With all the economic potential and projections (some 50 billion devices predicted to be interconnected by 2020) that have been made over the past several years, most everyone has at least heard of the Internet of Things (IoT) at this point, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it (or its potential) have always been well communicated. LNS Research defines IoT as “The network of networks encompassing the use of the standard Internet Protocol (IP) technologies to connect people, processes, and things to enable new cyber-physical systems.”
A vast concept, IoT has far-reaching applications, from public sector infrastructure and transportation, to consumer electronics, appliances, household products, and others. It’s perhaps most often spoken about in terms of automating a particular operation or system of events, but it also has the potential to affect longer-term aspects of an enterprise, such as quality. As more and more consumer and industrial products are outfitted with sensors that can relay continuous data about a product’s use and condition back to the enterprise, the loop on quality can be closed.
And this is one of the areas where many industrial companies can start on their IoT journey today— through the development of smart connected products. In this post we’ll define Smart Connected Products and discuss five ways that smart connected products is poised to transform quality management.
What Are Smart Connected Products?
A Smart Connected Product is embedded with sensors that enable communication and data transfer between the product and the web-enabled systems of the maker of the product, as well as the user of the product. This includes the assets used in its production as well as engineering, design, customer service, and other internal enterprise departments and functions. Externally it may be connected to supplier and customer networks, as well. The type, amount, and perpetuity of information will have a transformational effect on quality, namely in the following ways:
- Smart Connected Products will enable real-time visibility and analytics of actual product performance. The continuous collection and analysis of data will then feed information back to the enterprise, so it can be compared to in-place benchmarks and projections. Organizations will use this to discover how closely as-designed products map to as-used and as-serviced functions. This will feed back accurate and precise information about how quality, reliability, and safety designs, and assumptions hold up in the real world to make necessary product adjustments in design or engineering.
- With real time visibility and analytics of actual product use cases, manufacturers will learn whether customers are experiencing specific quality failures or using specific products in unintended ways.
- With real-time visibility and analytics of manufacturing processes, smart connected plants will be able to interact with smart connected products during production processes, allowing the ability to change the entire paradigm of final test, moving to 100% functional test and removing dead on arrival issues. This will also have the effect of improving assumptions and simulations of manufacturing process engineering and improve design for manufacturability.
- Closed-loop quality management cannot rely on the customer to take action, it needs to be based on the ability of systems to pull necessary information and share back up the value chain. Smart Connected Products will make customer complaints a thing of the past, giving all manufacturing and engineering all the information they need for continuous improvement.
- Smart Connected Products are the first real step toward the future of “products as a service.” If you’re unable to offer a quality product today, how will you be able to offer a quality “service” in the future? Improving quality and customer service and the associated analytics will provide the insights and learnings that will eventually enable the leap to selling services, instead of products.
Connecting Quality Across Your Product Lifecycle
While some of the capabilities above are more readily attainable than others, the steps that can put them into place are available today. The latest research has shown that the information gap around IoT has drastically shrunk over the past year, with only 19% of manufacturers claiming a lack of knowledge of IoT in 2016 compared to the 44% of last year. The market is primed for substantial increase of IoT investment in the coming years as organizations gain full education on the transformational opportunities afforded by IoT. And this is specifically why you must not fall behind now. Join me on Thursday, May 26 at 11:00 am EDT where I’ll be sharing the latest research and trends on IoT and product development, and explain how IoT investments can enable the closed-loop quality benefits detailed above.
Attend this free webinar where Matthew Littlefield, President and Principal Analyst at LNS Research, will share insights from his research on the latest trends in product development mentioned in this blog!