Servitization With IoT: Weird Biz-Speak, But Sound Strategy

I love it when manufacturers stop selling things — and their revenues soar!

That’s one of the things I’ll cover on May 2nd  in”Define Your Breakout IoT” strategy, (sign-up) a webinar I’m doing with Mendix. I’ll outline an incremental approach to the IoT in which you can make some early, tentative steps (such as implementing Augury’s hand-held vibration sensor as a way to start predictive maintenance) and then, as you gain experience and increase savings and efficiency, plow the savings back into more dramatic transformation.

One example of the latter that I’ll detail in the webinar is one of my four “Essential Truths” of the IoT: rethink products. By that I meant not only reinventing products to be smart (especially by building in sensors so they can report their real-time status 24/7), but, having done that, exploring new ways to market them.  Or, as one graphic I’ll use in the presentation puts it, in mangled biz-speak, “servitization.”

              Hortilux bulbs

Most of the examples I’ve written about in that regard have been from major businesses, such as GE and Rolls-Royce jet turbines, that are now leased as services (with the price determined by thrust generated), but Mendix has a smaller, niche client that also successfully made the conversion: Hortilux, a manufacturer of grow lights for greenhouses.

The Hortilux decided to differentiate itself in an increasingly competitive grow light market by evolving from simply selling bulbs to instead providing a comprehensive continuing service that helps its customers optimize availability and lifetime of grow light systems, while cut energy cost.     

Using Mendix tools, they created Hortisensehttp://www.hortidaily.com/article/31774/Hortilux-launches-Hortisense-software-suite, a digital platform that monitors and safeguards various grow light processes in the greenhouse using sensors and PLCs. Software applications interpret the data and present valuable information to the grower anytime, anywhere, and on any device.

With Mendix, Hortilux created an application to collect sensor data on light, temperature, soil, weather and more. Now users can optimize plants’ photosynthesis, energy consumption, and greenhouse maintenance. Most ambitiously, it provides comprehensive “crop yield management:” 

  • Digital cultivation schedule
  • Light strategies based on plant physiology and life cycle
  • Automatic light adjustment based on predictive analytics (e.g. weather forecast, energy prices, produce prices)

The app even allows predictive maintenance, predicting bulbs’ life expectancy and notifying maintenance to replace them in time to avoid disruptions in operations.

In the days when we suffered from what I call “Collective Blindness,” when we lacked the tools to “see” inside products to m0nitor and perhaps fix them based on real-time operating data, it made sense to sell products and provide hit-or-miss maintenance when they broke down.

Now that we can monitor them 24/7 and get early enough warning to instead provide predictive maintenance, it makes equal sense to switching to marketing them as services, with mutual benefits including:

  • increased customer satisfaction because of less down-time
  • new revenues from selling customers services based on availability of the real-time data, which in turn allows them more operating precision
  • increased customer loyalty, because the customer is less likely to actually go on the open market and buy a competing product
  • the opportunity to improve operations through software upgrades to the product.

Servitization: ugly word, but smart strategy. Hope you’ll join us on the 2nd!

Capgemini Report: dramatic proof most big companies lag on IoT strategy!

In writing the SAP “Managing the Internet of Things Revolution” i-guide to IoT strategy for C-level executives, my research led me to believe that most big companies were still clueless about the IoT and how it would revolutionize every aspect of their operations.  Now a great report by Capgemini, “The Internet of Things: Are Organizations Ready for a Multi-Trillion Dollar Prize?” seems to answer its own question with a resounding “No!” It’s a must read, whether you’re late to the game, or if you’re looking for entrepreneurial opportunities. Let’s start with the conclusion:

The IoT represents the next evolution of the digital universe. The speed at which nimble startups and Internet players are capturing IoT opportunities should serve as a wake-up call to larger, traditional organizations. Analyst estimates point to a world where startups will dominate the IoT market. Fifty percent of IoT solutions are expected to originate in startups less than 3 years old, by 201732. They may be less nimble, but bigger organizations need to step up to the plate. As with all digital disruptions, being an organization that is in catch-up mode will be a deeply uncomfortable place to be. ” (my emphasis)

Earlier, it emphasizes that success will require both a paradigm shift and mastering new technologies such as big data analysis:

The IoT prize will be won by those who achieve a change in mindset, from a product world to a service world. However, that fundamental mind-shift is not the only requirement. Organizations need to get the right IT infrastructure in place, quickly acquire capabilities in analytics, and strengthen a whole host of functional capabilities. “

Got your attention yet?

The report was most emphatic about an aspect of the IoT that I don’t think I’ve emphasized enough in the past, the shift from products to services. Once again, I look to GE as one big company that “gets it” about the IoT transition, building sensors into its products that rotate, then monetizing the investment by offering real-time data about the products’ operations to customers so that they can optimize their operations — and charging for that data.  The study said that within a year after GE began offering its “Predictivity” line of IoT services in 2012, it generated $290 million in revenues.

One of the reasons why I really like the analysis is that it zeros in on a range of management issues that executives must address to capitalize on the IoT.

The study of more than 100 US and European companies reported that most don’t have the in-house expertise to make the switch from selling products to offering services:

“They now need to be able to envision new services, develop commercial models and design service contracts that result in continuous revenue streams. Our discussions with senior executives revealed that these are not areas of strength for many product- centric organizations.”

In particular, it targeted salespeople as a problem area: “For IoT solutions, a sales force needs to be comfortable in articulating the value proposition and potential benefits, which is critical to convincing often-reluctant customers to pay for a new class of services.” Customer support will also need to be beefed up — and delivered faster to customers who come to expect real-time data.

 The research showed that most companies were only in the early stages of IoT implementation — if at all. Fewer than 30% support remote operation of devices, and fewer than 40% use sensor data to offer customers the kind of performance improvement insights that GE gives.

One major gap that jumped out to me is that most of the big companies just don’t get my “Essential Truth” that you have to begin asking “who else can use this data”?,” and begin opening up proprietary systems so that third parties will enrich your offerings by creating new combinations and complementary offerings. Fewer “than 15% of organizations offer IoT solutions that integrate with third-party products and services.” (my emphasis) If mighty GE can team with Quirky and Electric Imp, what’s your excuse? On the more positive side, the research revealed that nearly 60% use partnerships to develop IoT solutions, so there’s hope.

The gaps are technological as well as human. 67% of the respondents said they don’t have the technology (shout-out to SAP’s HANA) to handle the massive amounts of big data the IoT will generate.

Another obstacle that the report identified was one I’d not come across before: resistance from within. “An executive at a medical technology company outlined how resistance can come less from the customer – and more from within the organization, explaining, ‘We only have 20% resistance from the customer and 80% from our own organization. Consequently, it is a significant challenge to align our existing business processes with new IoT-based service offerings.’”

The final section is an action agenda to get companies up to speed on the IoT:

  1. Put the Right IT Infrastructure in Place and Acquire Data Analytics Capabilities.
  2. Strengthen Functional Capabilities across Product Management, Sales and Marketing and Customer Support
  3. Use Trainings and Incentives to Prepare the Sales Force to Sell IoT Solutions. Augment Product Management Capabilities with Services Expertise and Emphasize Ease-of-Use in Product Design
  4. Develop Customer Support Capabilities to Drive Real-Time Issue Resolution.

Bottom line, Capgemini concluded that a shocking 42% of all companies don’t provide any IoT services. That, in my mind, is a clarion call to action!

You simply must read this report — then act on it.

It’s Official: Tom Friedman Anoints the IoT; Plus Jobs Issue Is Raised!

Posted on 16th September 2013 in 3-D printing, Internet of Things, M2M, maintenance, manufacturing, services

OK, the Internet of Things is officially a Big Thing: Tom “World is Flat” Friedman wrote about it in the Sunday NY Times.

Friedman, searching for evidence of American “exceptionalism” in a bleak landscape of Capitol Hill paralysis, etc. zeroed in on GE’s “Industrial Internet” initiatives as a ray of hope. As he wrote,

“I wanted to see what new technologies, and therefore business models — and therefore jobs — it might be spawning that public policy, and education policy, might enhance. I have no idea whether or how G.E. will profit from any of these breakthroughs, but I saw the outlines there of three radically new business trends that the United States should want to dominate.”

One of those themes was how 3-D printing could streamline the design and production process.

The second, which I wrote about earlier, was the concept of crowdsourcing design, in particular the contest GE held to design a new jet turbine mount (more about that later!!!).

Finally, Friedman zeroed in on the IoT, specifically widespread use of sensors:

“Lastly, we are on the cusp of what G.E. calls ‘the Industrial Internet’ or the ‘Internet of Things’ — meaning that every major part of a G.E. jet engine, locomotive or turbine is now equipped with online sensors that constantly measure and broadcast every aspect of performance. Computers capture all this big data and use it to improve everything from the flight path to energy efficiency.”

He gave several examples, such as wind turbines and hospital beds, where data from sensors can help to optimize efficiency and cut operating costs. He pointed out that the data allows GE to create new services “… that offer not just to manage an airline’s or railroad’s engines, but how fast all its planes or trains go, how flight and train schedules are coordinated and even how its equipment is parked to get optimal performance and energy efficiency (aside to marketing managers: what kinds of services would the IoT allow you to introduce, perhaps replacing actual sales of products with leases based on use? Think about it!).

Friedman concludes, “Watch this space, even if Washington doesn’t: When everything and everyone becomes connected, and complexity is free and innovation is both dirt-cheap and can come from anywhere, the world of work changes.”

Indeed! Nice to have someone with Friedman’s clout recognizing the IoT is a paradigm shift!

MEANWHILE: Make certain to read the comments following the column. They are primarily negative, and zero in on one thing: the IoT’s threat to jobs. In particular, the critics focused on the GE engine mount design contest.  One was particularly pointed:

“According to CNNMoney, General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt pocketed $25.8 million in total compensation in 2012. That’s about $20,000 every hour and a half. How come 8 geniuses cost only 90 minutes of CEO time?”

You’ve gotta agree, $20,000 ($7,000 to the winner) is a pretty paltry sum considering what GE gets in return, and given readers’ suspicions that companies may let go their salaried designers and instead exploit freelancers (I’ve thought the same about some of the incentives offered by Innocentive member companies for some of the crowdsourcing projects that they’ve offered), you can bet that there will be more criticisms in the future if this becomes a common practice.

The IoT will undoubtably result in loss of some jobs — disruptive technologies do that — although optimists say they will create jobs as well. But if companies don’t want to reap a lot of criticism for their IoT initiatives, they’d better put some thought into the job creation aspect as well!