Whoever it was that started the year wishing for a more “interesting” or “exciting” 2020, could you please take it back? As we race through the fourth quarter, I think most people would be happy to have a little less excitement from this crazy year.
Businesses are dealing with a deluge of challenges: fluctuating market conditions, a global pandemic, trade conflicts, and skills shortages – to name just a few. Companies need to adapt faster to change, digitalize their operations, and find better ways to meet customer needs – although they often lack the insight to do so.
But also exhilarating – if you do it right.
I recently sat down with Elvira Wallis, Senior VP and Global Head of Internet of Things at SAP, who says that intelligent technologies combined with process automation can help companies solve certain age-old business problems and generate new revenue streams. Some people call it the fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0. Elvira thinks of it as “Industry 4.now.”
“The word ‘now’ is the key aspect,” she says. “It’s about transformation and making business processes digital. It’s about pairing Internet of Things (IoT) data in the context of business processes with manufacturing, sales, and operations – now. There is no time to delay.”
Wallis is dedicated to developing innovative data-driven solutions that help companies become Intelligent Enterprises.
Wallis and I met as part of the new SAP Global Influencer Marketing LinkedIn Live series, “Tech Unknown: Stories from the Inside,” You can watch the whole video on the SAP Industries LinkedIn Page.
How is IoT affecting business? IoT data improves visibility, supporting timely actions
To understand how IoT is affecting business, let’s take a quick looks at some of the ongoing issues that enterprises face:
- Lack of business insight
- Poor customer satisfaction
- High cost of process inefficiencies
To fix these issues, companies want to embrace digital transformation across all functions – everything from procurement and logistics to manufacturing, asset management, and factory operations. But it can be difficult to know where to start.
Collecting sensor data from the IoT, combining it with business information, and making both data sources available to business processes can help organizations gain visibility into their processes and increase operational efficiencies.
In some cases, the precision enabled by IoT data can even save lives.
Think about a hospital that orders pharmaceutical products, some of which need to be stored and shipped at a specific temperature. “The supplier needs to transport the goods in tip-top condition and has to prove that its temperature was monitored and held steady,” explains Wallis. “IoT data can help ensure that products remain within the temperature budget. It also can pinpoint when problems occur.”
What happens if a delivery truck is delayed and the temperature of the shipped product rises?
With the right connectivity, the sensor can transmit a message to both the supplier and the hospital that there is a problem.
“Maybe the supplier dispatches another delivery from a nearby warehouse,” says Wallis. “This is a classic case where process visibility paired with the ability to take action can help people run their business much better.”
IoT examples: Harnessing intelligent technologies enables preemptive decisions
Another problem IoT data can help solve is the need to rapidly adjust to changing market demand. Using intelligent technologies such as machine learning, some innovative companies are enabling new business models.
Let’s say a business wants to add new services to meet emerging customer requirements.
For example, one SAP customer – a machinery manufacturer – combines IoT data from the equipment with data from enterprise resource planning systems and sells it to customers and offers cloud-based data services.
“Customers can learn how their machine is performing, how it performs on average over the month, and how it benchmarks against other machines,” explains Wallis. “The person who uses that machine gets so much more information and feels completely in the know. And the supplier has a new business model offering services that can be provided and charged.”
In another example, an energy company sells data about heating and cooling services combined with information about the equipment operating in specific buildings. Facility managers use the data to better understand their energy consumption. “It’s another great example of how companies can use IoT data, bring it together with business data, and deliver much better service to customers,” says Wallis.
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Companies are also looking for new ways to perform remote services, such as monitoring and maintenance. “It’s no longer, ‘maybe we should provide these capabilities,’” states Wallis. “It’s essential for businesses to remain profitable. The pandemic, as tragic as it is, is becoming a catalyst for this transformation.”
I like that sensor data gives us the capacity to know things sooner than ever and make informed decisions. It really puts the power back in the user’s hands, so business leaders can respond – rather than just react – to critical events.
With new insight comes enhanced resilience
The fourth Industrial Revolution uses intelligent technologies to automate traditional manufacturing and industrial practices. But it can also improve associated areas of the business, such as service, sales, and operations.
“Sales information is very different if you have all of this data about products, assets, and machines,” says Wallis. “It helps create more informed sales agents and field service technicians. You have much more visibility than before, and visibility is clearly a prerequisite for resilience.”
Supply chain resilience, once a nice-to-have feature, is now table stakes for most companies. To be profitable in 2020, businesses need to be able to adapt and adjust to all sorts of challenges, big and small.
“Industry 4.now focuses on this requirement,” adds Wallis. “It tells us that it’s time to make digital transformation happen, bringing together IoT data with business process data. There really is no time to wait.”