09 Sep Achieving Operational Excellence with the Internet of Everything
Cloud computing opened the doors to the viability of an Internet of Things (IoT): a concept where everyday objects have network connectivity and can communicate to a central control system or each other. The Internet of Things is a powerful concept in business for achieving faster times to market, operational excellence and improved productivity. With the possibility of 38 billion objects expected to be connected by the year 2020, businesses need to find the means to get their products and services to market quickly, reliably and maintain quality standards. The concept, Internet of Things, however, only focuses on the physical aspect of the business: the devices, sensors, physical controls and enterprise assets. The next step to real excellence is an Internet of Everything, where a deep integration between things, people, processes and data exist.
Internet of Things is already impacting the workforce. Employees now have access to more data to make real-time decisions and locate materials or resources. Remote access to systems and mobile computing allow a person to access that data or functions faster and from more remote locations. Specially designed sensors on office and manufacturing equipment can create a green environment by controlling the flow of energy and accessing alternative sources of power quickly. The increased use of smartphones and tablets allow personnel to access machines even when a monitor does not come part of the machine. Communication between machines and smartphones can validate security protocols and make communication easier because the machine knows you.
IoT is a business imperative – Business is faced with many issues that must be addressed soon, including legacy automation systems reaching end of life, numerous companies losing intellectual property, unscheduled down times and increase in big data initiatives. These issues and much more can be addressed by looking towards connecting people, processes, data and things through the Internet.
Seeking operational excellence – IoT promises greater control over global operations, standardization of workflows and traceability, improved product quality, compliance to regulations, improved security, real-time monitoring of KPIs at all levels of the business, and faster responses to changes in supply and demand.
Employee engagement – IoT levels the playing field in business, by empowering all employees, despite their position and experience to provide input into products, processes, and decisions. Employees can become owners of the business, by contributing more and using untapped skills. This benefits the employer as well when key decisions, particularly around customer service, are moved to the front-line. Empowerment comes from seeking out input, providing access to real-time data, or providing a public forum for discussion on company issues.
Empowerment through information – Most managers understand the potential power data has in business. They also know that getting the right data to the right person at the right time is priority for achieving goals. Yet sometimes, the same information in the hands of an unsuspecting person at an opportune time can create untold opportunity for the company. Most companies look to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their high cost, high value employees, while ignoring their low cost, low value employees. IoT provides a platform for every person to shine, if they are given access.
Importance of connectivity – Social media, Internet, mobile computing, and remote access are all based on the need for connectivity. Unfortunately, the current mindset still has a person using a device accessing data over a remote connection. Each object is treated individually rather than as an independent system. IoT treats everything a node which can be connected to any other node in any other combination to deliver the best, most efficient and effective system.
Driven by process – The relevance of all other points becomes void without process. It provides the context for action and adds value when connections between people, data and things are made. Still, the connections made allow the business to understand real-time performance of the processes, allow rapid responses to changes, increase uptime and reduce waste.
The problem with many IoT initiatives is their focus on technology; sometimes at the expense of people, data and processes. Having the current technology on the floor has no value if it does not deliver on expectations without added pressure on the workforce to conform to its use. In truth, the drive to an IoT is likely to be a dead-end if a company goes astray. Though IoT has its benefits, most companies would do better if they empower their people to be smarter rather than acquire smart devices. In other words, why give people a smart phone if you limit their access to making calls only? IoT solutions are only good if the people are empowered to shape the solution.