Diverse and disparate products and devices get connected over the Internet of Things (IoT). This is giving way to personalized consumer experiences, workforce empowerment, optimized operations and novel business models. In the past, customers were forced to buy a product along with services related to the product. Now they have the freedom to rent or lease products or even choose from the more fine-grained pay-per-use or output and outcome-based models. The contrast between the old and the new business models is quite sharp.
However, to enable new models, the manufacturing industry must first transform its core processes and products by infusing them with dynamic intelligence assembled from connected ecosystems.
The transformation ensures that enterprises become nimble to meet changing demand. Some industries, such a telecom and retail, are becoming leaders in exploiting connected systems. As a result, they are delivering innovations faster than others. The good news is that manufacturers can learn from these industries and take their first steps towards a connected B2B landscape using data and the IoT.
As an example of B2B transformation, consider Mindtree’s recent engagement with one of the largest industrial equipment distributors in the world. The distributor has traditionally maintained a 3,000 page catalogue detailing 1.5 million SKUs for end manufacturers of consumer products, gas turbines, aircraft, semiconductors, medical equipment, firearms, etc. Buyers had no option but to plough through the distributor’s catalogue, looking up information on parts and components before placing their orders with a call center. It was a slow and tedious process.
Mindtree transformed the distributor’s catalogue into an e-commerce site. The distributor now transacts US$2.5billion of business online, making it one of the Top 30 online retailers in the US.
Digitizing the catalogue has had the effect of opening new distribution channels. For example, the distributor now has vending machines on the shop floors of its customers. The shop floor gets internal approvals for parts and components and their needs are fulfilled quickly via the vending machine. Think about how fast the vending machine can replenish everyday requirements like gloves, goggle, tapes and adhesives, lubricants, nuts and bolts, cutting tools, etc. The saving in time and effort—aside from the fact that parts need not unnecessarily be ordered in bulk—is significant.
This process to provision parts and components will undergo further refinement using video communication. Workers will be able to show the worn out/ damaged component to a camera and chat with a team at the back end to get authorization in real time.
As a further level of refinement, it is possible to ensure that cameras on the shop floor automatically analyze equipment such as power tools for damage. The video-based analytics can be used to conduct preventive maintenance on shop floors or to cross sell.
From a sales perspective, what has happened is this: the distributor is now able to identify the needs of its customers and meet them in a personalized, accurate, automated and timely manner.
Manufacturing transformation is already underway (to read more on how your business can adopt connected and intelligent systems, click here. The initiatives currently being implemented are geared to optimize operations and develop new revenue streams.
It is not always easy for manufacturers to connect their complex systems. Experience shows us that there is no silver bullet to the problem. But our extensive work with manufacturing leaders in industrial equipment, automotive, and discrete manufacturing has shown that those who are willing can develop innovative ways to deploy connected sensors, acquire data, apply analytics and wedge open surprising new commercial opportunities in the B2B space.