, on right, at Salesforce’s 2018 Dreamforce event).
At first glance, it may appear that this announcement is about ABB adopting wider use of Salesforce CRM software to optimize its sales operations. While that is certainly a key facet, the partnership extends beyond the basic customer transactional level to signal an integration of ABB and Salesforce technologies and services.
More specifically, the companies announced that ABB is expanding its use of Salesforce CRM company-wide, and deploying Salesforce's Einstein artificial intelligence and IoT platforms together with ABB Ability. “The Fourth Industrial Revolution is creating massive opportunities for our customers, making the work we do with them to drive innovation and create value more important than ever,” said ABB’s Spiesshofer. “That’s why we’re growing our relationship with Salesforce. The wealth of information we’ll get by unifying our data on Salesforce and combining it with our ABB Ability digital offering will allow us to use artificial intelligence and IoT more effectively, so we can anticipate our customer’s needs and write the future together.”
ABB Ability is a cross-industry digital platform and cloud infrastructure that the company uses to connect devices, systems, solutions and services. The platform extends from devices to the edge to the cloud to support an installed base of 70 million connected devices worldwide, according to ABB. Vertical- and technology-specific offerings within ABB Ability include predictive maintenance for robots and high-voltage motors, collaborative operations for oil and gas, performance optimization for mining, remote assistance and condition monitoring for drives, Distributed Control System 800xA, asset health for control systems, data analytics, cybersecurity and numerous other options.
Salesforce Einstein's artificial intelligence delivers self-learning and self-tuning models to discover relevant insights, predict future behavior, proactively recommend best actions and automate tasks, according to the company. Salesforce IoT routes data from connected devices directly into Salesforce where sales, service, marketing and other teams can act on it.
ABB plans to use the company's Sales Cloud Einstein for intelligence-driven decision making, automated data entry, identification of potential opportunities and predictive forecasting. Pairing Salesforce's Einstein Vision with Field Service Lightning, will further give ABB’s 15,000 field service technicians the ability to take an onsite photo of an ABB product or component and automatically access information about it on their screens, resulting in faster more accurate service.
ABB's vision is to combine Salesforce IoT with ABB Ability so that its installed base of connected devices can use predictive intelligence, powered by Einstein, to generate and trigger actions directly into Salesforce. With Salesforce IoT and ABB Ability together, ABB aims to improve customer experiences by getting ahead of performance and maintenance needs.