Previewing “The Future Is Smart”: Siemens Leads Way In IoT Transformation

Huzzah!

On August 7th, HarperCollins’ new Leadership imprint (formerly Amacom) will publish The Future Is Smart, my guide to IoT strategy for businesses and the general public.  BTW: write me if you’d like to arrange a speaking engagement/book signing event!

As part of the build-up to the release, here’s another excerpt from the book, drawn from Chapter 5: “Siemens and GE:Old War Horses Leading the IoT Revolution.” It zeroes in on these two industrial companies from the 19th (!!) century that are arguably among the top IoT companies in the world (although, sadly, GE’s transformation, which I’ll detail in the next excerpt, has not resulted — so far — in a return to its former profitability). I highlighted these two companies in part to give comfort to old-line manufacturers that have been reluctant to embrace the IoT, and in part to shame them: if they can do it, why can’t you?

Siemens is a particularly exciting example, applying IoT thinking and technology to gain a competitive edge in the railroad business, which it has been involved in since the 19th century, and because its Amberg “Factory of the Future” is the epitome of the benefits of applying the IoT to manufacturing,  The excerpt is long, but I think the details on Siemens’ IoT transformation will make it worthwhile reading.

 


For all their (referring to Siemens and GE) own distinctive products and services, there are startling parallels between the two that are relevant to this book, particularly for readers whose companies have been unaware of the IoT or are modestly testing the waters. Both Siemens and GE have fully committed to the IoT and are radically reinventing themselves, their products, and their services. 

At the same time, they are not abandoning the physical for the digital: they still make products such as trains (NB: since this book went to press, GE announced it will quit to locomotive business as it struggles to regain momentum) and large medical diagnostic devices that remain necessary in the new economy, and those devices (as well as the new software lines) are used by many other companies in their own manufacturing. Both companies aren’t just testing the IoT: they are on the bleeding edge of innovation in terms of both IoT technology and services.

Siemens and GE embody most of the marks of the IoT company outlined in the first chapter:

  • Unprecedented assembly-line precision and product quality
  • Drastically lower maintenance costs and product failure
  • Increased customer delight and loyalty
  • Improved decision-making
  • Creating new business models and revenue streams

And, while they haven’t formally addressed the sixth IoT hallmark, the circular management organization, both companies exhibit management characteristics consistent with it.

Bottom-line: if these two relics of the early Industrial Age can make the IoT transformation, why can’t you?

(Siemens’) innovations in industrial automation are now associated with the concept of the digital factory. “Siemens set the course for the digital automation of entire production facilities as far back as 1996, when the launch of its Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) Portal enabled companies to coordinate elements of their production operations and to closely intermesh hardware with software.”

Siemens has benefited in recent years from the German government’s formal strategy for what it calls “Industrie 4.0,” to merge physical products with digital controls and communications. The initiative is supported by funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy and emphasizes the merger of the digital and physical in manufacturing through cyber-physical control systems. Because the U.S. federal government doesn’t weigh in on specific economic plans to the same extent, the concept is more advanced in Europe, and the term has gathered cachet, especially as specific examples have proved profitable.

Factory of the Future:
The shining example of Industrie 4.0 is the previously mentioned Siemens plant in Amberg. It has increasingly computerized over the past 25 twenty-five years, and now is a laboratory for fusion of the physical and digital.

The plant’s 99.99885 percent quality rate would be astounding by any measure, but is even more incredible when you realize that it does not do daily repetitions of the same mass-production product run. Instead, Amberg is where the company makes the Simatic programmable logic controls (PLCs) .. that are the heart of its industrial output and which are used worldwide to allow Machine-to-Machine (M2M) automated assembly line self-regulation. They are made in more than a thousand variations for 60,000 customers worldwide, requiring frequent readjustments of the production line. In one of the ultimate examples of eating your own dog food, a thousand Simatic units are used to control the assembly line. Total output at the factory is 12 million yearly, or approximately one per second.

One downside of the Amberg system’s efficiency is that automation has nearly eliminated assembly line jobs: the only time humans touch one of the products is to put the initial circuit board on the assembly line. The 1,100-person workforce deals almost entirely with computer issues and overall supervision of the assembly line. Nevertheless, Siemens doesn’t visualize a totally automated, workerless factory in the future:

“We’re not planning to create a workerless factory,” says [Plant Manager Professor Karl-Heinz] Büttner. After all, the machines themselves might be efficient, but they don’t come up with ideas for improving the system. Büttner adds that the employees’ suggested improvements account for 40 percent of annual productivity increases. The remaining 60 percent is a result of infrastructure investments, such as the purchase of new assembly lines and the innovative improvement of logistics equipment. The basic idea here, says Büttner, is that “employees are much better than management at determining what works or doesn’t work in daily operation and how processes can be optimized.” In 2013 the [plant] adopted 13,000 of these ideas and rewarded employees with payments totaling around €1 million.

As Siemens develops new IIoT software, it is deployed at the Amberg factory to control the Simatic control units, which generate more than 50 million data points daily for analysis. Among other programs, the factory runs the NX and Teamcenter project lifecycle management software, allowing the staff to share realtime insights on the assembly line and fine-tune its operation.

Siemens’s strategy of merging the physical and digital has meant that its software offerings constantly expand, and they facilitate the kind of real and virtual collaborative workstyles that will be discussed at length in Chapter 8. Among others, they include offerings that specifically address key aspects of the IoT:

  • Product Lifecycle Management software programs, which let engineers both model new products and extensively test them virtually, without having to build and test physical models. This both cuts costs and allows more experimentation with “what if” variations on a design, because the risk of creating alternatives is so low. As we will see later, products designed with PLM can reach the market 50 percent faster. One particularly interesting part of the PLM offerings is one specifically for additive manufacturing (i.e., 3-D printing), to capitalize on this emerging option. Siemens has brought all of these programs together under the Teamcenter label, emphasizing that it provides an “open framework for interoperability,” a critical example of the “share the data” Essential Truth discussed in Chapter 2, allowing anyone who needs it companywide to access critical realtime data.
  • Digital Twins used in coordination with PLM, discussed earlier (Chapter 4) as the highest manifestation of the digital/physical synthesis, allow rigorous testing of products before they are launched.
  • Perhaps the most important of these software offerings for full realization of the Industrie 4.0 vision is the new combination of Siemens XHQ Operations Intelligence Software with the open-systems Siemens MindSphere cloud that adds advanced analytics and machine learning. Also, because it is cloud-based, the XHQ data can be ported to other cloud-based applications. If your company is considering an IoT initiative, the cloud-based alternative not only can save money compared to self-storage, but also opens the opportunity for using cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS).

 

Railigent

Fittingly, some of the most dramatic examples of Siemens’s IoT thinking in action have centered on one of its oldest lines of business: those electric trains invented in the nineteenth century.  The company’s Railigent system (which connects to its IoT Mindsphere platform) can:

  • cut rail systems’ operating costs by up to 10%
  • deliver eye-popping on-time performance (only 1 of 2,300 trains was late!)
  • and assure 99% availability through predictive maintenance.

Its new Mobility Services have taken over maintenance for more than fifty rail and transit programs.

Again, the company’s years of experience building and operating trains pays off in the cyberworld. Dr. Sebastian Schoning, ceo of Siemens’s client Gehring Technologies, which manufactures precision honing tools, told me that it was easier to sell Siemens’s digital services to his own client base because so much of the products they already own include Siemens devices, giving his customers confidence in the new offerings.

The key to Siemens’s Mobility Services is Sinalytics, its platform architecture for data analysis not just for rail, but also for industries ranging from medical equipment to windfarms. More than 300,000 devices currently feed realtime data to the platform. Sinalytics capitalizes on the data for multiple uses, including connectivity, data integration, analytics, and the all-important cyber security. They call the result not Big Data, but Smart Data. The platform also allows merging the data with data from sources such as weather forecasts which, in combination, can let clients optimize operating efficiency on a real-time M2M basis.

Elements of an IoT system on the trains that can be adapted to other physical products include:

  • Sensing. There are sensors on the engines and gearboxes. Vibration sensors on microphones measure noises from bearings in commuter trains. They can even measure how engine oil is aging, so it can be changed when really needed, rather than on an arbitrary schedule, a key predictive maintenance advantage.
  • Algorithms: These make sense of the data and act on it. They read out patterns, record deviations, and compare them with train control systems or with vehicles of the same type.
  • Predictive Maintenance: This replaces scheduled maintenance, dramatically reducing downtime and catastrophic failure. For example: “There’s a warning in one of the windows (of the control center display): engine temperature unusual. ‘We need to analyze the situation in greater depth to know what to do next—we call it root cause analysis,’ (says) Vice-President for Customer Support Herbert Padinger. ‘We look at its history and draw on comparative data from the fleet as a whole.’ Clicking on the message opens a chart showing changes in temperature during the past three months. The increased heat is gradually traced to a signal assembly. The Siemens experts talk with the customer to establish how urgent the need for action is, and then take the most appropriate steps.”8 Padinger says that temperature and vibration analyses from the critical gearboxes gives Siemens at least three days advance notice of a breakdown—plenty of time for maintenance or replacement. Predictive maintenance is now the norm for 70 to 80 percent of Siemens’s repairs.
  • Security: This is especially important given all of the miles of track and large crowds on station platforms. It includes video-based train dispatch and platform surveillance using Siemens’s SITRAIL D system, as well as cameras in the trains. The protections have to run the gamut from physical attacks to cyber-attacks. For security, the data is shared by digital radio, not networks that are also shared by consumers.

When operations of physical objects are digitized, it allows seamlessly integrating emerging digital technologies into the services—making these huge engines showcases for the newest technologies. For example, Siemens Digital Services also included augmented reality (so repair personnel can see manuals on heads-up displays), social collaboration platforms, and—perhaps most important—3-D printing-based additive manufacturing, so that replacement parts can be delivered with unprecedented speed. 3-D printing also allows a dramatic reduction in parts inventories, It allows for replacement of parts that may no longer be available through conventional parts depots. It may even improve on the original part’s function and durability, based on practical experience gained from observing the parts in use. For example, it’s often possible with 3-D printed replacement parts to consolidate three or four separate components into a single one, strengthening and simplifying it. Siemens has used 3-D printing for the past last three years, and it lets them assure customers that they will have replacement parts for the locomotive’s entire lifespan, which can exceed thirty years.

The new Mobility Services approach’s results are dramatic:

  • None of the Velaro trains that Siemens maintains for several operators have broken down since implementing Sinalytics. Among those in Spain only one has left more than fifteen minutes behind time in 2,300 trips: a 0.0004 percent lateness rate.
  • Reliability for London’s West Coast Mainline is 99.7 percent.
  • Perhaps most impressive because of the extreme cold conditions it must endure, the reliability rate for the Velaro service in Russia is 99.9 percent.11

Siemens’s ultimate goal is higher: what the company calls (pardon the pun) 100 percent Railability.

When it does reach those previously inconceivable quality benchmarks, Siemens predicts that, as the software and sensors evolve, the next stage will be new business models in which billing will be determined by guaranteeing customers availability and performance. The manufacturing industry is now at the stage where the automation of complete workflows is the only way to ensure a long-term, defendable, competitive position.

Siemens emphasizes that it’s not enough to simply digitize the design process. Everything from design through supply chain, manufacturing, distribution, and service must be linked in a continuous digital web, with “complete digital representation of the entire physical value chain is the ultimate goal.”

 

The fact that Siemens doesn’t just sell these IoT services but makes their own manufacturing the laboratory to develop and test them is an incredible testimonial to the IoT’s transformative potential in every aspect of companies’ operations. So, as I asked above, why are you holding back? Like to think that The Future Is Smart will give you the manual you need to make the transition (why wait for August  7, when you can preorder today?).

Live Blogging #LlveWorx ’18, Day 2

Aiden Quilligan, Accenture Industry X.0, on AI:

  • Mindset and AI: must undo what Hollywood has done on this over years, pose it as human vs. machine.
  • We think it should be human PLUS machine.
  • he’s never seen anything move as fast as AI, especially in robotics
  • now, co-bots that work along side us
  • exoskeletons
  • what do we mean by AI?  Machine learning.  AI is range of technologies that can learn and then act. AI is the “new work colleague” we need to learn to get along with.
  • predictions: will generate #2.9 trillion in biz value and recover 6.2 billion hours of worker productivity in 2021.
  • myths:
    • 1) robots evil, coming for us: nothing inherently anti-human in them.
    • 2) will take our jobs. Element of truth in terms of repetitive, boring work that will be replaced. They will fill in for retiring workers. Some new industries created by them.  Believe there will be net creation of jobs.
    • 3) current approaches will still work.

6 steps to the Monetization of IoT, Terry Hughes:

  • Digital native companies (Uber) vs. digitally transforming companies
  • also companies such as Kodak that didn’t transform at all (vs. Fujifilm, which has transformed).
  • Forbes: 84% of companies have failed with at least one transformation program.  Each time you fail you lose 1/2 billion
  • steps:
    • 1) devices with potential
    • 2) cloud network communication
    • 3) software distribution
    • 4) partner and provider ecosystem
    • 5) create a marketplace.
    • 6) monetization of assets.
  • crazy example of software company that still ships packages rather than just download because of initial cost in new delivery system
  • 3 big software challenges for digitally transforming company
    • fragmented silos of software by product, business unit & software
    • messy and complex distribution channels
    • often no link between software and the hardware that it relates to
  • importance of an ecosystem
    • Blackberry example of one that didn’t have the ecosystem
  • 3rd parties will innovate and add value around a manufacturer’s core products
  • in IoT it’s a land grab for mindshare of 3rd-party innovators.
  • need strong developer program
  • tools for app development and integration
  • ease of building and publishing apps
  • path to discovery and revenue for developer
  • IDC: developer ecosystem allow enterprises to massively scale distribution
  • digitally native companies have totally different models (will get details later…)
  • hybrids:
    • GE Healthcare:  working with Gallus BioPharma
    • Heidelberg & Eig have digital biz model for folding carton printing. Pay per use
  • Ford is heading for mobility as a transformation

 


Bernard Marr: Why IoT, Combined With AI and Big Data, Fuels 4th Industrial Revolution

 

  • connecting everything in house to Internet
  • Spotify: their vision is they understand us better. Can correlate your activity on Apple Watch (such as spinning) & create a play list based on that)
  • FitBit: the photo will estimate your calorie content.
  • John Deere
  • ShotSpotter: the company that monitors gun shots
  • understanding customers & markets better than before:
    • Facebook: better at face recognition than we are. They can predict your IQ, your relationship status.
  • Lot of frightening, IMHO, examples of AI analyzing individuals and responding without consideration of ethics and privacy
  • 3) improving operations and efficiency:
    • self-driving boats
    • drones
    • medicine through Watson

panel on IoT:

  • Don’t be afraid of the cloud
  • Ryan Cahalane, Colfax: prepare for big, start small and move fast. They had remarkable growth with switch to IoT.  Not a digital strategy, but digital in everything they do. Have “connected welders,” for example.
  • Justin Hester, Hirotec: most importatnt strategic digital transformation decision your organization can make is the selection of a platform. The platform is the underlying digital thread that enables your team to meet  the unique and chanding needs of your organization and to scale those solutions rapidly. “Assisted reality” in ThingWorx
  • Shane O’Callahan, TSM (Ireland):  Make industrial automation equipment for manufacturing. Understanding your key value driver is where to start. Then start samll, scale fast and get a win!

Jeffrey Miller, PTC: Digital Transformation:

  • if you start with digital strategy you’re starting in wrong place Start with business strategy. 
  • Couple with innovation vision merged with digital strategy. Add business use cases.
  • Jobs: it’s not how much you spend on R & D, but “about the people you have, you you’re dled, and how much you get it”
  • create an environment for innovation
    • do we encourage experimentation?
    • is it ok to fail
  • identify digital technologies to provide the required operating capabilities:
    • have we conducted proofs of concept?
    • experimented, tested  and validated?
    • reviewed use cases & success studies?
    • delivered small, important, scalable successes?

Matt,  PTC: Bringing Business Value to AR:

  • augmented service guidance
  • remote expert guidance
  • manufacturing: machine setup and turnover, assembly and process
  • example of Bell & Howell towers to store online sales in WalMart stores for customer pickup: very expensive to send one to a store for salesperson to use in sales — now just use AR app to give realistic demo without expense.
  • service: poor documentation organization, wants accurate, relevant, onsite info for technician. Want to remove return visits because the repair wasn’t done 1st time, or there’s a new technician. Manuals in binders, etc. Instead, with AR, requirements are quick access to current info. Finally, a demo.

Suchitra Bose, Accenture: Manufacturing IIoT, Driving the Speed of Digital Manufacturing:

  • convergence of IT and OT
  • expanding digital footprint across your entire factory
  • PTC has wide range of case studies (“use cases” in biz speak…) on aspects of IoT & manufacturing.

I have seen the future, and it’s written in Chalk (PTC’s Vuforia Chalk, that is!)

I just had to take time out from my live blogging of PTC’s LiveWorx ’18 to focus on one of the topics Jim Heppelmann mentioned in passing in his keynote: the new variation on the company’s Vuforia AR app: Chalk.

Significant in its own right, I suspect Chalk will have an additional, critical impact: democratizing AR.

It is an app aimed at, and accessible to, both corporate audiences AND the general public.  Downloadable for both iPhone & iPads & Android devices, I suspect that it will quickly become popular both to support remote repair staff for companies and just plain folks who are trying, for example to help a family member far away to deal with a car or plumbing repair. Not to mention the fact (mandatory disclaimer: while I work part-time for Apple, I’m not privy to any corporate internal strategy) that the spiffy new $329 6th-generation iPad really facilitates AR, and Chalk was developed in conjunction with the Apple ARKit technology so it should really become popular.

Chalk has two components:

  • real-time video and voice sharing of the same view
  • Chalk Marks, simple handswipes that allow one of the participants to highlight the part that is the subject of the question.  The “Marks” appear to be anchored to the subjects they’re “drawn” on.

Real-world uses vary from a remote super-expert helping a field technician to identify and deal with a rare problem to your millennial helping Mom master her personal technology. I saw an amazing demo this morning with one mechanic in Germany (ok, he was actually 2′ away…) directing the mechanic working on a Mercedes how to add coolant.  As the press release announcing the app said:

“Today, remote assistance can be frustrating and cumbersome. People struggle for words to describe things that are unfamiliar, whether it be a new appliance or the back of a cable box. And when the problem can’t be described clearly, it becomes almost impossible for someone else to solve. Vuforia Chalk provides a simple and intuitive solution where people can now use Chalk Marks to get a common understanding of a problem, and the steps required to solve it.”

I’ve written before that I suspected many companies got into e-commerce in the 9o’s because a CEO’s kids got him to order a book from Amazon during the holidays & he came back raving about this new device.  I can’t help thinking that this will be just the kind of low-cost (heck, in this case, no-cost) introduction to AR And the IoT that will break down some companies’ skepticism, pay off with immediate bottom line benefits in cost savings and efficiency in service operations, and get them interested in most expensive AR such as PTC’s digital twins and predictive maintenance.  Or, as ABI analyst Eric Abbruzzes said:

“Mainstream augmented reality is at the beginning of a strong positive inflection point, and Vuforia Chalk is a great example of how AR can transition from enterprise-only to use in everyday life,” said Eric Abbruzzese, ABI Research. “We see Vuforia Chalk as a fundamentally disruptive form of remote communication that will be well received across multiple sectors and for multiple use cases.”

Now to get my granddaughter to download the app so we can collaborate on the 3D-printer that I got her for her 12th- birthday!

Wahoo! Liveblogging #Liveworx ’18!

Always my fav event, I’ll be liveblogging #LiveWorx ’18.  Stay tuned!

Keynote: Jim Heppelmann:

  • “from a place to a pace” — how fast are we moving?
  • no longer OK to think of a future destination, builds inertia (“your main competitor”). Disruption may have already happened. Hard to sustain advantage due to pace of change. Must “embrace a pace of change”
  • Um, this sounds like argument for my circular company paradigm shift!!!
  • Customer Experience Center will occupy top floor of new building.
  • combo of  physical, human and digital — transforming all at once speeds change:
    • physical: been constrained by subtractive manufacturing, while nature improves via cell division (i.e., additive). “Adopt Mother Nature’s mindset.” — new additive aspects of Creo. Example of Triumph cycle sing-arm using additive. CREO uses AI to optimize performance: non-symmetrical design. Still need to use simulation tests: new intermittent, continuous style: they are doing new partnership with ANSYS (product simulation software), unified modeling and simulation with no gaps. Historically, simulation only used at end of design cycle, now can use it throughout the process: “pervasive simulation.”
      • ANSYS “Discovery Live”: optimizes for real-time. Integrates with Creo — instant feedback on new designs. “simulation critical to innovation.”
    • digital: working with Microsoft Azure (Rodney Clark, Microsoft IoT VP). Microsoft investing $5b in IoT.  1st collaboration is an industrial welder: IoT data optimizes productivity.  BAE can train new employees 30-40% quicker.
    • finally, human: “Mother Nature designed ups to interface with the physical. How do we integrate with the digital? — Siri, Alexa, Cortna still too slow.  Sight is our best bet. “Need direct pipeline to reality ” — that’s AR. “Smart, connected humans.” Sysmex: for medical lab analysis. Hospitals need real-time access to blood cell analysis. They have real-time calibration of analysis equipment. Also improving knowledge of the support techs, using AR and digital twins when repairs are needed.
      • Will help 2.5 billion workers become more productive
      • AR can project how a process is being programmed (gotta see this one. will try to get video).
      • All of their human/digital interface initiatives united under Vuforia. Already have 10,000 enterprises using it.
    • Factories are a new focus of PTC. 200 companies now using it in 800 factories. Examples from Woodward & Colfax.  Big savings on new employee training.

Keynote: Prof. Linda Hill, HBS, “Collective Genius”:

  • Innovation= novel + useful
  • Example of Pixar: collective genius “filmmaking is a team sport.”
  • 3 characteristics of creative organizations they looked at:
    • “creative abrasion” — diversity and debate
    • “creative agility” — quickly test the idea & get feedback. Experiment rather than run pilots, which often include politics
    • “creative resolution” — ability to make integrative decisions. Don’t necessarily defer to the experts.
    • sense of community and shared purpose.
  • values: bold ambition, collaboration, responsibility, learning.
  • rules of engagement: respect, trust, influence, see the whole, question everything, be data-driven.

Ray Miciek, Aquitas Solutions. Getting Started on IoT-based Maintenance:

  • his company specializes in asset maintenance.
  • “produce products with assets that never fail”
  • 82% of all asset failures are random, because they are more IT-related now
  • find someplace in org. where you could gain info to avoid failure.
  • Can start small, then quickly expand.

 

Holy Clayton Christensen! Is Local Motors prototype for future of manufacturing?

In the latter stages of writing The Future Is Smart, I came across Local Motors, an amazing company that is not only an IoT innovator but also might pr0vide a model to revolutionize American manufacturing in general.

I’d read an article years ago about the company when it was locally-based, but since it was focused entirely on off-road & fast cars at the time (both of which leave me cold) I didn’t follow up.

Now it’s diversifying into a cute small urban shuttle device, the Olli, which is being produced at Local Motion’s Knoxville microfactory, taps IBM’s Watson, and which they label “the world’s first self-driving cognitive vehicle.” Very cool.

co-creation

The first of Local Motor’s revolutionary aspects is its design process, which it labels “co-creation” (AKA crowdsourcing — in fact founder/visionary John B. (Jay) Rogers, Jr. says he was inspired by the Jeff Howe book of the same name). It uses a SaaS platform, where the company posts design challenges, and then community members (some experts, some just enthusiasts) offer their ideas. Eventually, the community votes on which designs to actually produce:

“An active process where brands and their customers work together with solvers, designers, and engineers to accelerate product and technology development. We call this group our Community and proudly work to empower genius ideas and brilliant solutions from Community members across the globe.”

The participatory aspect even extends to the shop floor: buyers can opt to personally take part in the final assembly process (and designs are also easily customized after the sale as well).

The company has also provided consulting services on co-creation for organizations ranging from the US Army to Airbus. 

This is not unlike my “share data, don’t hoard it” IoT Essential Truth, which is also at the heart of my Circular Company vision: when you involve and empower a wide range of people, you can unleash creativity that even the most talented person can’t.

direct digital manufacturing

The second Local Motors innovation is use of creative technologies, especially 3D printing, in manufacturing, what they call “direct digital manufacturing (DDM).”  The process mimics what Siemens does at its “Factory of the Future,”  where complete digitalization gives them quality, precision, and the opportunity for mass customization:

“DDM creates significant unfair advantages: the ability to produce parts directly from a CAD file; elimination of investments in tooling; reduction in time lag between design and production and, best of all, elimination of penalties for redesigns — unlocking mass customization that was previously unobtainable.”

According to Chief Strategy Officer Justin Fishkin, the economies possible with the DDH approach means the Rally Fighter model was profitable after only the 60th one was built.

microfactories

I’ve written before about Ford’s River Rouge plant, the ne plus ultra of the first Industrial Age: iron ore went in one end of the 1 x 1.6 mile factory and Model Ts came out the other.

By contrast, Local Motors is building several supermarket-sized “microfactories” around the globe at a cost 1/100th of that for conventional car plants, which “..will also act as points of sale, or what Fishkin calls ‘experiential dealerships.’”

 


The jury’s still out on Local Motors (Rogers, for example, has come in for some scathing tell-all comments by former employees), but even if it isn’t a roaring success, it will have a lasting legacy for challenging such long-held assumptions about the entire design/build process. and for exploiting the full benefits of digitization.  It’s the essence of Christensen’s disruptive innovation.

We’ll be watching

 

Great Podcast Discussion of #IoT Strategy With Old Friend Jason Daniels

Right after I submitted my final manuscript for The Future is Smart I had a chance to spend an hour with old friend Jason Daniels (we collaborated on a series of “21st Century Homeland Security Tips You Won’t Hear From Officials” videos back when I was a homeland security theorist) on his “Studio @ 50 Oliver” podcast.

We covered just about every topic I hit in the book, with a heavy emphasis on the attitude shifts (“IoT Essential Truths” needed to really capitalize on the IoT and the bleeding-edge concept I introduce at the end of the book, the “Circular Corporation,” with departments and individuals (even including your supply chain, distribution network and customers, if you choose) in a continuous, circular management style revolving around a shared real-time IoT hub.  Hope you’ll enjoy it!

Human Side of IoT: Local Startup Empowers Forgotten Shop Floor Workers!

Let’s not forget: human workers can and must still pay a role in the IoT!

Sure, the vast majority of IoT focus is on large-scale precision and automated manufacturing (Industrie 4.0 as it is known in Germany, or the Industrial Internet here). However, an ingenious local startup, Tulip, is bringing IoT tools to the workbench and shop floor, empowering individual industrial engineers to create no-code, low-code apps that can really revolutionize things in the factory.  Yes, many jobs will be replaced by IoT tech, but with Tulip, others will be “enabled” — workers will still be there to make decisions, and they’ll be empowered as never before.

Um, I’m thinking superhuman factory Transformers, LOL!

The Tulip IoT gateway allows anyone to add sensors, tools, cameras and even “pick to light bins” (never heard that bit of shop lingo, but they looked cool in video) to the work station, without writing a line of code, because of the company’s diverse drivers support factory floor devices. It claims to “fill the gap between rigid back-end manufacturing IT systems and the dynamic operations taking place on the shop floor.”

Rony Kubat, the young MIT grad who’s the company’s co-founder is on a mission “to revolutionize manufacturing software,” as he says, because people who actually have to play a hands-on roll in product design and production on  shop floor have been ignored in the IoT, and many processes such as training are still paper-based:

“Manufacturing software needs to evolve. Legacy applications neglect the human side of manufacturing and therefore suffer from low adoption. The use of custom, expensive-to-maintain, in-house solutions is rampant. The inability of existing solutions to address the needs of people on the shop floor is driving the proliferation of paper-based workflows and the use of word processing, spreadsheet and presentation applications as the mainstay of manufacturing operations. Tulip aims to change all this through our intuitive, people-centric platform. Our system makes it easy for manufacturers to connect hands-on work processes, machines and backend IT systems through flexible self-serve manufacturing apps”.

While automation in factory floors continues to grow, manufacturers often find their hands-on workforce left behind, using paper and legacy technology. Manufacturers are seeing an enormous need to empower their workforce with intuitive digital tools. Tulip is a solution to this problem. Front-line engineers create flexible shop-floor apps that connect workers, machines and existing IT systems. These apps guide shop-floor operations enabling real-time data collection and making that data useful to workers on factory floors. Tulip’s IoT gateway integrates the devices, sensors and machines on the shop floor, making it easy to monitor and interact with previously siloed data streams (you got me there: I HATE siloed data). The platform’s self-serve analytics engine lets manufacturers turn this data into actionable insights, supporting continuous process improvement.

The company has grown quickly, and has dozens of customers in fields as varied as medical devices, pharma, and aerospace. The results are dramatic and quite varied:

  • Quality: A Deloitte analysis of Tulip’s use at Jabil, a global contract manufacturer, documented 10+% production increases. It reduced quality issues in manual assembly by more than 10%. found production yield increased by more than 10 percent, and manual assembly quality issues were reduced by 60 percent in the initial four weeks of operation.
  • Training: Other customers reduced the amount of time to train new operators by  90 percent, in a highly complicated, customized and regulated biopharmaceutical training situation: “Previously, the only way to train new operators was to walk them repeatedly through all the steps with an experienced operator and a process engineer. Tulip quickly deployed its software along with IoT gateways for the machines and devices on the process, and managed to cut training time almost by half.”
  • Time to Market: They reduced a major athletic apparel maker’s time to market by 50% for hundreds of new product variations. That required constantly evaluating the impact of dozens of different quality drivers to isolate defects’ root causes — including both manual and automated platforms. Before Tulip, it could take weeks of analysis until a process was ready for production. According to the quality engineer on the project, “I used Tulip’s apps to communicate quality issues to upstream operators in real-time. This feedback loop enabled the operators to take immediate corrective action and prevent additional defects from occurring.”

Similar to my friends at Mendix, the no-code/low-code aspect of Tulip’s Manufacturing App Platform lets process engineers without programming backgrounds create shop floor apps through interactive step-by-step work instructions. “The apps give you access through our cloud to an abundance of information and real-time analytics that can help you measure and fine-tune your manufacturing operations,” Tulip Co-Founder Natan Linder says (the whiz-kid is also chairman of 3-D printer startup Formlabs). 

Linder looked at analytics apps that let users create apps through simple tools and thought why not provide the same kind of tools for training technicians on standard operating procedures or for building product or tracking quality defects? “This is a self-service tool that a process or quality engineer can use to build apps. They can create sophisticated workflows without writing code…. Our cloud authoring environment basically allows you to just drag and drop and connect all the different faucets and links to create a sophisticated app in minutes, and deploy it to the floor, without writing code,” he says. Tulip enables sharing appropriate real-time analytics with each team member no matter where they are and to set up personal alerts for the data that’s relevant to each.

IMHO, this is a perfect example of my IoT “Essential Truth” of “empowering every worker with real-time data.”  Rather than senior management parceling out (as they saw fit) the little amount of historical data that was available in the past, now workers can share (critical verb) that data instantly and combine it with the horse sense that can only be gained by those actually doing the work for years. Miracles will follow!

Writ large, the benefits of empowering shop floor workers are potentially huge.  According to the UK Telegraph, output can increase 8-9 %, while cutting costs 7-8%, cutting costs approximately 7-8 percent. The same research estimates that industrial companies “could see as much as a 300 basis point boost to their bottom line.”

Examples of the relevant shop-floor analytics include:

  • “Show real-time metrics from the shop floor
  • Report trends in your operations
  • Send customized alerts based on user defined triggers
  • Inform key stakeholders with relevant data”

IDC Analyst John Santagate neatly sums up the argument for empowering workers through the IoT thusly:

“With all of the talk and concern around the risk of losing the human element in manufacturing, due to the increasing use of robotics, it is refreshing to see a company focus on improving the work that is still done by human hands.  We typically hear the value proposition of deploying robots and automation of improvements to efficiency, quality, and consistency.  But what if you could achieve these improvements to your manufacturing process by simply applying analytics and technology to the human effort?  This is exactly what they are working on at Tulip.  

“Data analytics is typically thought about at the machine level. Manufacturers measure things such as throughput, efficiency, and quality by applying sensors to their manufacturing equipment, capturing the data signals, and conducting analytics.  The analytics provide an understanding of the health of the manufacturing process and enable them to make any necessary changes to improve the process.  Often, such efforts are top down driven.  Management drives these projects in order to improve the performance of the business.  An alternative approach is to enable the production floor to proactively identify improvement opportunities and take action, a bottom-up approach. For this self-service approach to succeed shop-floor engineers need a flexible platform such as Tulip’s, that allows them to replace paper-based processes with technology and build the applications that enable them to manage hands-on processes.  The real time analytics and visibility of hands-on manufacturing processes from Tulip’s platform puts the opportunity to identify improvement opportunities directly in the hands of people engaged in the work cells.

“Digital transformation in manufacturing is about leveraging advanced digital technology to improve how a company operates.  But, as the manufacturing industry focuses on digital transformation it must not forget the value of the human element.  Indeed, we don’t often think about digital transformation in relation to human effort, but this is exactly the sort of thinking that can deliver some of the early wins in digital transformation. “ 

Well said — and thanks to Tulip for filling a critical and often overlooked aspect of the IoT!

I’m reminded of my old friend Steve Clay-Young, who managed the BAC’s shop in Boston, and first alerted me to the “National Home- workshop Guild” which Popular Science started in the Depression and then played a critical part in the war effort. Craftsmen who belonged all got plans and turned out quality products on their home lathes.  I can definitely see a rebirth of the concept as the cost of 3-D printers from Kubat’s other startup, Formlabs drops, and we can have the kind of home (or at least locally-based production that Eric Drexler dreamed of in his great Engines of Creation (which threw in another transformational production technology, nanotech). 

I’m clearing space in my own workshop so I can begin production on IoT/nanotech/3-D printed products. Move over, GE.

IoT: LiveBlogging PTC’s LiveWorx

Got here a little late for CEO Jim Heppelman’s keynote, so here goes!

  • Vuforia: digital twin gives you everything needed for merging digital “decorations” on the physical object
  • Unique perspective: AR takes digital back to the physical. Can understand & make better decisions.
  • Virtual reality would allow much of the same. Add in 3-D printing, etc.
  • “IoT is PLM.” Says PTC might be only company prepared to do both.
  • Says their logo captures the merger of digital and physical.
  • Case studies: they partnered with Bosch’s Rexroth division. Cytropac built-in IoT connectivity–  used Creo. Full life-cycle management. Can identify patterns of usage, etc. Using PTC’s analytics capacity, machine learning analysis. Want to improve cooling efficiency (it was high at first). Model-based digital twin to monitor product in field, then design an upgrade. How can they increase cooling efficiency 30%??  Came up with new design to optimize water channel that they will build in using 3-D printing. Cool (literally!). 43% increase in cooling efficiency. The design change results in new recommendation engine that helps in sales. Replaced operating manual with 3-D that anyone can understand. (BTW: very cool stagecraft: Heppelmann walks around stage interviewing the Rexroth design team at their workstations).
  • Ooh: getting citizen developers involved!!!  Speeds process, flexibility. App shows how products are actually operating in the field. Lets sales be much more proactive in field. Reinventing CRM.  May no longer need a physical showroom — just put on the AR headset.
  • Connectivity between all assets. The digital twin is identical, not fraternal. Brings AR into factory. They can merge new manufacturing equipment with legacy ones that didn’t have connectivity.  ABB has cloud-based retrofit sensors. Thingworx can connect almost anything, makes Industry 4.0 possible. Amazing demo of a simulated 3-D disassembly and replacement.
  • Hmmm — closing graphic of his preso is a constantly rotating circular one. Anticipating my “circular company” talk on Wednesday????

Closing the Loop With Enterprise Change Management. Lewis Lawrence of Weatherford, services to petroleum industry:

  • former engineer. In charge of Weatherford’s Windchill installation (they also use Creo).
  • hard hit by the drop in gas prices
  • constant state of flux
  • 15 years of constant evolution
  • their mantra: design anywhere, build anywhere.
  • enterprise change — not just engineering.
  • hmmm: according to his graphics, their whole change process is linear. IMHO, that’s obsolete in era of constant change: must evolve to cyclical. Ponderous process…
  • collect data: anything can be added, if it’s latest

The IoT Can Even Help You Breathe Better: GCE Group’s Zen-O portable oxygen concentrator for people with respiratory problems (not actually launched yet):

  • InVMA has built IoT application using ThingWorx to let patients, docs and service providers carefully monitor data
  • GCE made radical change from their traditional business in gas control devices. Zen-O is in the consumer markets. They were very interested in connected products — especially since their key competitor launched one!
  • Goals: predictive maintenance, improved patient care, asset management, development insight.
  • Design process very collaborative, with many partners.

The Digital Value Chain: GE’s Manufacturing Journey. Robert Ibe, global IT Engineering Leader at GE Industrial Solutions:

  • supports Brilliant Factory program.
  • they design and manufacture electrical distribution equipment, 30 factories worldwide.
  • “wing-to-wing” integrated process
  • had a highly complex, obsolete legacy
  • started in 2014: they were still running really old CAD technology. 14 CAD repositories that didn’t talk to each other. 15 year old PLM software. No confidence in any of data they had.
  • They began change with PLM — that’s where the digital thread begins.  PLM is foundation for their transformation.
  • PLM misunderstood: use it to map out cohesive, cross-functional, model-based strategy. Highlight relevance of “design anywhere — manufacture anywhere.” Make PLM master of your domain. Make it critical to commercial & manufacturing. Advertise benefits & value.
  • Whole strategy based on CAD. Windchill heart of the process.
  • Rate of implementation faster than business can keep up with!
  • Process: implementation approach:
    • design systems integration
    • model-based design
    • digital thread
    • manufacturing productivity.
  • common enterprise PLM framework
  • within Windchill, can see entire “digital bill of documents.”
  • focused on becoming critical for supply chain.
  • total shift from their paper-based legacy.
  • integrated regulatory compliance with every step of design.

It’s Not Your Grandmother’s IoT: Blockchain and IoT Morph Into An Emerging Technology Powerhouse:

  • Example of claims for fair-traded coffee that I’ve used in past

Finding Business Value in IoT panel:

  • Bayer — been in IoT (injection devices for medicine) for 7 years.  Reduced a lot of parts inventory.
  • Remote control of vending machines replaces paper & pencil
  • Your team needs to evangelize for biz benefits of IoT
  • New Opportunities:
    • vision and language
    • interacting with physical world
    • problem solving.
  • Didn’t know!  Skype can do real-time translation.
  • Google Deep Mind team worked internally, cut energy costs at its server farms. 15% energy reduction.
  • Digital progress makes economic pie bigger, BUT  most people aren’t benefitting economicallly. Some may be worse off. “Great decoupling” — mushrooming economic gap. One reason is that tech affects different groups differently.
  • “Entirely possible to create inclusive prosperity” through tech!

 

WEDNESDAY

Delivering Smart City Solutions and an Open Citywide Platform to Accelerate Economic Growth and Promote New Solution Innovation, Scott McCarley, PTC:

  • $40 trillion potential benefits from smart cities
  • 1st example & starting point for many cities, is smart lightpoles. Major savings plus value added. Real benefit is building on that, with systems of systems (water, traffic, energy, etc.) — the systems don’t operate in isolation.
  • Future buildings may have built-in batteries to add to power supply. Water reclamation, etc.
  • Cities are focused on KPIs across all target markets.
  • Cornerstone systems for a city: power & grid, water/wastewater, building management, city services & infrastructure.
  • Leveraging ThingWorx to address these needs:
    • deploy out-of-box IoT solutions from a ThingWorx Solution Provider: All examples, include Aquamatix, DEPsys (grid), Sensus, All Traffic, Smoove (bike sharing).
    • leverage ThingWorx to rapidly develop new IoT solutions.
      connect to any device, rapidly develop applications, visually model systems, quickly develop new apps. Augmented reality will play a role!
    • create role-based dashboards:
      one for your own operations, another for city.
    • bring the platform to create a citywide platform.
      Sum of connected physical assets, communication networks, and smart city solutions.

Digital Supply Networks: The Smart Factory. Steven Shepley, Deloitte:

  • 3 types of systems: 1) foundational visualization solutions:  KPIs, etc. 2) advanced analytical solutions 3) cyber-physical solutions.
  • Priority smart factory solutions:
    • advanced planning (risk-adjusted MRP), dynamic sequencing, cross network.
    • value chain integration: signal-based customer/supplies integration, dynamic distribution routing/tracking, digital twin.
    • asset efficiency: predictive maintenance, real-time asset tracking intelligence, energy management
    • labor productivity: robotic and cognitive automation, augmented reality-driven efficiency, real-time safety monitoring
    • exponential tech: 3-D printing, drones, flexible robots.
  • How to be successful: think big, start small, scale fast
  • Act differently: multi-disciplinary teams,
  • sensors getting simpler, easier to connect & retrofit. National Connectors particularly good.

Global Smart Home, Smart Enterprise, and Smart Cities IoT Use Cases. Ken Herron, Unified InBox, Pte.

  • new focus on customer
  • H2M: human to machine communication is THE key to IoT success. Respect their interests.
  • Austin TX: “robot whisperer” — industrial robot company. Their robots aging out, getting out of tune, etc. Predictive analytics anticipates problems.
  • Stuttgart: connected cow — if one cow is getting sick, may spread to entire herd. Intervene.
  • Kuala Lumpur: building bot — things such as paper towel dispensers communicating with management.
  • London: Concierge chatbot — shopper browsing can chat with assistant on combining outfits.
  • Dubai: smart camera. Help find your car in mega-shopping center: read license plates, message the camera, it gives you map to the car.
  • Singapore: Shout — for natural disasters. Walks the person making the alert through process, confirms choices.
  • Stuttgart: Feinstaubalarm — occasional very bad airborne dust at certain times. Tells people with lung problems options, such as taking mass transit.
  • Singapore: Smart appliances — I always thought smart fridge was stupid, but in-fridge camera that lets you shoot a “shelfie” does make sense
  • Fulda Germany: smart clothing for military & police: full record of personal health at the moment. Neat!
  • Noida India — smart sneakers can automatically post your run results (see connection to my SmartAging concept)

Business Impact of IoT, Eric Schaeffer, Accenture:

  • Michelin delivery trucks totally reinvented, major fuel savings, other benefits.
  • manufacturing being deconstructed
  • smart, connected products are causing it
  • industrial companies must begin transformation today

Thingworx: Platform for Management Revolution. W. David Stephenson, Stephenson Strategies:

Here are key points from my presentation about how the IoT can allow radical transformation from linear & hierarchical companies to IoT-centric “circular companies” (my entire presentation can be found here):

  • The IoT can be the platform for dramatic management change that was impossible in the past.
  • Making this change requires an extraordinary shift in management thinking: from hierarchy to collaboration.
  • The results will be worth the effort: not only more efficiency & precision, but also new creativity, revenue streams, & customer loyalty. 
  • In short, it will allow total transformation!

Kickstarting America’s Digital Transformation. Aneesh Chopra & Nicholas Thompson!

  • on day one, Our President (not the buffoon) told Chopra he wanted default to be switch from closed to open government & data.
  • National Wireless Initiative: became law 1 yr. after it was introduced.  Nationwide interoperable, secure wireless system.
  • Obama wanted to harness power of Internet to grow the economy. Talked to CIO of P & G, who was focused on opening up the company to get ideas from outside.
  • Thompson big on open data, but he thinks a lot more now is closed, we’re going wrong way.
  • Interesting example of getting down cost of solar to $1 per installed watt!!
  • Thompson: growing feeling that technology isn’t serving us economically. Chopra: need to democratize the benefits.
  • Chopra talking about opening up Labor Dept. data to lead to creative job opportunities for underserved.

 

 

 

 

Sound’s emerging IoT role

Could sound be a critical IoT tool?

I’d fixated in the past on a metaphor I called “Collective Blindness,” as a way to explain how difficult it used to be to get accurate, real-time data about how a whole range of things, from tractors to your body, were actually working (or not) because we had no way to penetrate the surface of these objects as they were used. As a result, we created some not-so-great work-arounds to cope with this lack of information.

Then along came the IoT, and no more collective blindness!

Now I’m belatedly learning about some exciting efforts to use another sense, sound, for the IoT.  Most prominent, of course, is Amazon’s Alexa and her buddies (BTW, when I ask Siri if she knows Alexa, her response was an elusive “this is about you, not me,” LOL), but I’ve found a variety of start-ups pursuing quite different aspects of sound. They nicely illustrate the variety of ways sound might be used.

technician using Auguscope to detect   sound irregularities in machinery

First is Augury.

What I particularly love about their device and accompanying smartphone app it is that they are just about the lowest-cost, easiest-to-use, rapid payback industrial IoT devices I can think of.

That makes them a great choice to begin an incremental approach to the IoT, testing the waters by some measures that can be implemented quickly, pay rapid bottom-line benefits and therefore may lure skeptical senior management who might then be willing to then try bolder measures   (this incremental approach was what I outlined in my Managing the Internet of Things Revolution e-guide for SAP, and I’ll be doing a webinar on the approach in April with Mendix, which makes a nifty no-code, low-code tool).

Instead of requiring built-in sensors, an Auguscope is a hand-held device that plant personnel can carry anywhere in the building it’s needed to analyze how the HVAC system is working. A magnetic sensor temporarily attaches to the machine and the data flows from the Auguscope to the cloud where it is analyzed to see if the sound is deviating from pre-recorded normal sounds, indicating maintenance is needed. Consistent with other IoT products that are marketed as services instead of sold, it uses a “Diagnostics as a Service” model, so there are no up-front costs and customers pay as they go. The company hopes that the technology will eventually be built into household appliances such as washers and dryers.

Presenso is the second company using sound to enable predictive maintenance.  It is sophisticated cloud-based software that takes data from a wide range of already-installed sensors and interprets any kind of data: sound, temperature, voltage, etc.  It builds a model of the machine’s normal operating data and then creates visualizations when the data varies from the norm. Presenso’s power comes from combining artificial intelligence and big data.

Finally, and most creative is Chirp (hmm: Chrome wouldn’t let me enter their site, which it said was insecure. Here’s the URL:www.chirp.io/ — try at your own risk…) , a UK company that transmits data using audio clips that really sound like chirps. It’s amazing!  Check out this video of an app in India that uses sound to pay fares on the country’s version of Uber:


Another Chirp app is a godsend to all who forget Wi-Fi passwords: your phone “chirps” a secure access code, allowing you to join the network automatically.   The company has released iOS and Android versions.  As VentureBeat reported:

“Each chirp lasts a couple of seconds, and the receiving device “listens” for a handful of notes played quickly in a certain order, in a certain range, and at a certain speed. While there are other easy ways of sharing files and data in real-time, such as Bluetooth, Chirp doesn’t require devices to pair in advance, there is no need to set up an account, and it’s ultimately a much quicker way of sharing files.

“That said, with Chirp, the file itself isn’t sent peer-to-peer, and the data doesn’t actually travel directly via audio. Chirp merely decodes and encodes the file, with the associated sound serving as the delivery mechanism. A link is generated for the recipient(s) to access it on Chirp’s servers, but the process from sending to receiving is seamless and near-instant.”

In terms of IoT applications, it could also connect with physical objects (hmm: retailing uses??). The Chirp platform is so cool that I suspect it will be a global hit (the company says it’s already used in 90 countries).

So, I’ve had my senses opened: from now on, I’ll add voice and sound in general to the list of cool IoT attributes.  Because voice and sound are so ubiquitous, they really meet the late Mark Weiser’s test:  “the most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.” What could be more woven into the fabric of everyday life than sound — and, potentially, more valuable?


BTW: let me put in a plug for another IoT voice product. During the past two months, I recorded 7 hours of my voice speaking a very strange mishmash of sentences drawn from, among others, Little Women, Jack London’s Call of the Wild, The Wizard of Oz, and The Velveteen Rabbit (I worried about the she-wolf sneaking up on Meg, LOL….). Using the algorithms developed for Alexa, the Vocal ID team will slice and dice my voice and create a natural sounding one for someone who cannot speak due to a birth defect or disease.  I hope you’ll join me in volunteering for this wonderful program.

More Blockchain Synergies With IoT: Supply Chain Optimization

The more I learn about blockchain’s possible uses — this time for supply chains — the more convinced I am that it is absolutely essential to full development of the IoT’s potential.

I recently raved about blockchain’s potential to perhaps solve the IoT’s growing security and privacy challenges. Since then, I’ve discovered that it can also further streamline and optimize the supply chain, another step toward the precision that I think is such a hallmark of the IoT.

As I’ve written before, the ability to instantly share (something we could never do before) real-time data about your assembly line’s status, inventories, etc. with your supply chain can lead to unprecdented integration of the supply chain and factory, much of it on a M2M basis without any human intervention. It seems to me that the blockchain can be the perfect mechanism to bring about this synchronization.

A brief reminder that, paradoxically, it’s because blockchain entries (blocks) are shared, and distributed (vs. centralized) that it’s secure without using a trusted intermediary such as a bank, because no one participant can change an entry after it’s posted.

Complementing the IBM video I included in my last post on the subject, here’s one that I think succinctly summarizes blockchain’s benefits:

A recent LoadDelivered article detailed a number of the benefits from building your supply chain around blockchain. They paralleling the ones I mentioned in my prior post regarding its security benefits, of using blockchain to organize your supply chain (with some great links for more details):

  • “Recording the quantity and transfer of assets – like pallets, trailers, containers, etc. – as they move between supply chain nodes (Talking Logistics)
  • Tracking purchase orders, change orders, receipts, shipment notifications, or other trade-related documents
  • Assigning or verifying certifications or certain properties of physical products; for example determining if a food product is organic or fair trade (Provenance)
  • Linking physical goods to serial numbers, bar codes, digital tags like RFID, etc.
  • Sharing information about manufacturing process, assembly, delivery, and maintenance of products with suppliers and vendors.”

That kind of information, derived from real-time IoT sensor data, should be irresistible to companies compared to the relative inefficiency of today’s supply chain.

The article goes on to list a variety of benefits:

  • “Enhanced Transparency. Documenting a product’s journey across the supply chain reveals its true origin and touchpoints, which increases trust and helps eliminate the bias found in today’s opaque supply chains. Manufacturers can also reduce recalls by sharing logs with OEMs and regulators (Talking Logistics).
  • Greater Scalability. Virtually any number of participants, accessing from any number of touchpoints, is possible (Forbes).
  • Better Security. A shared, indelible ledger with codified rules could potentially eliminate the audits required by internal systems and processes (Spend Matters).
  • Increased Innovation. Opportunities abound to create new, specialized uses for the technology as a result of the decentralized architecture.”

Note that it the advantages aren’t all hard numbers, but also allowing marketing innovations, similar to the way the IoT allows companies to begin marketing their products as services because of real-time data from the products in the field. In the case of applying it to the supply chain (food products, for example), manufacturers could get a marketing advantage because they could offer objective, tamper-proof documentation of the product’s organic or non-GMO origins. Who would have thought that technology whose primary goal is increasing operating efficiency could have these other, creative benefits as well?

Applying  blockchain to the supply chain is getting serious attention, including a pilot program in the Port of Rotterdam, Europe’s largest.  IBM, Intel, Cisco and Accenture are among the blue-chip members of Hyperledger, a new open source Linux Foundation collaboration to further develop blockchain. Again, it’s the open source, decentralized aspect of blockchain that makes it so effective.

Logistics expert Adrian Gonzalez is perhaps the most bullish on blockchain’s potential to revolutionize supply chains:

“the peer-to-peer, decentralized architecture of blockchain has the potential to trigger a new wave of innovation in how supply chain applications are developed, deployed, and used….(becoming) the new operating system for Supply Chain Operating Networks

It’s also another reminder of the paradoxical wisdom of one of my IoT “Essential Truths,” that we must learn to ask “who else could share this information” rather than hoarding it as in the past. It is the very fact that blockchain data is shared that means it can’t be tampered with by a single actor.

What particularly intrigues me about widespread use of blockchain at the heart of companies’ operations and fueled by real-time data from IoT sensors and other devices is that it would ensure that privacy and security, which I otherwise fear would always be an afterthought, would instead be inextricably linked with achieving efficiency gains. That would make companies eager to embrace the blockchain, assuring their attention to privacy and security as part of the deal. That would be a definite win-win.

Blockchain must definitely be on your radar in 2017.

 

Lo and behold, right after I posted this, news that WalMart, the logistics savants, are testing blockchain for supply chain management!

 

http://www.stephensonstrategies.com/">Stephenson blogs on Internet of Things Internet of Things strategy, breakthroughs and management