As a product manufacturer, you sit somewhere on the spectrum of just starting to look into how to participate in the Internet of Things (IoT), to well on your way to transforming your business as a result of a successful IoT implementation. No matter where you are on this spectrum, you, like many other manufacturers, likely realize that the future of manufacturing includes creating Smart Connected Products in Smart Connected Factories.
Additionally, you likely realize that engineering and deploying an IoT infrastructure is just a starting point to realizing its promise. At ChaiOne, we believe that the combination of IoT and Mobile placed in the hands of customers and employees will be a powerful catalyst to changing your manufacturing business and staying competitive in our modern fast-paced economy.
This blog is the first in a series will cover how Enterprise Mobility and IoT can be combined to achieve the promise of IoT for product manufacturing companies. To be clear, by mobile we mean not only mobile phones or tablets but also wearable devices and not only in the hands of your customers, but also in the hands of your employees. By Enterprise, we mean the integration of line of business software, CRM, ERP, PLM as well as Business Intelligence and reporting. This is truly the convergence of Information Technology and Operational Technology.
Taking a step back for a moment, there has been a lot of buzz around IoT since the term was added to the Gartner Hype Cycle in 2011. Since then, there have been plenty thought leaders presenting on and writing about IoTs promise around transforming business models, enabling operational excellence, enabling differentiation, and creating new ways to engage with customers.
Although the term was coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton, it has been only in the last 5 years that the pace at which organizations have started to this realize this promise is accelerating. That acceleration is a result of a fortuitous confluence of technology events: inexpensive and small sensors, cloud computing, big data tools and techniques, and advancements in machine learning and algorithms to name a few. However, there is a lot more value that can be realized by making available the data from IoT systems to the mobile environment; that is the bullseye that we will keep focused on.
But you have to start somewhere, so how does a product manufacturer begin this journey?
It starts with asking “proper questions”. For instance:
- Who benefits from the data available from your smart device? The customer, your front-line employee, your business process owners?
- How can providing them with information from your smart devices improve their experience with your business operations? Can it be more streamlined, less error prone, more responsive?
- How can you help your customers use your products more effectively to be more profitable? Operating cost reduction?
These questions and many more are typically raised in an Innovation Workshop session with the right mix of stakeholders present. Once you have answers to the “proper questions” and a direction (a.k.a. an IoT / Mobile Strategy), the next steps will include establishing a governance body or steering committee and establishing the working group that will eventually have to deal with the following types of IoT related technology challenges:
- Network Connectivity
- Middleware Services
- Cloud Service
- Application Development
- Device Management
- Data Management
The good news is that are a profusion of companies, both large and small, that provide IoT platforms (e.g. PTC, GE, etc.). that do a great deal to address the technology hurdles that a connected product manufacturer will be faced with. Each of them has their pros and cons from a technology, operations, and cost perspective. The one similarity between the good IoT platforms is a means to accessing operational data from your smart devices, necessary to achieve the objective of IoT + mobility, the “bullseye” if you will.
Once this type of platform is in place, this is when the real value of IoT can be realized by building out the applications that put the operational data in context, provide users with actionable information, and ultimately even allow them to influence specific business outcomes (e.g. how much energy they consume, operational efficiency of a process driven by smart products, etc.). The biggest value will be in integrating with CRM, ERP, PLM, and data warehouses; the integration of Information Technology and Operational Technology. Without the infrastructure in place, it is to difficult to built applications that have any value.
Stay tuned! In future blogs we will cover the some of the challenges and nuances of bringing together IoT platforms and Enterprise mobility in the context of manufacturing and deploying smart connected products. Developing an IoT and enterprise mobility strategy also plays a large role in our latest ebook, The Digital Transformation Roadmap for the Manufacturing Industry.