A digital skills gap is preventing industrial firms from embracing the Industrial Internet of Things

Forecasts from Accenture suggest the Industrial Internet of Things could add as much as $14 trillion to the global economy by 2030, and the vast majority of industry leaders recognise that the technology will eventually transform their business.

However, despite this staggering growth potential new research from GE Digital has revealed that just 41% of IT and operations executives across five key industrial sectors — utilities, transportation, manufacturing, aviation and aerospace, power and energy  — are actively working to integrate Industrial Internet of Things technologies into their business operations, while a mere 8% say their business has already transformed itself into a digitally-enabled business.

One of the reasons for that disconnect is the sheer scale of the required digital transformation in the industrial sector. As Bill Ruh, CEO of GE Digital, explained, when it comes to the Internet of Things “the industrial proposition is entirely unique and often daunting.”

Unsurprisingly, the cost of digital transformation is also a major factor, with 54% of transportation firms and 34% of manufacturing firms citing cost as the biggest barrier to their embracing the Industrial Internet of Things.

However, given the fact that most industry leaders agree that digital technologies will play a critical role in a firm’s future competitiveness, the cost of digital transformation is a burden that will need to be borne sooner or later.

Beyond the overall cost, though, GE Digital’s research also revealed that one of the biggest obstacles to embracing the Industrial Internet of Things is a digital skills gap in the industrial workforce.

59% of the industry executives surveyed by GE Digital believe their workforce currently lacks the necessary expertise in using digital interfaces and digitised processes for the Industrial Internet of Things, while 48% believe their staff don’t yet have the required skills to understand and analyse IIoT data and a further 48% feel their current workforce lacks the necessary understanding of AI and machine learning.

Apart from the cost of upskilling existing employees or creating new jobs, one of the complexities when it comes to addressing the IIoT skills gap is identifying exactly what skills will be needed in the near term to integrate the Industrial Internet of Things into a business’s operations…and what skills will be needed in the future to capitalise on those machine-to-machine connections (and the vast quantities of data they generate).

As difficult as it may be, though, it is critical that industrial firms begin to bridge their digital skills gap if they are to realise the full potential of the Industrial Internet of Things.


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