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Internet of Things in Manufacturing By @MagicMagnus | @ThingsExpo #IoT

Best practices for transforming your business

BI Intelligence reports that the number of IoT devices installed in cities will increase by more than 5 billion in the next four years, creating a massive opportunity for IoT hardware manufacturers and software vendors. Manufacturers themselves stand to benefit from modernizing their processes and are already spending considerable amounts of money on mobilizing the enterprise, including connecting employees, products, services and machines/vehicles. Digging deeper, we can see what functions in the business they've tackled first.

Companies are using IoT technologies in a variety of ways. A recent report by Ernst & Young reveals that they use:

  • Digital sensors in products that send data to the company on how those products are performing - 25.5 percent
  • Digital sensors and other devices in locations where business is conducted, for example stores, branches, offices - 25.3 percent
  • Digital devices (such as digital bracelets) that customers can wear, which the company uses to track customer usage of products and services - 13.5 percent
  • Production and distribution operations to track product flow to customers - 44.9 percent
  • Customer mobile apps accessed on smartphones, tablet computers or other digital devices - 46.5 percent

Mobile apps are a relatively easy entry point for organizations, since this is where organizations can achieve the fastest results with the smallest investment. Incorporating customized software for endpoints such as sensors and connected meters, and for connecting existing equipment and machines, makes it more complicated.

However, mobile applications are usually used in conjunction with standard hardware including NFC chips, beacons and connected equipment that provide information/data to the business. The mobile apps are a window and a data input mechanism for the manufacturing process. This also aligns with the focus of many IT organizations today: improving applications to better fit the business processes.

Use Cases
What are the most common uses of IoT? Below are several use cases from the manufacturing industry.

1. Premises Monitoring
A popular baking company worked with a developer to create an Android tablet application that eliminated paper-based data collection by its retail field team. This helped mobilize the business process of capturing in-store product data for the 20,000 stores that carry its products and equipped the team with real-time store card details, access to promotional and marketing collateral, and an interactive product catalogue. Not only did this save time and create front-line efficiency, but it also updated corporate back-end systems automatically.

2. Product Monitoring
A global manufacturer of indoor and outdoor environmental cleaning solutions and specialty floor coatings needed a way to consolidate and analyze their cleaning machine telemetry data, as well as make this data more actionable by delivering it to their internal management team, customers and field-based operators in real time. To accomplish this, the manufacturer had a logical architecture designed that allowed for the integration of machine data, SAP ERP data and other sources with minimal architectural impact to the client. The architecture also provided high-speed and performance movement of data from the machines to the reporting layer. This enabled the effective delivery of information that allowed them to retire maintenance-heavy legacy systems that were not scalable.

3. Supply Chain Monitoring
Through the use of IoT and a responsive Web portal with hybrid applications for iPhone, iPad and Android smartphones, one of the largest cement and concrete companies in the world is driving innovation from various inputs (customer insights, technical innovation, local markets and business strategy). The company is now able to track details about their customers, orders, invoices and deliveries on a daily basis. This covers all aspects of production, warehouse logistics and distribution, which has been key in increasing productivity, levels of customer service and cost savings.

Important Steps for IoT Success
The biggest challenges related to IoT are security and privacy, lack of interoperable standards, storing and managing data, and timelines. In light of all the challenges and risks, how do you succeed with your IoT strategy and projects? To start with, don't just digitize existing business processes. Instead, think about how you can use IoT and mobile technology to transform your business.

Important steps in the success of IoT projects are:

  • User involvement throughout the development process
  • Clear objectives, KPIs and measuring of results
  • IoT implementations supported by lean, continuous improvements
  • Training and education of employees, getting everyone involved
  • Short iterative projects of maximum five months from start to MVP (Minimum Viable Product) launch

As more things become connected, the manufacturing industry stands to reap significant benefits. Expert estimates vary, but it's to the tune of billions of dollars. Still, beginning an IoT project can seem daunting. It needs to be well thought out both in terms of process planning and of the likelihood for return on investment. And even then, the project may fail at first, which is why it can be tremendously helpful to work with a partner who has the needed experience and expertise. But don't delay; in the fast-paced world of technological change, he who hesitates is out of business.

For more detailed information on how the IoT will transform manufacturing, download the entire white paper here.

More Stories By Magnus Jern

Magnus Jern is president of DMI’s Mobile Application Solutions Division. He was previously the founder and CEO of Golden Gekko, acquired by DMI in 2013. He has over 10 years of experience in content strategies, online marketing, search, location-based services, app development and mobile marketing for global consumer brands, retailers and carriers across the world.

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