Should Your Products Be Smart?

Prior podcasts have introduced the digital transformation business categories of “machine health” and “connected employees.” In this episode we discuss “smart products.”

Some manufacturing products are easy to visualize as electronic sources of volumes of data; others, not so much. Yet a significant portion of the products developed, manufactured, sold and/or serviced by manufacturers have great stories to tell, if only we’ll listen.

The two primary reasons to consider smart products are: (1) to simplify or improve the user experience, and (2) to provide information for you — the manufacturer — to improve design by understanding use in the field with specifics.

Kinetico® is a water treatment company that sells both commercial and residential units. Those units have consumables that the user must track and address. To make that much easier for the customer, Kinetico has embedded smart technologies in the units to highlight approaching maintenance needs.

Printers have done something fairly similar, in indicating when they are getting low on ink.

What would make usage of your products by your customers in their various environments, usage patterns, and other variables easier?

Jet engines are made of complex metals (currently) produced through very advanced metallurgical techniques. They hardly seem a candidate for generating masses of electronic data. However, both Rolls-Royce and GE have added data collection, analysis, and prediction capabilities. They now receive a premium, through the “as-a-service” business model for significant improvements in fuel efficiencies and flight routes that save their customers literally millions of dollars. This real-time data capability not only facilitate those immediate operational gains, but also provide information to the design engineers to determine how to develop much improved jet engines.

Without data, so many things we take for granted today would be more difficult.

When considering your digital transformation, smart products is one arena you cannot afford to overlook. Where you prioritize it is one question, but to ignore the potential is short-sighted.

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