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!

 

IoT Intangibles: Increased Customer Loyalty

There are so many direct, quantifiable benefits of the IoT, such as increased quality (that 99.9988% quality rate at Siemens’s Amberg plant!) and precision, that we may forget there are also potential intangible benefits.

Most important of those is customer loyalty, brought about by dramatic shifts both in product designs and how they are marketed.

Much of this results from the IoT lifting the veil of Collective Blindness to which I’ve referred before: in particular, our prior inability to document how products were actually used once they left the loading dock. As I’ve speculated, that probably meant that manufacturers got deceptive information about how customers actually used products and their degree of satisfaction. The difficulty of getting feedback logically meant that those who most liked and most hated a product were over-represented: those who kinda liked it weren’t sufficiently motivated to take the extra steps to be heard.

Now, by contrast, product designers, marketers, and maintenance staffs can share (that critical verb from my Circular Company vision!) real-time data about how a product is actually operating in the field, often from a “digital twin” they can access right at their desks.

Why’s that important?

It can give them easy insights (especially if those different departments do access and discuss the data at the same time, each offering its own unique perspectives, on issues that will build customer loyalty:

  • what new features can we add that will keep them happy?
  • can we offer upgrades such as new operating software (such as the Tesla software that was automatically installed in every single car and avoided a recall) that will provide better customer experiences and keep the product fresh?
  • what possible maintenance problems can we spot in their earliest stages, so we can put “predictive maintenance” services into play at minimal cost and bother to the customer?

I got interested in this issue of product design and customer loyalty while consulting for IBM in the 9o’s, when it introduced the IBM PS 2E (for Energy & Environmental), a CES best-of-show winner in part because of its snap-together modular design. While today’s thin-profile-at-all-costs PC and laptop designs have made user-friendly upgrades a distant memory, one of the things that appealed to me about this design was the realization that if you could keep users satisfied that they were on top of  new developments by incremental substitution of new modules, they’d be more loyal and less likely to explore other providers.

In the same vein, as GE has found, the rapid feedback can dramatically speed upgrades and new features. That’s important for loyalty: if you maintain a continuing interaction with the customer and anticipate their demands for new features, they’ll have less reason to go on the open market and evaluate all of your competitors’ products when they do want to move up.

 

Equally important for customer loyalty is the new marketing options that the continuous flow of real-time operating data offer you. For a growing number of companies, that means they’re no longer selling products, but leasing them, with the price based on actual customer usage: if it ain’t bein’ used, it ain’t costing them anything and it ain’t bringing you any revenue!

Examples include:

  • jet turbines which, because of the real-time data flow, can be marketed on the basis of thrust generated: if it’s sitting on the ground, the leasee doesn’t pay.  The same real-time data flow allows the manufacturer to schedule predictive maintenance at the earliest sign of a problem, reducing both its cost and the impact on the customer.
  • Siemens’s Mobility Services, which add in features such as 3-D manufactured spare parts that speed maintenance and reduced costs, keeping the trains running.
  • Philips’s lighting services, which are billed on the basis of use, not sold.
  • SAP’s prototype smart vending machine, which (if you opt in) may offer you a special discount based on your past purchasing habits.

At its most extreme is Caterpillar’s Reman process, where the company takes back and remanufactures old products, giving them a new life — and creating new revenues — when competitors’ products are in the landfill.

Loyalty can also be a benefit of IoT strategies for manufacturers’ own operations as well. Remember that the technological obstacles to instant sharing of real-time data have been eliminted for the supply chain as well. If you choose to share it, your resupply programs can also be automatically triggered on a M2M basis, giving an inherent advantage to the domestic supplier who can get the needed part there in a few hours, versua the low-cost supplier abroad who may take weeks to reach your loading dock.

It may be harder to quantify than quality improvements or streamlined production through the IoT, but that doesn’t mean that dependable revenue streams from loyal customers aren’t an important potential benefit as well.

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.

Live Blogging from SAP’s HANA IoT event

Hmm. Never been to Vegas before: seems designed to bring out the New England Puritan in me. I’ll pass on opulence, thank you very much…

 SAP HANA/ IoT Conference

SAP HANA/ IoT Conference

Up front, very interested in a handout from Deloitte, “Beyond Linear,” which really is in line with speech I’ll give here tomorrow on the IoT “Essential Truths,” in which one of my four key points will be that we need to abandon the old, linear flow of data for a continuous cyclical one.  According to Deloitte’s Jag Bandia,

“Among users with a complete, 360-degree view of relevant data for each specific process can help avoid missed opportunities. The ‘all data’ approach means relevant data can and should come from anywhere — any application, any system, any process — not just the traditional channels associated with the process.”

Bravo!

First speaker: SAP Global Customers Operations CTO Ifran Khan:

  • “digital disruption”: catalyst for change & imperative to go digital.
  • digression about running going digital (I put in my 30 minutes this morning!!!), creating a totally new way of exercising (fits beautifully with “Smart Aging“!)
  • new macro tech trends are enabling digitalizations: hyper-connectivity, super computing, cloud computing, smart world, and cybersecurity (horrifying stat about how many USB sticks were left in dry cleaning!)
  • those who don’t go digital will go under…. (like John Chambers’ warning about IoT).
  • new opportunities in wide range of industries
  • need new digital architectures — “driving locality of data, integrated as deep as possible into the engine.
  • HOLY COW! He starts talking about a circular, digitally-centered concept, with a buckyball visual.  Yikes: great minds think alike.
  • sez HANA allows a single platform for all digital enterprise computing.
  • running things in real-time, with no latency — music to my ears!

Jayne Landry, SAP:

  • too few in enterprise have real-time access to analytics — oh yeah!
  • “analytics for everyone”
  • “own the outcome”
  • “be the one to know”
  • SAP Cloud for Analytics — “all analytics capabilities in one product.” real-time, embedded, consumer-grade user experience, cloud-based. Looking forward to seeing this one!
  • “Digital Boardroom” — instant insight. Same info available to board also available to shopfloor — oh yeah — democratizing data!

Very funny bit by Ty Miller on using SAP Cloud for Analytics to analyze Area 51 data. Woo Woo!

Ifran Khan again:

  • how to bring it to the masses? Because it’s expensive and difficult to maintain on the premises, extend and build in cloud! Add new “micro services” to SAP HANA cloud platform: SAP Application Integration, Tax Service, Procurement, Customer Engagement, Predictive, and, ta da, IoT.
  • video of Hamburg Port Authority. Absolutely love that and what they’re doing with construction sites!

Jan Jackman, IBM:

  • customers want speed. Cloud is essential. IBM & HANA are partners in cloud…

This guy is sooo neat: Michael Lynch, IoT Extended Supply Chain for SAP (and former opera student!):

  • “Connecting information, people, and things is greatest resource ever to drive insightful action.”
  • “big deal is the big data processing potential is real & chips are cheaper, so you can build actual business solutions”
  • STILL gmbh (forklifts) great example!
  • phase 1: connect w/ billions of internet-enabled things to gain new insights
  • phase II: transform the way you make decisions and take action
  • phase III: re-imagine your customer’s experience.
  • they do design thinking workshops — would luv one of those!
  • great paradigm shift: Hagleitner commercial bathroom supplies
  • Kaeser compressors: re-imaging customer service
  • working with several German car companies on enabling connected driving
  • once again, the  Hamburg Port Authority!!

SAP’s strategy:

  • offers IoT apps. platforms, and facilitates extensions of IoT solutions
  • work closely with Siemens: he’s talked with them about turbine business.
  • SAP has several solutions for IoT
  • Cloud-based predictive maintenance!
  • “social network for assets”: Asset Intelligence Network
  • They did the Harley York PA plant! — one line, 21-day per bike to 6 hrs.  (displays all around the plant with KPIs)
  • 5 layers of connectivity in manufacturing “shop floor to top floor”  SAP Connected Manufacturing
  • They have a IoT Starter Kit — neat
  • SAP Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence
  • SAP Plant Connectivity
  • SAP Event Stream Processor
  • SAP MobiLink
  • SAP SQL Anywhere/SAP ultralite
  • 3rd Party IoT Device Cloud (had never heard of “device cloud” concept — specialize in various industry verticals).

“Becoming an Insight-Driven Organization”  Speakers: Jag Bandla and Chris Dinkel of Deloitte.

  • Deloitte is using these techniques internally to make Deloitte “insight-driven”
  • “an insight-driven organization (IDO) is one which embeds analysis, data, and reasoning into every step of the decision-making process.” music to my ears!
  • emphasis on actionable insight
  • “when humans rely on their own experiences and knowledge, augmented by a stream of analytics-driven insights, the impact on value can be exponential”
  • benefits to becoming an IDO:
    • faster decisions
    • increased revenue
    • decreased cost of decision making
  • challenges:
    • lack of proper tech to capture
    • oooh: leaders who don’t understand the data…
  • 5 enabling capabilities:
    • strategy
    • people
    • process
    • data
    • tech
  • developing vision for analytics
  • Key questions: (only get a few..)
    • what are key purchase drivers for our customers?
    • how should we promote customer loyalty?
    • what customer sentiments are being expressed on social media?
    • how much should we invest in innovation?
  • Value drivers:
    • strategic alignment
    • revenue growth
    • cost reduction
    • margin improvement
    • tech
    • regulation/compliance
  • Organize for success (hmm: I don’t agree with any of these: want to decentralize while everyone is linked on a real-time basis):
    • centralized (don’t like this one, with all analyzed in one central group.. decentralize and empower!)
    • consulting: analysts are centralized, but act as internal consultants
    • center of excellence: central entity coordinates community of analysts across company
    • functional: analysts in functions such as marketing & supply chain
    • dispersed: analysts scattered across organization, little coordination
  • Hire right people! “Professionals who can deliver data-backed insights that create business value — and not just crunch numbers — are the lifeblood of an Insight-Driven Organization”
    • strong quantitative skills
    • strong biz & content skills (understand content and context)
    • strong data modeling & management skills
    • strong IT skills
    • strong creative design skills (yea: techies often overlook the cool design guys & gals)
  • Change the mindset (critical, IMHO!):
    • Communicate: build compelling picture of future to steer people in right direction.
    • Advocate: develop cohort of leaders to advocate for program.
    • Active Engagement: engage key figures to create pull for the program
    • Mobilize: mobilize right team across the organization.
  • How do you actually do it? 
    • improve insight-to-impact with “Exponential Biz Processes” — must rebuild existing business processes!  Involves digital user experience, biz process management, enterprise science, all data, and IT modernization.
      • re-engineer processes from ground up
      • develop intuitive, smart processes
      • enable exception-based management
  • Data:
    • “dark data:” digital exhaust, etc. might be hidden somewhere, but still actionable.
      • they use it for IoT: predictive personalization (not sure I get that straight…).
    • want to have well-defined data governance organization: standards, data quality, etc.
  • Technology: digital core (workforce engagement, big data & IoT, supplier collaboration, customer experience
    • HANA
  • Switch to digital delivery: visualizations are key!
    • allow for faster observations of trends & patterns
    • improve understanding & retention of info
    • empower embedded feeds and user engagement

 

IoT and the Data-Driven Enterprise: Bob Mahoney, Red Hat & Sid Sipes, Sr. Director of Edge Computing, SAP

  • What’s driving enterprise IoT?
    • more connected devices
    • non-traditional interactions such as M2M and H2M
    • ubiquitous internet connectivity
    • affordable bandwidth
    • cloud computing
    • standards-based and open-source software
  • Biz benefits:
    • economic gains
    • new revenue streams (such as sale of jet turbine data)
    • regulatory compliance
    • efficiencies and productivity
    • ecological impact
    • customer satisfaction
  • example of Positive Train Control systems to avert collisions. Now, that can be replaced by “smarter train tech”
  • SAP and edge computing (can’t move all of HANA to edge, but..)
    • improve security in transmission
    • reduce bandwidth need
    • what if connection goes down
    • actual analysis at the edge
    • allows much quicker response than sending it to corporate, analyzing & send it back
    • keep it simple
    • focused on, but not limited to, IoT
  • they can run SQL anywhere on IoT, including edge: SQL Anywhere
  • Red Hat & SAP doing interesting combination for retail, with iBeacons, video heat map & location tracking: yields real insights into consumer behavior.

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

IoT will streamline supply chain, reduce environmental impact

There’s a new Deloitte white paper that echoes a theme I’ve been repeating since 1990: smart businesses eliminate inefficiency by eliminating environmental waste.

I predict that the Internet of Things will speed that trend by allowing real-time data sharing throughout the supply chain, further increasing its efficiency.

The white paper, “The Evolving Supply Chain: Lean and Green,” says that:

“Leading companies are now finding that a green supply chain doesn’t just improve the public’s perception of their company and brand; it can save money by using resources more efficiently and reducing waste. It can also help to manage risk by insulating a company from shortages and price shocks, and by reducing the chances that a supplier will do something that gets them in hot water.”

It continues by identifying five key factors to reduce:

“Leading companies create value by modifying their supply chains to manage five key inputs and outputs: energy, carbon, water, materials and waste. These five resources are ubiquitous throughout the supply chain and thus offer vast potential for improved efficiency and cost reduction. Energy is expensive to use; carbon, in the form of emissions, represents dollars gone up in smoke; scarcity and commodity inflation are driving up the price of water and materials; and waste is a potential profit thrown away.”

In my speeches on the “Zero-Waste Economy,” I used to suggest that executives that were contemptuous of tree-hugging environmentalists and could care less about generating wastes should just substitute the work inefficiencies for waste. What hard-nosed company could justify inefficiency?

It’s great to see that the message is finally getting mainstream acceptance, and I really do think that the IoT will boost supply chain efficiency and thereby reduce environmental impacts by allowing everyone in the supply chain who needs operating data to share it simultaneously and in real time.

So there’s really no excuse any more for not practicing smart environmentalism, is there?

PS: To get the specifics about how to translate smart environmentalism into profits, check out Gil Friend’s Natural Logic. He’s got the operating manual.