Live Blogging from SAP’s SCM CRM IoT 2016

I’m back in Sodom and Gomorrah in the desert, AKA Las Vegas, to speak at another SAP IoT conference: SCM CRM IoT 2016, and to live blog again!

Keynoters: Hans Thalbauer, sr. vp of extended supply chain solutions at SAP, and Dr. Volker G. Hildebrand, global vp or customer engagement & commerce for SAP Hybris:
Hildebrand:

  • theme: move beyond traditional CRM: look at entire customer journey
  • you have to meet customer expectations for convenience, relevance, reliability, and in real-time.
  • real lesson from Uber: customers upend markets, not companies; carry power of internet in their pocket; if you’re fighting alone, you have no chance of success;
  • when London cabbies went on strike, Uber membership went up 850% in 3 days.
  • “74% of execs. believe digital transformation is improving value for customers”
  • must thinking beyond CRM: 2 of 3 companies don’t think their CRM doesn’t support their future needs for customer engagement.
  • blend marketing & commerce.
  • personalization is key to digital commerce.
  • beyond service: customer served before, during & after buy; flawless field service. 53% abandon online purchase if they don’t be quick answers to questions.
  • why no app from cable provider allowing you to get assistance Uber-style? Instead, hold on phone.
  • One-to-one future is here.
  • Omnichannel selling
  • By 2020: 1 million fewer B2B sales reps (@Forrester)
  • EY: enabled collaboration with 15,000 client partners
  • “Engage your customers like never before:” commerce, marketing, service & sales.

Bob Porter, Pregis (protective packaging):

  • liked ease of use with Hybris (vs. Salesforce)

Thalbauer (digital transformation of supply chain):

  • end-consumer driven economy
  • very related to IoT
  • tech adoption accelerating
  • biz model transformation
  • instant notification if the equipment malfunctions
  • change of business transformation
  • disruption in every aspect of business:
    • customer-centric (demand sensing, omni-channel sales, same-day delivery)
    • individualized products (configured products, digitalized inventory, lot size of one)
    • resource scarcity (talent, sustainability, natural resources)
    • sharing economy (social networks, business networks, asset networks)
  • sweet: combo of 3-D printing at warehouse & Uber-based model for final delivery.
  • extended supply chain demo: sweet (literally): 3-D printing of chocolates at high-end stores! — wonderful example of IoT data-centric enterprise
  • SAP increasing pace of innovation
    • fastest-growing planning solution in history
    • only live logistics platform in the market
    • product innovation platform re-defined
    • demand-driven manufacturing
    • digital assets.

Next up: Sacha Westermann, Port of Hamburg, on how it uses IoT to streamline operations, improve efficiency & reduce accidents through “smartPORT”:

  • it’s very big (largest port in Germany), and very complex! Ships, rail (largest rail hub in Europe), trucking. 24/7.
  • big emphasis on environment: need to reduce emissions, improve sustainability.
  • can’t expand area, but must be able to handle more volume.
  • key factor is connectivity between all parties.
  • smartPORT includes energy & logistics.
  • smart maintenance: use mobile to call up SAP order & create messages, take photos. Example of malfunction with a drawbridge. Technician got new button from stock, installed it, customers didn’t even know there was a problem.
  • port monitor: digital map with all info to operate the harbor. Mobile version on iPad.
  • SmartSwitch for rail: sensors on the switches to measure conditions. Automated data flow to maintenance company.
  • dynamic info on traffic volumes: combines all real-time data on traffic. Detects available parking spaces. Created “PrePort Parking” as holding area for trucks that are early or late. Trucks park bumper-to-bumper for maximum efficiency.
  • special traffic lights: cycle changes based on real-time traffic flow. Warning messages if pedestrians cross.
  • smartROAD: smart sensing of the bridge-structural load — identifies interdependencies and to do predictive maintenance.
  • Take aways:
    • good application requires lot of data
    • must share data
    • data privacy critical for confidence
    • everyone gets just info they need
    • more participants, higher the benefit for each
    • open interfaces basic
    • application must be self-explanatory

Next up: me!, on 4 Essential Truths of IoT & how that translates into strategy.


 

Mike Lackey, IoT Extended Supply Chain, SAP explaining their IoT strategy & direction, with emphasis on “driving customer value”:

  • he’s using universe of 75 billion connected devices by 2022.
  • case study: STILL, the smart lift truck from Germany. Forklift sold as service, based on weight of materials carried. They will communicate among themselves, M2M.
  • “It is not about Things, it is about what the Things can do to radically transform business processes!”
  • oil & gas: reducing spills. They worked with the company that made the platform that failed in Deep Horizon — hadn’t been maintained in years.
  • Burbury: want to know exactly what you looked at, share the info among their stores. Creepy: invasion of privacy??
  • UnderArmour: why do you have to wear a band — build sensors right into clothes.
  • Hagleitner (I reported about them at last SAP event) provides supplies for corporate washrooms, etc. Paradigm shift: sensors let them know which dispensers need new materials. “big washroom data
  • applications: drive adoption with a few killer applications. Differentiate with “Thing to Outcome”
  • cloud: leading cloud experience for customers and partners at lowest TCO
  • platform: open big data platform. high-value services for SAP, customer & partner
  • Kaeser Compressors also made paradigm shift: no longer sell air compressors, but air — must guarantee it works constantly. Million data points per compressor daily. Differentiates them from competitors.
  • one tractor company now can recommend to farmers what they should plant based on data from sensors on the plows.
  • Asset Intelligence Network: great example of data sharing for mutual advantage. To be released soon.
  • Enables connected driving experience.
  • SAP IoT Starter Kit can get you started.

Data Is the Hub: How the IoT and Circular Economy Build Profits

Fasten your seatbelts! I think I’ve finally zeroed in on the Internet of Things’ (IoT’s) most important potential economic benefit and how it could simultaneously help us escape the growing global environmental crisis:

make real-time IoT data* the hub of a circular economy and management mentality. It’s both good for the bottom line and the planet.

I started writing about circular business models back in the 90’s, when I consulted on profitable environmental strategies, i.e., those that were good both for the corporate bottom line and the planet.  It galled me that executives who railed about eliminating inefficiency thought reducing waste was for tree-huggers. Semantics and lifestyle prejudices got in the way of good strategy.

Ford’s River Rouge Plant (1952 view)

I could see that it was vital that we get away from old, linear models that began with extracting resources and ended with abandoned products in landfills. Ford’s massive 1 x 1.6 mile River Rouge Plant, the world’s largest integrated factory, was the paradigm of this thinking: ore was deposited at one end, made into steel, and cars came out the other (Hank’s penchant for vertical integration even led him to buy rubber plantations! If you have any illusions about the ultimate impossibility of top-down control, watch the PBS documentary on Ford — he simply couldn’t share power, even with his own son — and it almost ruined the company). The linear model worked for a long time, and, truth to tell, it was probably the only one that was feasible in the era of paper-and-pencil information flow:  it was so hard to gather and transmit information that senior management controlled who got what information, and basically threw it over the transom to the next office.

As for any kind of real-time information about what was actually happening on the factory floor: fugetaboutit: all that was possible was for low-level functionaries to shuffle along the assembly line, taking scheduled readings from a few gauges and writing them on a clipboard. Who knew if anyone ever actually read the forms, let alone made adjustments to equipment based on the readings?

Fast forward to 2015, and everything’s changed!

The image of the circular corporation popped back into my head last week while I was searching for an image of how the IoT really can change every aspect of corporate operations, from product design to supply chain management.  I was happily surprised that when I Googled “circular economy” I found a large number of pieces, including ones from consulting gurus Accenture and McKinsey (the most comprehensive report on the concept is probably this one from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation), about the bottom-line and environmental benefits of switching from a linear (‘take-make-dispose’) pattern.

But how to make the circular economy really function? That’s where the IoT comes in, and, in my estimation, is THE crucial element.

Visualize everything a company does as a circle, with IoT-gathered real-time data as its hub. That’s crucial, because everything in a profitable circular company revolves around this data, shared in real time by all who need it.

When that happens, a number of crucial changes that were impossible in the era of linear operations and thinking and limited data became possible for the first time:

  • you can optimize assembly line efficiency because all components of the factory are monitored by sensors in real time, and one process can activate and regulate another, and/or managers and assembly-line workers can fine-tune processes (think of the 10,000 sensors on the GE Durathon battery assembly line).
  • you can integrate the assembly line with the supply chain and distribution and sales network as never before (provided that you share the real-time data with them), so materials are delivered on a just-in-time basis) and production is dictated by real-time data on sales (the SAP smart vending machine, integrated with logistics, is a great example).
  • you can optimize product redesign and upgrades and speed the process, because sensor data from the products as they are actually used in the field is immediately fed back to the designers, so they have objective evidence of what does, and doesn’t work properly (think of how GE has improved its product upgrade process). No more ignorance of how your products are actually used!
  • from an environmental standpoint, having sensors on key components can make it possible for you to recover and profitably remanufacture them (closing the loop) rather than having them landfilled (I was excited to learn that Caterpillar has been doing this for 40 years (!) through its Reman Program, which “reduces costs, waste, greenhouse gas emissions and need for raw inputs.”).
  • you can create new revenue streams, by substituting services for actual sales of products.  I’ve written before about how GE and RollsRoyce do this with jet engines, helping clients be more efficient by providing them with real-time data from jet turbines in return for new fees, and Deere does it with data feeds from its tractors. Now I learn that Phillips does this, with industrial lighting, retaining ownership of the lighting: the customers only pay for the actual use of the lights. Phillips also closes the loop by taking the lights back at the end of their life and/or upgrading them.

As I’ve written before, creating the real-time data is perhaps the easier part: what’s harder is the paradigm shift the circular economy requires, of managers learning to share real-time data with everyone inside the enterprise (and, preferably, with the supply chain, distribution network, retailers, and, yes, even customers). When that happens, we will have unprecedented corporate efficiency, new revenue streams, satisfied customers, and, equally important reduce our use of finite resources, cut pollution, and tread lightly on the earth.  There you have it: the secret to 21st-century profitability is:

real-time IoT data, at the hub of the circular enterprise.


*Oh yeah, please don’t drop a dime on me with the grammar police about the title: in fact, I’m a retired colonel in the Massachusetts Grammar Police, but I’ve given up the fight on “data.” From my Latin training, I know that data are the plural form of datum, but datum is used so infrequently now and data with a singular verb has become so common that I’ve given up the fight and use it as a singular noun.  You can see the issue debated ad nauseum here

The IoT Will Reinvent Replacement Parts Industry

Of all the Internet of Things’ revolutionary impacts on industry, perhaps none will be as dramatic as on replacement parts, where it will team with 3-D printing to reduce service time, inventory and costs.

I came to that realization circuitously, upon noticing Warren Buffett’s blockbuster purchase of Precision Castparts, the major precision parts supplier to the aeronautics industry.  Having read last year about yet another breakthrough innovation by Elon Musk, i.e., the first totally 3-D printed rocket engines, I was curious to see what Precision was doing in that area.  Unless my search of their website was flawed, the answer is zip, and that suggests to me that Buffett, who famously once said he doesn’t invest in technology because he doesn’t understand it, may have just bought …. a rather large dinosaur.

I noticed that one of Precision’s biggest customers is GE, which not only is using 3-D jet fuel nozzles on its engines but also ran a high-profile contest to design a 3-D printed engine mount that was open to you, me and the kids trying out the new 3-D printer at our little town’s library (note to Mr. Buffett: might be good to schedule a sit-down with Jeff Immelt before one of your biggest customers takes things in-house). As I’ve written before, not only is GE a world leader in the IoT and 3-D printing, but also in my third magic bullet, nanotech: put all three together, and you’re really talking revolution!

OK, I know 3-D printing is sloow (in its current state), so it’s unlikely to replace traditional assembly lines at places such as Precision Castparts for large volumes of parts, but that doesn’t mean it won’t rapidly replace them in the replacement parts area.  I talked to a friend several years ago whose biz consists of being a broker between power plants that need replacement parts yesterday and others with an excess on hand, and couldn’t help thinking his days were numbered, because it was predicated on obsolete technology — and thinking.

Think of how the combined strengths of the IoT and 3-D printing can help a wide range of industries get replacement parts when and where they need them, and at potentially lower cost:

  • sensors in IoT-enabled devices will give advance notice of issues such as metal fatigue, so that repairs can be done sooner (“predictive maintenance“), with less disruption to normal routine, cheaper and reducing the chance of catastrophic failure.
  • because data can be shared on a real-time by not only your entire workforce, but also your supply chain, you can automate ordering of replacement parts.
  • perhaps most important, instead of a supplier having to maintain a huge inventory of replacement parts on the possibility they may be needed, they can instead be produced only when needed, or at least with a limited inventory (such as replacing a part in inventory as one is ordered). This may lead to “re-shoring” of jobs, because you will no longer have to deal with a supplier on the other side of the globe: it might be in the next town, and the part could be delivered as soon as printed, saving both delay and money.
  • your company may have your own printer, and you will simply pay the OEM for the digital file to print a part in-house, rather than having to deal with shipping, etc.

And, as I mentioned in the  earlier post about GE’s leadership in this area, there are other benefits as well:

  • “We’ll no longer do subtractive processes, where a rough item is progressively refined until it is usable.  Instead, products will be built atom-by-atom, in additive processes where they will emerge exactly in the form they’re sold.
  • “Products will increasingly be customized to the customer’s exact specifications. The products will be further fine-tuned based on a constant flow of data from the field about how customers actually use them.”

Sooo, Mr. Buffett, it’s time that you come to terms with 21-st century technology or Berkshire Hathaway’s financial slide may continue.

 

Intel’s IoT tech improves its own manufacturing efficiency

This demonstration IoT manufacturing project hits my buttons!

I love IoT-enabled manufacturing (what I call “precision manufacturing“) and I REALLY love companies (such as GE, at its Durathon battery plant) that eat their own dogfood by applying their IoT technology internally.  Gotta walk the talk!

 

That’s why I was happy to learn how Intel is  applied its own IoT technology to its own factories. In the accompanying video, Intel VP for IoT operations and group marketing Frank James says:

“The real opportunity is how to combine … data differently, which will ultimately give you insights not only into how your factory is running but, what’s more important, will let you predict how your factory will run the next minute, the next hour, the next shift, the next day.”

The pilot factory automation project is a collaboration with Mitsubishi Electric (more points for a key IoT “Essential Truth” — collaboration!).  The project, at Intel’s Malaysia manufacturing facility, combines two critical components, end-to-end IoT connectivity and big data analytics. The benefits were impressive: $9 million in cost avoidance and improved decision making, plus:

  • improved equipment uptime
  • increased yield and productivity
  • predictive maintenance
  • reduced component failures.

That hard-to-quantify improved decision making, BTW, is one of the things that doesn’t get enough discussion when we talk about IoT benefits: decision-making improves when there is more data to consider, more people to analyze and discuss it simultaneously (not sequentially, as in the past), and when you’ve got tools such as data dashboards to allow visualizing the data and its patterns.

The companies plan to roll out the services commercially this year.

Here are the specs:

“Using an Intel® Atom™ processor-based IoT gateway called the C Controller from Mitsubishi Electric’s iQ-Platform, Intel was able to securely gather and aggregate data for the analytics server. Data was then processed using Revolution R Enterprise* software from Revolution Analytics*, an analytics software solution that uses the open source R statistics language, which was hosted on Cloudera Enterprise*, the foundation of an enterprise data hub.”

 

GE & IBM make it official: IoT is here & now & you ignore it at your own risk!

Pardon my absence while doing the annual IRS dance.

While I was preoccupied, GE and IBM put the last nail in the coffin of those who are waiting to launch IoT initiatives and revise their strategy until the Internet of Things is more ….. (supply your favorite dismissive wishy-washy adjective here).

It’s official: the IoT is here, substantive, and profitable.

Deal with it.

To wit:

The two blue-chips’ moves were decisive and unambiguous. If you aren’t following suit, you’re in trouble.

The companies accompanied these bold strategic moves with targeted ones that illustrate how they plan to transform their companies and services based on the IoT and related technologies such as 3-D printing and Big Data:

  • GE, which has become a leader in 3-D printing, announced its first FAA-approved 3-D jet engine part, housing a jet’s compressor inlet temperature sensor. Sensors and 3-D printing: a killer combination.
  • IBM, commercializing its gee-whiz Watson big data processing system, launched Watson Health in conjunction with Apple and Johnson & Johnson, calling it “our moonshot” in health care, hoping to transform the industry.  Chair Ginny Rometty said that:

“The Watson Health Cloud platform will ‘enable secure access to individualized insights and a more complete picture of the many factors that can affect people’s health,’ IBM says each person generates one million gigabytes of health-related data across his or her lifetime, the equivalent of more than 300 million books.”

There can no longer be any doubt that the Internet of Things is a here-and-now reality. What is your company doing to catch up to the leaders and share in the benefits?

 

Gartner study confirms senior managers don’t understand IoT

Posted on 21st February 2015 in Internet of Things, M2M, management, manufacturing, marketing, strategy

The “Managing the Internet of Things Revolution” e-guide I wrote for SAP was aimed at C-level executives. Even though it’s proven popular enough that the company is translating it into several languages, it appears we need to redouble our efforts to Managing_the_Internet_of_Things_Revolutionbuild IoT awareness among executives.

I say that because Gartner has just come out with a survey confirming my suspicions: even though a lot of companies now think the IoT will have a major effect on them, they’re clueless about how to manage it and most have yet to launch major IoT initiatives.

In fact, “many survey respondents felt that the senior levels of their organizations don’t yet have a good understanding of the potential impact of the IoT.” (my emphasis)

 

That’s despite the fact that a key conclusion of my guide was that (even though the IoT is a long way from full maturity) companies can and should begin their IoT strategies and implementation now, because they can already achieve significant savings in operating costs, improve marketing, and create new revenue streams with the current early stage sensors and analytical tools. Getting started will also build their confidence and familiarity with IoT tools and strategy before they begin more dramatic transformational strategies.

Consider these findings from the survey of 463 business and IT leaders:

  • 40% of companies think the IoT will at least bring new short-term revenue and cost reduction opportunities in the next three years — or perhaps even transform them. More than 60% think that will be true over 5 years or more.
  • Fewer than 25% said their company had “established clear business leadership for the IoT,” — even among the companies predicting a significant  – this includes those who said they expect the IoT to have a significant or transformational impact, says Gartner (however, 35% of them came from this group).
  • Yet, few have delegated specific responsibility for IoT strategy and management: “… less than one-quarter of survey respondents has established clear business leadership for the IoT, either in the form of a single organizational unit owning the issue or multiple business units taking ownership of separate IoT efforts.”
  • “attitudes toward the IoT vary widely by industry. For example, board of directors’ understanding of the IoT was rated as particularly weak in government, education, banking and insurance, whereas the communications and services industries scored above-average ratings for senior executive understanding of the IoT.”

Gartner concluded most companies have yet to really create IoT strategies:

“‘The survey confirmed that the IoT is very immature, and many organizations have only just started experimenting with it,’ said Nick Jones, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. ‘Only a small minority have deployed solutions in a production environment. However, the falling costs of networking and processing mean that there are few economic inhibitors to adding sensing and communications to products costing as little as a few tens of dollars. The real challenge of the IoT is less in making products ‘smart’ and more in understanding the business opportunities enabled by smart products and new ecosystems.’ However, a lack of clear business or technical leadership is holding back investment in the technology.” (my emphasis)

In line with my current preoccupation, privacy and security, the survey did show companies are concerned with both issues, as well as with finding talented new staff who understand the IoT and how to benefit from it. According to Steve Kleyhans, Gartner’s research vp:

 “While a single leader for the IoT is not essential, leadership and vision are important, even in the form of several leaders from different business units. We expect that over the next three years, more organizations will establish clear leadership, and more will recognize the value of some form of an IoT center of excellence because of the need to master a wide range of new technologies and skills.”

If you haven’t launched any IoT projects or begun to create a strategy, the writing’s on the wall: get going!


Carpe diem: I take this survey as an omen that there’s a desperate need for When Things Can Talk: profiting from the Internet of Things revolution,” my proposed full-length book on IoT corporate strategy. Let me know if you can suggest a possible publisher!

Management Challenge: Lifeguards in the IoT Data Lake

In their Harvard Business Review November cover story, How Smart, Connected Products Are Transforming Competition, PTC CEO Jim Heppelmann and Professor Michael Porter make a critical strategic point about the Internet of Things that’s obscured by just focusing on IoT technology: “…What makes smart, connected products fundamentally different is not the internet, but the changing nature of the “things.”

In the past, “things” were largely inscrutable. We couldn’t peer inside massive assembly line machinery or inside cars once they left the factory, forcing companies to base much of both strategy and daily operations on inferences about these things and their behavior from limited data (data which was also often gathered only after the fact).

Now that lack of information is being removed. The Internet of Things creates two unprecedented opportunities regarding data about things:

  • data will be available instantly, as it is generated by the things
  • it can also be shared instantly by everyone who needs it.

This real-time knowledge of things presents both real opportunities and significant management challenges.

Each opportunity carries with it the challenge of crafting new policies on how to manage access to the vast new amounts of data and the forms in which it can be accessed.

For example: with the Internet of Things we will be able to bring about optimal manufacturing efficiency as well as unprecedented integration of supply chains and distribution networks. Why? Because we will now be able to “see” inside assembly line machinery, and the various parts of the assembly line will be able to automatically regulate each other without human intervention (M2M) to optimize each other’s efficiency, and/or workers will be able to fine-tune their operation based on this data.

Equally important, because of the second new opportunity, the exact same assembly line data can also be shared in real time with supply chain and distribution network partners. Each of them can use the data to trigger their own processes to optimize their efficiency and integration with the factory and its production schedule.

But that possibility also creates a challenge for management.

When data was hard to get, limited in scope, and largely gathered historically rather than in the moment, what data was available flowed in a linear, top-down fashion. Senior management had first access, then they passed on to individual departments only what they decided was relevant. Departments had no chance to simultaneously examine the raw data and have round-table discussions of its significance and improve decision-making. Everything was sequential. Relevant real-time data that they could use to do their jobs better almost never reached workers on the factory floor.

That all potentially changes with the IoT – but will it, or will the old tight control of data remain?

Managers must learn to ask a new question that’s so contrary to old top-down control of information: who else can use this data?

To answer that question they will have to consider the concept of a “data lake” created by the IoT.

“In broad terms, data lakes are marketed as enterprise wide data management platforms for analyzing disparate sources of data in its native format,” Nick Heudecker, research director at Gartner, says. “The idea is simple: instead of placing data in a purpose-built data store, you move it into a data lake in its original format. This eliminates the upfront costs of data ingestion, like transformation. Once data is placed into the lake, it’s available for analysis by everyone in the organization.”

Essentially, data that has been collected and stored in a data lake repository remains in the state it was gathered and is available to anyone, versus being structured, tagged with metadata, and having limited access.

That is a critical distinction and can make the data far more valuable, because the volume and variety will allow more cross-fertilization and serendipitous discovery.

At the same time, it’s also possible to “drown” in so much data, so C-level management must create new, deft policies – to serve as lifeguards, as it were. They must govern data lake access if we are to, on one hand, avoid drowning due to the sheer volume of data, and, on the other, to capitalize on its full value:

  • Senior management must resist the temptation to analyze the data first and then pass on only what they deem of value. They too will have a crack at the analysis, but the value of real-time data is getting it when it can still be acted on in the moment, rather than just in historical analyses (BTW, that’s not to say historical perspective won’t have value going forward: it will still provide valuable perspective).
  • There will need to be limits to data access, but they must be commonsense ones. For example, production line workers won’t need access to marketing data, just real-time data from the factory floor.
  • Perhaps most important, access shouldn’t be limited based on pre-conceptions of what might be relevant to a given function or department. For example, a prototype vending machine uses Near Field Communication to learn customers’ preferences over time, then offers them special deals based on those choices. However, by thinking inclusively about data from the machine, rather than just limiting access to the marketing department, the company shared the real-time information with its distribution network, so trucks were automatically rerouted to resupply machines that were running low due to factors such as summer heat.
  • Similarly, they will have to relax arbitrary boundaries between departments to encourage mutually-beneficial collaboration. When multiple departments not only share but also get to discuss the same data set, undoubtedly synergies will emerge among them (such as the vending machine ones) that no one department could have discovered on its own.
  • They will need to challenge their analytics software suppliers to create new software and dashboards specifically designed to make such a wide range of data easily digested and actionable.

Make no mistake about it: the simple creation of vast data lakes won’t automatically cure companies’ varied problems. But C-level managers who realize that if they are willing to give up control over data flow, real-time sharing of real-time data can create possibilities that were impossible to visualize in the past, will make data lakes safe, navigable – and profitable.

Lifting the Veil After the Sale: another IoT “Essential Truth”

Count me among those who believe the Internet of Things will affect every aspect of corporate operations, from manufacturing to customer relations.

Perhaps one of the most dramatic impacts will be on the range of activities that take place after the sale, including maintenance, product liability, product upgrades and customer relations.

In the past, this has been a prime example of the “Collective Blindness” that afflicted us before the IoT, because we basically had no idea what happened with our products once they left the factory floor.

In fact, what little data we did have probably served to distort our impressions of how products were actually used. Because there was no direct way to find out how the products were actually used, negative data was probably given exaggerated weight: we heard negative comments (warrantee claims, returns, liability lawsuits, etc.), loud and clear, but there was no way to find out how the majority of customers who were pleased with their products used them.

That has all changed with the IoT.

Now, we have to think about products  in totally new ways to capitalize on the IoT, and I think this merits another “Essential Truth” about the IoT:

Everything is cyclical.

Think about products — and industrial processes in general — in the old industrial system. Everything was linear: perhaps best exemplified by Henry Ford’s massive River Rouge Complex, the world’s largest integrated factory, and the epitome of integrated production.

Ford River Rouge Complex

“Ford was attempting to control and coordinate all of the necessary resources to produce complete automobiles.  Although Ford’s vision was never completely realized, no one else has come so close, especially on such a large scale.  His vision was certainly a success, one indication of this is the term Fordism, which refers to his style of mass-production, characterized by vertical integration, standardized products and assembly-line production”

At “The Rouge,” raw materials (literally: it had its own coke ovens and foundry!)  flowed in one side, and completed cars flowed out the other, bound for who knows where. Once the cars were in customers’ hands, the company’s contact was limited to whatever knowledge could be gleaned from owners’ visits to dealers’ service departments, irate calls from customers who had problems, and (in later days) safety recalls and/or multi-million dollar class-action lawsuits.

That linear thinking led to a terrible example of the “Collective Blindness” phenomenon that I’ve written about in the past: who knew how customers actually thought about their Model T’s? How did they actually drive them? Were there consistent patterns of performance issues that might not have resulted in major problems, but did irritate customers?

Sure, you could guess, or try to make inferences based on limited data, but no one really knew.

Fast forward to the newest auto manufacturer, Tesla, and its factory in Fremont, California (aside: this massive building — Tesla only uses a portion, used to be the NUMMI factory, where Chevy built Novas and Toyota built Corollas. Loved the perceptual irony: exactly the same American workers built mechanically identical cars [only the sheet metal varied] but the Toyotas commanded much higher prices, because of the perception of “Japanese quality.” LOL. But I digress….).

Tesla doesn’t lose track of its customers once the cars leave the plant.

Tesla assembly line

In fact, as I’ve written before, these “iPhones on wheels” are part of a massive cyclical process, where the cars’ on-board communications constantly send back data to the company about how the cars are actually doing on the road. And, when need be, as I mentioned in that prior post, the company was able to solve a potentially dangerous problem by simply sending out a software patch that was implemented while owners slept, without requiring customer trips to a repair shop!

I imagine that the company’s design engineers also pour over this data to discern patterns that might indicate elements of the physical design to tweak as well.

Of course, what would a blog post by me about IoT paradigm shifts be without a gratuitous reference to General Electric and its Durathon battery plant (aside to GE accounting: where should I send my W-9 and invoice so you can send me massive check for all the free PR I’ve given you? LOL)?

I can’t think of a better example of this switch to cyclical thinking:

  • including sensors into the batteries at the beginning of the production process rather than slapping them on at the end means that the company is actually able to monitor, and fine tune, the manufacturing process to optimize the critical chemical reaction. The same data allows the workers to remove defective batteries from the assembly line, so that every battery that ships works.
  • once in the field (and, remember: these batteries are deployed in incredibly remote areas where it might take days for a repair crew to reach and either service or repair them) the same sensors send back data on how the batteries are functioning. I don’t know about the specifics in the case of these batteries, but GE has actually created new revenue streams with other continuously-monitored devices by selling this data to customers who can use it (because the data is shared on a real-time basis, not just historically) to optimize performance.

Elsewhere, as I’ve mentioned before, General Electric’s William Ruh has said that being able to lift the veil of “Collective Blindness” through feedback from how customers actually use their products has even revolutionized their product design process:

“… G.E. is adopting practices like releasing stripped-down products quickly, monitoring usage and rapidly changing designs depending on how things are used by customers. These approaches follow the ‘lean start-up’ style at many software-intensive Internet companies. “’We’re getting these offerings done in three, six, nine months,’ he (Ruh) said. ‘It used to take three years.’”

Back in the ’90’s, I used to lecture and consult on what I called “Natural Wealth,” a paradigm shift in which we’d find all the inspiration we needed for an information-based economy in a table-top terrarium that embodies billion-year-old  principles of nature:

  • embrace chaos, don’t try to control it. (i.e., use open systems rather than proprietary ones)
  • create symbiosis: balance competition with cooperation (IFTTT.com, where you release your APIs to create synergistic mashups with others).
  • close the loop.

With the IoT, we can finally put that last principle into practice, substituting cyclical processes for linear ones.  At long last, the “systems dynamics” thinking pioneered by Jay Forrester and his disciple, Peter Senge, can become a reality. Here’s a closing tip to make that possible: in addition to SAP’s HANA or other analytics packages, look to systems dynamics software such as isee systems’  iThink to model your processes and transform linear into cyclical ones. Now get going: close the loop!

My #IoT predictions for 2015

I was on a live edition of “Coffee Break With Game-Changers” a few hours ago with panelists Sherryanne Meyer of Air Products and Chemicals and Sven Denecken of SAP, talking about tech projections for 2015.

Here’s what I said about my prognostications:

“I predict that 2015 will be the year that the Internet of Things penetrates consumer consciousness — because of the Apple Watch. The watch will unite both health and smart home apps and devices, and that will mean you’ll be able to access all that usability just by looking at your watch, without having to fumble for your phone and open a specific app.

If Apple chooses to share the watch’s API on the IFTTT – If This Then That — site, the Apple phone’s adoption – and usability — will go into warp speed. We won’t have to wait for Apple or developers to come up with novel ways of using the phone and the related devices — makers and just plain folks using IFTTT will contribute their own “recipes” linking them. This “democratization of data” is one of the most powerful – and under-appreciated – aspects of the IoT. In fact, Sherryanne, I think one of the most interesting IoT strategy questions for business is going to be that we now have the ability to share real time data with everyone in the company who needs it – and even with supply chain and distribution networks – and we’ll start to see some discussion of how we’ll have to change management practices to capitalize on this this instant ability to share.

(Sven will be interested in this one) In 2015, the IoT is also going to speed the development of fog computing, where the vast quantities of data generated by the IoT will mean a switch to processing data “at the edge,” and only passing on relevant data to the cloud, rather than overwhelming it with data – most of which is irrelevant.

In 2015 the IoT is also going to become more of a factor in the manufacturing world. The success of GE’s Durathon battery plant and German “Industry 4.0” manufacturers such as Siemans will mean that more companies will develop incremental IoT strategies, where they’ll begin to implement things such as sensors on the assembly line to allow real-time adjustments, then build on that familiarity with the IoT to eventually bring about revolutionary changes in every aspect of their operations.

2015 will also be the year when we really get serious about IoT security and privacy, driven by the increasing public concern about the erosion of privacy. I predict that if anything can hold back the IoT at this point, it will be failure to take privacy and security seriously. The public trust is extremely fragile: if even some fledgling startup is responsible for a privacy breach, the public will tend to tar the entire industry with the same brush, and that could be disastrous for all IoT firms. Look for the FTC to start scrutinizing IoT claims and levying more fines for insufficient security.”

What’s your take on the year ahead? Would love your comments!

Is GE the future of manufacturing? IoT + nanotech + 3D-printing

The specific impetus for this post was an article in The Boston Globe about heart stents that fit perfectly because they’re 3-D printed individuallly for each patient.

GE jet engine 3-D-printed fuel nozzle

That prompted me to think of how manufacturing may change when three of my favorite technologies — nanotech, 3-D printing and the Internet of Things — are fully mature and synergies begin (as I’m sure they will) to emerge between the three.

I’m convinced we’ll see an unprecedented combination of:

  • waste elimination: we’ll no longer do subtractive processes, where a rough item is progressively refined until it is usable.  Instead, products will be built atom-by-atom, in additive processes where they will emerge exactly in the form they’re sold.
  • as with the stents, products will increasingly be customized to the customer’s exact specifications.
  • the products will be further fine-tuned based on a constant flow of data from the field about how customers actually use them.

Guess what?  The same company is in on the cutting edge of all three: General Electric (no, I’m not on their payroll, despite all my fawning attention to them!):

  • Their Industrial Internet IoT initiative is resulting in dramatic changes to their products, with built-in sensors that relay data constantly to GE and the customer about the product’s current status, allowing predictive maintenance practices that cuts repair costs, optimizing the device’s performance for more economical operations, and even allowing GE to switch from selling products to leasing them, with the lease price determined dynamically using factors such as how many hours the products are actually used.  Not only that, but they practice what they preach, with 10,000 sensors on the assembly line at their Durathon battery plant in Schenectady, plus sensors in the batteries themselves, allowing managers to roam the plant with an iPad to get instant readings on the assembly line’s real-time operation, to fine-tune the processes, and to be able to spot defective batteries while they are still in production, so that 100% of the batteries shipped will work.
    They’re also able to push products out the door more rapidly and updating them quicker based on the huge volumes of data they gather from sensors built into the products: “… G.E. is adopting practices like releasing stripped-down products quickly, monitoring usage and rapidly changing designs depending on how things are used by customers. These approaches follow the ‘lean start-up’ style at many software-intensive Internet companies. “’We’re getting these offerings done in three, six, nine months,’ he [William Ruh] said. ‘It used to take three years.’”
  • They’ve made a major commitment to 3-D printing, with 100,000 3-D printed parts scheduled to be built into their precision LEAP jet engines — a big deal, since there’s not a great deal of fault tolerance in something that may plunge to the earth if it malfunctions! As Bloomberg reported, “The finished product is stronger and lighter than those made on the assembly line and can withstand the extreme temperatures (up to 2,400F) inside an engine.”  They’re making major investments to boost the 3-D printers’ capacity and speed.  Oh, and did I mention their precedent-setting contest to crowd-source the invention of a 3-D printed engine mount?
  • They’re also partnering with New York State on perhaps the most visionary technology of all, nanotech, which manipulates materials on the molecular level. GE will focus on cheap silicon carbide wafers, which beat silicon chips in terms of efficiency and power, leading to smaller and lighter devices.

GE is the only member of the original Dow-Jones Index (in 1884) that still exists. As I’ve said before, I’m astounded that they not only get it about IoT technology, but also the new management practices such as sharing data that will be required to fully capitalize on it.

Thomas A. Edison is alive and well!

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