Many processes run in the background before you buy your iPhone. How does the Internet of Things affect these processes?
I became recently the proud owner of a new iPhone. When I bought my new iPhone, I thought I was just buying a phone. But I really bought an Internet of Things (IoT) device. I chose an iPhone to help increase my productivity and simplify my work — and my private life. My new smartphone connects my work e-mail, banking, a homekit (to control appliances in the house), music
Holding this easy-to-use device in my hand for the first time (and having an SAP background), I wondered how many processes happened in the background before I received my new mobile phone.
In a series of blog posts, I will explore these processes in more detail and how they are impacted by the IoT capabilities.
The R&D Process
One of the best industrial design companies, Apple has created more than a phone. Its iPhone has become a device that better facilitates collaboration and exchange of information. Apple recognized this trend and changed the functional direction of their product, enabling it to serve as a smart IoT device.
And everything changed.
Smartphones have become important Internet-connected devices that understand what their users are doing, how they are doing it and where they are. This drives further innovation and development, creating massive amounts of information.
The making of the IPhone is one of the most frequently noted stories in manufacturing. Outsourcing U.S. manufacturing jobs and labor issues at a massive contractor facility with more than 230,000 employees have helped make the iPhone one of the most frequently noted stories in manufacturing. This incredible flexibility in Labor was critical for the company to scale production up and down as needed. A recent example was a last minute change to a screen design that required the complete overhaul of an entire assembly line.
A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12 hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day. – NYTimes
But rising labor costs and demands for better working conditions have since diminished that labor advantage. So Apple is investing more than $10B in its manufacturing flexibility via robotics and lasers. Apple now produces the desktop Mac Pro in a highly IOT automated U.S.-based plant and plans to do the same with iPhone battery production. Foxconn, Apple’s primary assembly contractor, is building its own robots to replace 1 million workers in three years.
It is rumored that the iPhone 6 is built in an entirely automated plant. When you open the box of your iPhone 6 you may be the first human to actually touch it.
Apple also recognizes the value of sustainable business practices, adopting a three-pronged environmental responsibility strategy embedded throughout the entire product lifecycle and production process:
- Reduce environmental footprint
- Minimize hazardous substances
- Improve resource efficiency
Executing this required the enablement of IoT capabilities behind the scenes: collection and Analysis of huge amounts of data from across global operations; complex reporting (emissions, energy management, etc.); and the exchange of product sustainability data with supply chain partners.
Cloud-based business networks probably offered visibility into product and worker safety Information because transparency is key.
So the simple purchase of my iPhone was — and still is — supported by an industrial revolution being driven by the intelligence of IoT devices from the capture of requirements to the manufacturing and service of the product. I now see my iPhone in a completely different light.
The next blog post in the series will delve more deeply into the effect of IoT on research and development processes, including the “behind the scenes” capture of product requirements through social media channels.
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