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Originally posted on 3-May-2016 | Digital Economy | Business Networks at http://www.digitalistmag.com/digital-economy/2016/05/03/smart-connected-products-require-changes-to-business-processes-0…


Asian businesswoman using tablet device in street


Smart, connected products use technology to collect and share data. These products anticipate problems and offer solutions. They open up new markets for companies.

Change processes to grow

Digital machines also force companies to change business processes. These changes help companies compete and serve customers better.  Smart products force change in research and development. Sales and manufacturing are closer than ever.  New processes in planning, sales, and support mean new revenue opportunities. Smart products make these areas more integrated than ever.

R&D evolves

Development used to focus on the product only. Today, engineering needs to collaborate.  Electronics, software, and mechanics must partner to build smart products. Engineering becomes a shared process across the company.  Sharing sometimes requires partners to work with outside engineers. Retooled product design processes should leverage the abilities of digital improvements.  Research needs two approaches. It should use new technology to change business models. It should also push companies to think about and make new business models.

Connected manufacturing

Connected devices rethink the manufacturing process too. Manufacturing must be seamless. The process needs to connect the lab to the shop floor to the customer. Integrated and connected manufacturing ensures digital devices work in concert with R&D.

Selling solutions, not products

Smart products provide manufacturers with more data than ever. This information drives better understanding of how products should be best used.  Companies can leverage this continuous service innovation and increase revenue. Instead of selling a product, companies can sell a suite of services.  Digital advancements mean the point of sale is no longer the end of the relationship with a customer. A lifelong relationship can provide consumption data, performance consulting and billing based on usage.  Sales forces need to rethink processes too. Equipment sales people now need to sell software, bundled services, and technology.

Anticipating maintenance and service

Businesses that digitize can see increased after-market profits. Machine-to-machine technology and Big Data modeling let businesses offer new services.  Predictive maintenance or service are two examples of this kind of service. Another is detecting emerging issues. All these indicators as a package are valuable services to offer customers.  Using data can save on field service costs. Quick problem identification and first-time fixes save money and improve customer retention.  Recent data from the Service Council stresses the financial importance of faster service. Four out of five surveyed said quick fixes are vital to customer loyalty and future revenue.

Context in customer relations

The relationship with customers is changing. Customers have access to data and helpful insights for the company. Customer context should inform new business processes and product improvement.  Interactions with customers build brand loyalty. Customers see the company as more than just a manufacturer. The company is a strategic partner that offers solutions.

Conclusion

Digital products are changing processes at all levels. Siloed processes now must work together to provide not just products but solutions too.  Smart companies embrace these changes. In doing so, they expand revenue opportunities through technology that predicts problems and offers solutions.  Customers are more loyal. They are partners with the company. They also see value in bundled services and solutions.

Visit Industrial Manufacturing. Reimagined for the new economy to learn more about digital transformation for IM&C.

David Parrish

About David Parrish

David Parrish is the senior global director of Industrial Machinery & Components Solutions Marketing for SAP. Before joining SAP, he held various product and industry marketing positions with J.D. Edwards, PeopleSoft, and QAD going back to 1999.

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