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First Published April 28, 2016 on the Digitalist

 

 

Toilet paper may be the butt of many jokes, but it is a very real need. From schools to airplanes, offices, and homes, toilet paper is a requirement of daily life.

Cape Town, South Africa --- Cheering crowd in stadium --- Image by © Ocean/Corbis

What does this mean for demand? It means that when we don’t predict it accurately, problems ensue. Luckily, digital transformation is here to save the day. With the help of Big Data, businesses of the future will be able to predict paper needs much more accurately. That will help prevent troubles like running out of TP in a packed stadium.

But like most things, it’s not that simple. A complex series of steps leads to this less aggravating and smarter future. In this article, we’ll discuss why predictive analytics are useful in a variety of situations. We will also address how sensing demand can also lead to greater energy efficiency, and discuss how this plays into customer service.

Stadium service

Stadiums and toilet paper have a long and storied history. Anyone who has ever been to a game and found themselves in a grungy bathroom with no bathroom tissue knows that. And as the fans of the this 2014 Belgian soccer match demonstrate, TP can be used for more than meeting bathroom needs.

While running out of toilet paper at home might be an annoyance, running out in a crowded situation like a stadium at halftime can be downright disastrous. Fortunately, paper and packaging business models are increasingly able to combat such problems.

By sensing demand before a facility such as a stadium runs out of a resource, companies can meet needs better—which leads us to the question of exactly how a stadium might sense demand.

Studious sensors

It is neither efficient nor effective to put people in charge of monitoring the status of all the bathrooms in a giant stadium. That’s the status quo, and we’ve all seen how well it works. In the digital economy, however, there’s a much better way: sensors.

Sensors are small, relatively cheap mechanisms that are easy to deploy and that can measure a variety of factors. Indeed, the Internet of Things is built on the idea that someday our world will be populated by objects carrying sensors—roads that measure car traffic, say, or stoves that learn and cater to our eating habits.

Simply putting sensors in things so they can measure data may seem like a relatively small example of digital transformation. In reality, however, it has huge implications. Sensors at a paper plant can help gather and correlate mill-processing data in real time, helping companies produce more efficiently and meet customers’ expectations more reliably.

Back to stadiums: Sensors in stadium bathrooms can measure how many people come in and out. That way, instead of checking manually, stadium staff members can simply read the data from various bathrooms to see which ones are most likely to need restocking. Not only does this improve the customer experience, it makes life easier for workers as well. Over time, it makes it easier to predict which bathrooms will need more restocking, as companies analyze traffic flow in stadiums and learn from the patterns.

And then there’s the fact that Industry 4.0 – the smarter, more efficient way of doing business – is a whole lot greener.

Lean, green efficiency

It is no secret in business that lean manufacturing is a major factor in success. The reason is obvious: Waste is not profitable. Companies that don’t carefully track their efforts, keeping what works and discarding what doesn’t, aren’t likely to succeed. This is no less true in the new digital economy than it was before.

With sensors to track what works and what doesn’t both on the factory floor and with customers, companies can be much more efficient. No longer do they need to estimate demand and hope to hit the target. Instead, a constant flow of data from customers can give businesses much more accurate numbers. The result is a better way of doing business that results in less waste. Less waste is not only better for the environment, it’s better for business.

Heightened sustainability also increases customer engagement. Why? Because customers who believe in what companies are doing are more loyal, more interested in talking about them and to them, and more interested in what they’re going to do next.

The future of paper

Digital business will bring changes in the ways we use TP and other commodities as the paper and packaging industries adopt technology to better predict where paper is needed, meeting demand with smarter supply. This will both cut waste and ensure satisfied customers.

Maybe one day, we’ll never run out of TP in stadiums again.

For more, see How Digital Transformation Can Save Paper And Packaging.

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