Decoding the power of IoT for businesses

— Deccan Chronicle

By: Jagat Pal Singh, CTO, Cybage

An IoT strategy, apart from the technical nuances, is considered as capital intensive.

It’s an interesting conversation with customers when you discuss IoT potential and implementing the same for their businesses. Most of the teams are unaware of how to leverage IoT for their respective businesses. That is why it is a great topic to explore some of the potentials that IoT projects bring, along with some pitfalls to watch out. 

An IoT strategy, apart from the technical nuances, is considered as capital intensive. To realise the full potential, IOT strategy will have long-term and short-term approaches. The long-term perspectives of a business roadmap, service offerings, product line development, has a lot of bearing through historical data and the vision for the connected ecosystem. Hence it’s critical that the IoT strategy meets the organisation goals and roadmap. But it is also vital to build an agile strategy for the ever-changing landscape for business and technology so that successful adoption of the innovative and mature technical trends are possible. 

Let’s consider the example of Industrial IoT systems. The first step is to benchmark current processes for performance. There are many standard operational steps as part of the engineering processes. A mechanical part manufacturing may involve steps like the mixing process – for the chemical composition of various metals, die casting and cold press systems, machining, heating and furnace action. To further add to the complexity, the same plant can manufacture different parts, where the steps for manufacturing are similar, but the metrics of engineering change. As a first adoption strategy, it will be a wise idea to choose the area where operational efficiency can be increased to give a positive ROI, instead of experimenting on unknown areas without potential. A selective approach is sometimes not possible, but a minimum viable plan is essential. The objective of the exercise should be accepted by all stakeholders.

A chemical fertiliser company runs on supplying various types of fertiliser to the farmers and land owners. The demand for the same, in our country, is very sporadic and unpredictable. Few challenges for this industry are cost overheads, production planning, demand-supply forecasting and unpredicted external factors with vendor management and weather. An IoT system should aim to improve the bottom-line by uplifting the value chain across different internal and external functions within such organisation. A well connected system will connect to the farmers and help them to network and gain knowledge on different success stories through the use of different product offerings. Soil samples can be remotely monitored through remote sensors for first level analysis. Patterns of fertiliser usage and proper techniques can be assisted through bots and service agent network. Once the order management channels are streamlined, demand generation and historical trend analysis helps for a better demand-supply forecasting for production planning. But production downtime due to machine breakdown can be a big factor. Connected machines with help of the IT and OT systems, get prescribed maintenance schedules and automate calls for service engineers, and monitor the operations in permissible limits. This data helps for the further production planning processes and manage the flow of raw material and output to warehouses or end customers. The data also helps in pushing for timely closure of invoices and deal with any corrective action otherwise.

This gives an all-round upliftment that benefits all stakeholders and the impact of IoT systems. Farmers are at lesser risk and produce more output with the adequate tracking. Vendors in supply-chain, machine engineering, services are well connected, to adopt the dynamic patterns, with some forecasting and scheduling. Raw material procurement and cost savings due to production planning improve the bottom-line without any price increases for the end customer. Hence the organisation can then leverage to invest in additional opportunities including R&D or different product and service offering, hence benefiting the overall industry.

To summarise:

  • IoT spread is growing in our daily personal lives as well as the businesses. The benefits of a connected society will grow by leaps and bounds.
  • IoT systems are levers to gain multifold advantage for businesses, with use of technologies such as the big data revolution and analytics, along with ML and AI.
  • It is imperative that CEO, CIO and CTO are part of the IoT strategy from the early stages. Proper KPI for IoT strategy needs to develop, while closely monitoring the ROI metrics.
  • Industry 4.0 revolution is going to impact the traditional businesses processes and manufacturing processes. The ultimate vision is to address the digitisation of complex value chains and revolutionise the outputs through collaboration.
  • Organisations should pay attention to end users' concerns for data collection, storage protection and usage, to even maintain the sales expectations. Hence, it’s critical for the manufacturing sector to elevate the ERP core and add a standardised IoT infrastructure platform to capture customer attention.
  • Data and analytics leaders must cross traditional boundaries to leverage internal and external systems, to connect and co-related the system behavioural patterns.