As a company that has produced motion and control components and subsystems in core industrial sectors for 100 years, Parker has recently taken a significant step forward by embarking on a digital transformation. Between our own journey and working with customers seeking to leverage the Industrial Internet of Things, we’ve arrived at certain truths about the process of building digital ecosystems of connected products. One of those truths is that an effective enterprise of connected “things” must have oversight and buy-in from a broad spectrum of stakeholders.
A culture of silos has no place in a digital transformation
Going digital affects too many aspects of an organization, often in ways that only become apparent later on. That’s why it makes sense to marshal perspective and talent from every corner of the enterprise when determining how best to participate in what has essentially become another Industrial Revolution.
At its most simplistic, deploying IoT effectively can achieve two things for your organization: improve your ability to save money, or improve your ability to make money. That’s the power of understanding the health of your machine assets before they break down, and carving out a market advantage based on the intelligence provided by connected devices. The decision to move into this realm requires a clear-eyed assessment of where your business is now, and where you want it to go, with input from everyone whose functional experience would or could be altered as a result of that transformation.
For example, if your responsibility is to ensure the highest level of uptime and safe operation for a fleet of off-highway work trucks or an entire manufacturing organization of factory assets, you know it would be valuable to have parts and components in that equipment enabled to alert you when service or replacement is needed. So you would want to be sure that the enterprise was selecting a parts supplier with the ability to design, manufacture, integrate and easily service such components – a partner rather than a vendor, essentially. That would involve a meaningful conversation with colleagues outside of the operations silo.
Procuring the solution is just the beginning
But what about managing the never-ending data stream created as a result of liberating the information contained within the now-intelligent parts? Can you integrate it with other databases to generate insights and drive value? What about data security and privacy? Do you have people with the right skills working for you now; can they be trained or should new talent be recruited? What about paying for all of this?
These questions and many more inform what should become part of an ongoing cross-functional conversation within the enterprise. The idea of 24/7 connectivity can be very appealing, but the key to success is having a well-thought-out strategy to tie connected products to your specific core business and deliver those solutions to the end users who can benefit from them. That only comes from having a diverse group that is well informed and connected to the process because its members fully appreciate the stake they have in it.
Our IoT roadmap to success started with customers
Our near-term IoT objective for our own OEM customers was to provide better reliability and higher performance for the components and systems they source from us (such as pumps, hoses, connectors). Built on a common platform, our IoT-empowered solutions all recognize and communicate with each other, simplifying deployment. The resulting Voice of the Machine offering makes it possible to identify what we call a serviceable event, determine the recommended next steps, and through our ebusiness capability, make it easy to remedy. That is Parker’s play in this stage of the evolution of the IoT revolution.
In our case, engaging expertise across the company when we began our journey was a nuanced process of change management. We had a lot of leaders already who had to be brought along because, while the focus in IoT may initially emphasize the “build” part of a new solution, the “operate,” “sell” and “service” elements of the solution are critical for a company like ours.
That meant engaging our head of sales, CIO, the tech office and the P&L executives closest to the customer. Providing the support they need to achieve alignment means something different to each of these functions. To deliver on the promise of true collaboration that we ascribe to at Parker, we maintained close working relationships and a high degree of transparency as we worked on what our smart product offering would ultimately look like. And it remains a living, breathing organism to this day.
So what is the digital strategy to be for your company? What current and future customer use cases should you be envisioning today to improve your customers’ experience and who in your organization should be involved in shaping those experiences? It will never be too late to get the conversation started.
This post was written by Miguel Morales, vice president, Internet of Things.
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