Why The IoT Means You’ll Never Run Out Of Paper

In business, efficiency is critical. Any improvement to a standing process – even if relatively small – can have a profound impact when scaled up. Consider, for example, software that allows a train to travel more efficiently. While cutting a minute or two from a trip may not seem that significant, when those fuel savings are scaled up over thousands of trips, it becomes a serious cost savings.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has had a transformational effect on industries seeking to make their processes easier and more efficient. By leveraging the power of connected devices and data analysis, companies and governments are figuring out new ways to modernize established processes. Cities use IoT technology to reduce traffic congestion and pollution. Farmers use connected devices to improve crop yields. Railways use IoT technology to enhance safety and timeliness.

And companies can use it to ensure they never run out of paper supply.

How the IoT can keep paper supplies fully stocked

The applications of IoT technology are so varied as to seem almost unlimited. Companies are discovering ways, large and small, to increase productivity and efficiency through the use of data-based sensors and other devices.

Consider the case of paper companies and printer producers. The two have what should be a naturally synergistic relationship. Each produces half the equipment in a common office device. Yet, historically, paper companies and printer producers haven’t necessarily worked together. A business purchases its printers and paper from separate suppliers. Paper is restocked either through an ordering process initiated once paper stock runs low, or though a planning process that automatically orders paper through electronic data interchange (EDI). Both approaches are based on planned paper consumption, not real-world use, which often is different. In addition, there is always a time lag, even using the planning approach, between paper order and receipt.

It’s easy to see the inefficiency in this process. Waiting for the printer’s “load more paper” light to start flashing is a reactive move. It’s also inefficient, as it all but ensures printers regularly run out of paper, forcing workers to wait while paper is resupplied or go to another location.

Now consider an even larger problem for companies that require a variety of specific paper types in order to operate. If an error during the inventory process results in one paper type running out, the company’s productivity slows and costs rise while it waits for delivery.

Fortunately, this is a scenario that no longer needs to occur, thanks to IoT-driven process improvements. Paper companies and printer producers can collaborate to ensure paper supplies remain constant. Sensors can transmit data from printers to paper companies, showing the precise type of paper being used and predicting when it will need to be replenished. This real-time data can be integrated into the planning process – ideally using the print shop’s production planning software – and order paper automatically via EDI based on actual consumption.

This ensures there are no gaps in supply, no halt to productivity. The predictive power of IoT technology helps printer and paper companies collaborate in an efficient manner that benefits all parties: Businesses are guaranteed the timely replenishment of paper inventory. Printer and paper companies benefit from the synergies facilitated by the IoT. Print shops can offer customers the option to automatically stock paper as a value-added service, requiring no action from the customer.

The end result? Greater productivity, higher efficiency, enhanced collaboration, and new business opportunities.

The awesome growth potential of connected devices

Ensuring continuous access to paper is just one small example of the transformational power of IoT technology. Opportunities such as these can be found in virtually every industry. The way we work, live, travel, and take care of our health and our homes can all be improved through the use of smart, connected devices.

The most exciting thing? We’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Because IoT technology is relatively young, even more revolutionary opportunities are likely to develop. According to Gartner, roughly 8.4 billion connected devices will be in use in 2017. This represents a 31% jump over 2016. Business spending represents slightly less than 60% of the overall market.

By 2020, overall IoT spending is expected to reach nearly $ 1.3 billion. This rapid growth will be driven in part by increasing adoption in the manufacturing, retail, healthcare, and transportation sectors. Cross-industry IoT spending, featuring use cases relevant to all industries (think smart buildings), will also be a significant growth driver.

The takeaway

Ultimately, IoT technology holds not only the promise of sustained innovation and business transformation, but profound changes to the way we live and work. Having printers that never run out of paper is but one example of the almost countless number of opportunities that will arise as IoT technology matures.

Learn how to bring new technologies and services together to power digital transformation by downloading The IoT Imperative for Energy and Natural Resource Companies. Explore how to bring Industry 4.0 insights into your business today by reading Industry 4.0: What’s Next?


Internet of Things – Digitalist Magazine

Data Geeks Rewrite The Business Rules Playbook

When it comes to digital business, Andrew McAfee knows a thing or two. A principal research scientist at MIT, prolific writer, and management expert, McAfee is a leader in understanding and explaining how digital technologies are changing business, the economy, and society.

At the recent SAP Leonardo Live event in Chicago that focused on digital transformation, McAfee urged his audience to throw out the business playbook they’ve been using for the past 30 years.

“The right way to run a factory in the steam era became a really, really bad way to run it in the era of electrical power,” he said. “Similarly, during a technology transition — and afterwards — the advice you used to follow becomes bad advice.”

McAfee explained that fast, profound shifts are occurring in three key areas: process, company, and industry. And he provided a new playbook to help companies navigate those changes and succeed.

Process: From people to machines

The traditional wisdom about process, which McAfee defines as “getting stuff done,” is to let machines handle the routine work like accounting or record keeping, and have people use their accumulated wisdom to make the judgements calls. This is the playbook of yesterday.

“Profound shifts are occurring in three key areas: process, company, industry”

McAfee explains that in most companies, decisions have typically been based on the highest-paid person’s opinion, or “HiPPOs.” They follow their gut, past experiences, and education, but they are being threatened by what McAfee calls “the Geek” — people who use data to make decisions.

“When the Geek needs to make a tough call, they gather evidence, do the best analysis they can, then they follow the evidence — even if it doesn’t go along with their gut or their experience,” McAfee explains.

“But here is where things get interesting,” he says. “In 136 studies of decision making by HiPPOs versus Geeks, 48 percent of the time HiPPOs added nothing over Geeks’ approach. Furthermore, 46 percent of the time HiPPOs provided an inferior decision. HiPPOs were only clearly better in eight percent of the cases. We need to make HiPPOs an endangered species.”

McAfee believes that with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, “Now we have a new toolkit to help us sift through these crazy amounts data, see patterns, and make very sophisticated, accurate judgements in extremely complicated situations.”

He explained that AI and machine learning technologies have leapfrogged much further ahead today than anyone could have anticipated, and are ready to take over making judgement calls.

“Go is 3,000-year-old Asian strategy game. Computers have been laughably bad at Go. Until last year, when the world’s best Go player became a computer,” said McAfee.

Analyzing the game played by AlphaGo, a Google AI company, experts focused on one particular move — move 37 — that made no sense to human players but ultimately helped the machine win. The lesson learned? AlphaGo doesn’t just play the game better than we do, it plays differently than we do.

McAfee is optimistic: “Together with machines, we’re going to make progress in some very difficult areas. And when we rewrite the business playbook, remember: machines are demonstrating excellent judgement.”

Company: From core to crowd

“For about 25 years we’ve been telling business that to succeed they need to strengthen their core — ‘core competency, core strength, core capabilities,’” said McAfee. “The idea of the core is a small number of things that differentiate you from competitors, realize value for customer, help you succeed in your markets.”

But, he explains, now there are millions of interconnected adults on the internet and if you can activate the energy of the crowd, amazing things can happen.

McAfee provided an example where a Harvard Business School expert on crowd sourcing and innovation Karim Lakhani worked with the National Institute of Health (NIH) and Harvard Medical School to try and improve the ability to sequence human white-blood cell genomes. They got good results.

But when Lakhani opened up an online competition to the crowd as an algorithmic challenge they got amazing results in both accuracy and speed. McAfee says the top results, “showed an improvement that was three orders of magnitude faster, without sacrificing accuracy,” compared to the NIH and Harvard Medical School results.

“We’re seeing companies that don’t focus on growing their core. They embrace the crowd from the start,” said McAfee. “We will see how this plays out. But when we rewrite the business playbook, we need to remind ourselves: the crowd is surprisingly wise.”

Industries: From industry to platform

“I grew up in McKinsey understanding the playbook rule: There is no substitute for knowing an industry inside and out. For the past 30 years, the business playbook has said industry structure determines successful business models,” said McAfee.

But in three very different industries McAfee argues that platform is making the difference when it comes to disruptive innovation.

Take the smart phone industry: The defining moment was when Apple opened up the App Store as a platform for outside developers. For urban transportation, it was Uber and now group fitness is being transformed with ClassPass, a platform that allows people to take classes at gyms by subscribing as members to ClassPass, not the gym.

McAfee explains: “ClassPass says, ‘Don’t join a gym. Sign up with us. You can pick whatever classes you want and get variety.’ To gyms they say, ‘you have some empty spaces. We can fill them. You won’t get the full price but some revenue is better than none.’”

Like with Apple and Uber, the platform for ClassPass brings together products, services, sellers, and consumers.

If platforms work, McAfee believes there are many advantages: You get the network effects of increased demand, companies can control the rules of engagement. With an open platform, you can crowd-source innovation and get additional information, which is used to create better pricing and matching of services.

This blows apart the distinct industry-sector differences people used to assume fueled growth and replaces it with the mandate to find the right platform for your business.

McAfee concludes, “I am pretty confident that the successful businesses of tomorrow are going to have a lot more machines, platforms, and crowds in them than today. I am really confident that following the industrial-age business playbook is a really good recipe for failure.”

This article originally appeared on SAP News Center.


Internet of Things – Digitalist Magazine

Align Technology And Talent To Leverage The Internet Of Things

Part 4 of the “Manufacturing Value from IoT” series

In my last blog, I talked about the necessary investments manufacturers must make to gain a full IoT transformation. Here, I will talk about the critical collaboration between IT and OT departments to further increase profits and productivity.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is delivering substantial returns for those applying intelligence into their plants and processes. Some 72% of manufacturers report that application of IoT technologies to operations increased productivity in the past year, and 69% report that use of the IoT increased profitability. Yet most companies could get more bang for their IoT bucks if their operations technology (OT) and information technology (IT) departments would collaborate.

Why? Because even in companies with capable IoT initiatives, problems among technology employees can cripple an organization’s ability to:

  • Establish plant-to-enterprise connections: Secure networks are required to move plant-floor data to executives who need it. OT and IT staff must coordinate efforts — and budgets — to build these data highways.
  • Link IoT plant data to enterprise systems: OT and IT staff must work together to transform real-time plant and machine data into actionable information for enterprise resource planning and manufacturing execution systems.
  • Channel enterprise information to business analytics applications: OT and IT staff need to facilitate the smooth transfer of information into big-data applications that provide the basis for informed decisions.

Unfortunately, many manufacturers’ OT and IT staffs rarely collaborate. For example, just 43% report that their OT and IT staffs work together in linking operations data with business analytics.

OT and IT do not often collaborateSource: “Leveraging the Internet of Things Takes Talent — and Collaboration,” SAP, 2017.

This lack of coordination means that employees who could use IoT information to improve performance — quality, equipment reliability, safety, timeliness, productivity, etc. —  can’t:

  • Only 34% of manufacturers say that all corporate executives who need IoT-enabled data can access it.
  • Only 13% of manufacturers say that all customers who need IoT-enabled data can access it.
  • Only 13% of manufacturers say that all suppliers who need IoT-enabled data can access it.

Manufacturers leveraging the IoT are understandably focused on the technologies to make this happen — smart devices, controls, sensors, networks, etc. But they must also:

  • Break down OT/IT siloes
  • Recruit collaborative IoT technology talent
  • Drive cultural change in technology departments, changing their roles from IT rule-makers/problem-fixers to providers of value-added services and support

How well do your OT and IT departments collaborate?

Stay tuned for more on how IoT can increase your profitability and productivity. In the meantime, download the report “Catch Up with IoT Leaders” to learn why it is challenging for many manufacturers to get the right data to the right executives in the right format.


Internet of Things – Digitalist Magazine

Offer Services With Products To Boost Building Manufacturing

Discrete manufacturers that create building products are facing challenges from industry competitors that have gone through a digital transformation. The companies that don’t follow suit and digitalize the business will fall behind. In an IDC white paper, authors Kimberly Knickle, Heather Ashton, and Jeffrey Hojlo stated that “by 2018, nearly one-third of [discrete manufacturing] industry leaders will be disrupted by competitors that are digitally enabled.”

One main way discrete manufacturers are moving forward is by integrating services with current product offerings. This combination is tied in with providing better customer experiences. To achieve this new business model, manufacturers need to rely on technology and Internet of Things (IoT).

How can building manufacturers use technology to stay relevant in the industry and move past competitors?

Modern customers are looking for a better experience. Providing that experience can improve business for manufacturers. Building products manufacturers can shift their business models to add services to their product offerings. They can provide services that install and maintain the products they sell.

Selling products straight to customers can also be new for businesses that sold them through a second company. Previously, customers might have bought kitchen cabinets at a home improvement store. Now, theycan buy them straight from the manufacturer. The same company will also install the cabinets. This setup could fit many types of building product manufacturers. Those that sell windows, carpets, doors, faucets, or other building materials could all install their products.

Adding services to keep up with changing demands doesn’t need to be difficult. Manufacturers can team up with third-party contractors. These service providers become integrated into the shop experience. This setup allows manufacturers to offer services to customers without dramatically changing their businesses. Companies that want to keep everything within the business can instead choose to provide their own service staff members.

Adding services has the potential to help manufacturers in numerous ways. Benefits include providing stability from seasonal changes, adding profitability and revenue, meeting demands of consumers, and distinguishing the brand.

Using IoT to include services

IoT is helping manufacturing companies use technology to drive new business processes and business models and offer new services. It allows new ways of running the business to meet the needs of companies and consumers. The products are connected to IoT with sensors and software that allow functions like remote monitoring. These kinds of benefits can help companies keep track of their products to check for defects and provide services.

In particular, service enablement can be used as an IoT scenario with building products. Companies can use service enablement to bring together different providers to create a service-oriented business model. Using IoT, companies could use a program to integrate their products and services, and to efficiently run the new type of business.

Heraeus Additive Manufacturing is a company that has used a technology platform to incorporate its additive manufacturing process into broader production and supply chains. A specific platform can help manufacturing companies better collaborate with service providers and other companies. Virtual project rooms help the different companies work together to meet supply and demand needs. Head of Heraeus Additive Manufacturing Tobias Caspari said that this type of virtual platform streamlines the process of collaboration between different experts.

Customers are demanding more from companies. Many manufacturing companies are finding ways to satisfy that demand by offering services on top of products. For example, they now install and maintain the products they sell. They are using technology to manage the different parts of the company. It helps different companies work together to meet customer demand. Manufacturing companies that don’t keep up with this type of change can expect to lose relevance with consumers. Using technology and new business methods helps discrete manufacturers compete and improve their businesses.

Learn how to bring new technologies and services together to power digital transformation by downloading The IoT Imperative for Energy and Natural Resource Companies. Explore how to bring Industry 4.0 insights into your business today by reading Industry 4.0: What’s Next?


Internet of Things – Digitalist Magazine

How Digitalization Connects Rural Farms In Africa

One benefit of digitalization is that it offers people more information about where food comes from and how it is processed. While this information is useful for individuals to make informed food choices, it also has benefits for improving agribusiness in rural areas and creating methods to better feed the world. In particular, Internet of Things (IoT) technology can be used to improve agribusiness in rural Africa and around the world.

Digitalization has enabled every part of the food supply chain to be connected. This includes rural farmers, such as smallholders in remote parts of Africa. With the IoT, enterprises are able to gain information from the farms, no matter where they are located. This method provides benefits to the local community, shares the food’s supply chain to the end consumer, and promotes sustainability.

Improved technology has helped remote African smallholder farmers connect to the global food supply chain. For example, rural farmers in developing countries (who wouldn’t otherwise have the means) can now access information on prices, agricultural methods, weather updates, and other data. On the other end of the supply chain, companies can trace their products origins and paths. This helps them improve processes, ensure quality, and pass information on to end customers.

An SAP white paper, Value Creation in the Digital Agribusiness Network, shows how rural farming in Africa greatly affects the world. On the continent, sub-Saharan Africa’s agriculture industry employs 65% of Africa’s labor force. Globally, Africa’s agriculture affects the world. For example, 80% to 90% of global cocoa production originates in 5 to 6 million smallholder farms.

IoT has created the means to connect rural farmers to a broader value chain. In an article for Cleanleap, David Kariuki reported that IoT has created major advances that manage the effects of weather on agriculture in Africa. He explains that most of the arable land in sub-Saharan Africa is dependent on rainfall and affected by climate changes. But IoT provides information that can account for weather changes and improve practices. For example, it can use sensors and data sharing to improve knowledge on moisture levels of the soil, water predictions, and other important information that affects crops.

For Analytics Center, Emre Yayici explained that IoT creates more efficient and less expensive farming methods. Technology can help remote farmers cut down on water theft, reduce the need to hire farmhands to monitor crops, and better use small amounts of land. Yayici noted that IoT has made it easier for farmers to track conditions such as humidity levels and soil moisture and to better use water during droughts.

As the world has become more connected, it’s increasingly important to use technology to streamline the ways people work together. Technology and IoT have been creating better processes in agribusiness around the world and helping connect the supply chain. While these advances help businesses run better and improve quality and profits, they also provide changes that could better feed the world’s population. This is increasingly important with difficult growing conditions, changing weather, and an increasing global population.

Learn how to bring new technologies and services together to power digital transformation by downloading The IoT Imperative for Consumer Industries. Explore how to bring Industry 4.0 insights into your business today by reading Industry 4.0: What’s Next?


Internet of Things – Digitalist Magazine