The COVID-19 epidemic has brought many things to the forefront. Among them are the need for smart buildings that can monitor occupants, trace contacts, and support the safety of workers and visitors alike.
We talk a lot about smart offices and smart homes, but less about the smart factory and what it can bring to a company. Smart factories use location tracking to monitor employees, track products through the manufacturing process, keep track of movable equipment, etc. If you haven't introduced indoor IoT location services in your factory, here are some reasons why you need to take a closer look at what it can do for you.

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Contact Tracing

COVID-19 is the worst pandemic of our lifetimes, but there's no guarantee it will be the last. Although we can hope future epidemics and pandemics will be less serious in scale and scope, the fact is that we have had a significant outbreak every few years. Local outbreaks can be just as much of a problem for a facility's direct logistics as global ones. Contact tracing is key to controlling outbreaks of directly contagious diseases such as COVID or influenza.
Indoor location technology tracks both visitors and employees by using smart Bluetooth badges. This allows the system to monitor who was in contact with or close proximity (less than six feet away) to someone who has been diagnosed with a contagious disease and apply the appropriate measures so that close contacts can be notified. Factory workers are generally less at risk of occupational exposure than most, due to the more open space on the floor, but new infectious diseases emerge all the time.
Contact tracing can help reduce downtime by avoiding the need to send all employees home, decrease employee and visitor anxiety and reduce the cost of testing. Without proper contact tracing, you may need to test everyone who was in the building, even people who were never on the same floor as the infected person. 

Mustering and Building Occupancy

If you have a fire, explosion, or leak of toxic chemicals, evacuating the building is likely to become necessary. A historical problem is ensuring that everyone gets out.
With employee and visitor tracking, you can quickly check to make sure that nobody is still in the building; furthermore, you can even tell where in the building a "missing" person might be. This allows you to send help to get the person out or provide their location to emergency services for needed rescue. During drills, you can identify people who are slow to get out of the building and then determine why – did they fail to hear the alarm? Was the fastest evacuation route blocked? You can use this information to improve evacuation speed and safety. has indoor location services that give the location of everyone in a facility and allow a one-touch check on entire groups. You can also use them to track employees and visitors in real time throughout an evacuation, and trackers can even be given to first responders so that their location can be monitored and they can be given even better information to find a missing, and potentially injured person.
You can also set up real-time emergency alerts that ensure that everyone in the building is notified of the emergency through their phones or other means. The system uses a map to show the locations of personnel, making it easy to show first responders both the location and aspects of building layout they may be unfamiliar with. Overall, real-time tracking reduces the time needed to evacuate, reduces the number of people left behind, and helps first responders find trapped or injured personnel.

Asset Tracking and Inventory

Lightweight Bluetooth tags can be used to track raw materials, completed orders, and movable equipment. Because individual parts can be tracked, the system helps ensure that you neither run out of nor over-order materials, reducing waste. It assists with loss control by ensuring parts and components do not "wander" out of the warehouse. Time spent picking items out of the warehouse can also be reduced, with the AI giving the employee the most efficient route to collect any items needed.
The tracking system can also track movable equipment such as forklifts and tool kits. Employees can use the system to find the closest piece of equipment even if the last worker failed to put it back where it belongs, saving time which might otherwise be wasted searching. Alarms can be set up if a piece of equipment is taken out of its designated area, preventing both theft and simple errors.
Tracking the movement of assets and employees also allows you to analyze efficiencies on the shop floor and improve processes. Employee buy-in is important, however, and it's important to phrase tracking as a way of improving protocols rather than looking for problems with individuals.

Streamlining Manufacturing Processes

Asset tracking can also be used to improve the manufacturing process itself. Each individual product can be tracked through the manufacturing process and the aggregate information can be used to monitor the speed at which a product moves through the system. Although some parts of your process will inevitably be slower than others, the information allows you to identify bottlenecks which can then be targeted for efficiency improvement.
The system can also monitor orders to provide flow management. As manufacturing becomes more complex, order flow management has become even more critical. The system gives real-time visibility to track inventory levels and progress and match them to order volume. This is vital for both small operations that may be making items to order and large factories churning out a high volume of product.
This improves on-time delivery, allows you to make better decisions, and provides a constant flow of data. One advantage of Bluetooth tags is that the readers are so cheap that they can be integrated into the process, rather than having products scanned at specified checkpoints. This saves employee time and effort. There is no manual entry of data, reducing errors and eliminating wasteful paperwork.

Improving Factory Floor Safety

Accidents can happen when employees – or less experienced visitors – go out onto the factory floor. Systems can be set up to alert people if they are about to step inside a safety line, if there is a forklift out of their line of site, or about other hazards. Visitors can be monitored to ensure that they stay in safe areas or close to an escort.
Data can be used to establish if individuals are following safe distance requirements so that careless employees can be targeted for reminders or training. During the current situation, alerts can even be provided if people get within six feet of each other, ensuring that social distancing guidelines are followed. Moving forward, sensors can warn if an area is becoming overcrowded, if too many people try to crowd into an elevator, etc.
Alerts can be sent out if somebody enters a potentially hazardous area. Finally, employee and visitor badges can also be fitted with panic buttons, which allow people to quickly call others in the event of an accident. An injured employee has a greater chance of being able to hit a panic button than finding their phone, and somebody who witnesses an accident can hit a button and then immediately move to assist the injured person. This can greatly increase the speed at which assistance, including first responders, arrive and result in better outcomes. Panic buttons can also be used during a security breach.

Developing a smart factory takes time, but immediately implementing real time tracking of assets, employees, and visitors can show benefits right away. The current crisis has brought attention to contact tracing, but most of these benefits are not going to go away when the pandemic is over. Instead, companies will continue to move forward to improve safety, security, and overall processes. Improved employee training and awareness, greater visitor safety and increased security will all benefit companies and employees moving forward.
At, we offer indoor location services that help improve safety and security while reducing costs. Schedule a demo today to find out how our Bluetooth Low Energy tracking systems and solutions can help your facility gain a competitive edge.
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IoT, or Internet of Things, devices are wireless devices that connect via a network to communicate with one another. Companies are increasingly reporting that they consider IoT solutions to be beneficial to increasing the productivity of their employees. However, many of these companies, despite the expressed confidence in the technology, are not investing in implementing IoT in their processes.
Converting everything over to data-integrated manufacturing with IoT devices driving the change is expensive and will radically alter the way a manufacturing company operates. These can be difficult things to get shareholders or major stakeholders on board with.
In this post, we'd like to talk about what IoT is, how it is used in manufacturing, and how you can maximize your ROI while minimizing your risk while you make the switch over to a more automated workflow.

A Closer Look at IoT

If you found the definition at the beginning of the post a little vague, allow us to clarify what IoT devices are. They are very commonplace, so you've probably seen them before even if you didn't know what they are called.
A common example of an IoT device is a smart bulb in your home. When you tell Alexa or Google to turn on your smart bulb, two IoT devices are communicating with each other to automate a task in your daily life. Light bulbs and smart speakers are universally useful, but IoT devices can get very specific as well. So specific, in fact, that there is likely a wide variety of IoT devices on the market specific to your particular industry.

How is IoT Used in Manufacturing?

While there are likely devices specific to your industry that will allow your various processes to communicate with one another and more effectively automate your workflow, there are also more general-purpose solutions that apply to manufacturing processes more broadly. These solutions allow you to streamline your workflow, reduce human error, and seek out inefficiencies through the machine-learning analysis of the data that they collect.
Let's take a look at some of the ways that IoT technologies can aid in your company's digital transformation as you embrace the move to industry 4.0.

Tracking with BLE

Bluetooth low-energy is similar to the Bluetooth technology that you use in your home, except that it uses significantly less battery power. This makes BLE ideal for manufacturing solutions because you can have a large number of devices without having to worry about constantly charging them or swapping out batteries.
As a tracking technology, BLE is more advanced than RFID, which cannot be tracked unless it is scanned. BLE is an IoT device—it will send its tracking information wirelessly to your software so that it is available in real-time without the need for human intervention or chokepoint-creating scanning stations.

Search and Find 

One of the big advantages of IoT-based tracking is that any item that is tagged cannot be lost. Finding the item will always be as simple as opening a computer and searching for it. The uses of such technology are endless. You will be able to more accurately keep track of all your work-in-progress parts as they move through the various stages of manufacturing and storage.
If you have costly equipment that must be shared across a large facility by an equally large number of employees, then checking that equipment in and out, and ensuring that it doesn't get lost, becomes a lot easier. BLE powered tracking devices can even alert you if a piece of your equipment is leaving a designated area so theft and unauthorized use can be prevented.

Employee Visibility and Safety

IoT tracking can also be used on people. One of the biggest benefits of this is that IoT-enabled badges can completely replace your current time management solution. Your employees will no longer need to clock in or out because the platform will know that they are on the job as soon as they step into their designated work area with a badge on.
The use of the technology that we hope never has to be used is in regard to employee safety. Should an accident occur, it can be difficult to know where any employees that are not accounted for are located. They could be trapped and in danger and finding them may be difficult. If those employees are wearing IoT tracking badges, then finding them is easy and rescue efforts can begin promptly.

Asset Tracking and Inventory

Tracking your assets as they move through the manufacturing process, or equipment loaned out to employees, isn't the only way that tracking can be beneficial. When materials need to be stored away, you need a reliable way to know exactly how many of which materials you have. Inventory management done manually is a time sink and prone to errors. But leveraging the power of IoT trackers allows you to automate your inventory workflow and get more reliable results that are always updated in real-time. You'll never again have to worry about over or under purchasing because of a bad inventory count.

Order and Material Flow Management

IoT tracking devices allow you to mark where a device is in the manufacturing process. This will provide you with the greatest transparency about how your workflow is performing. By having a more granular look at how your manufacturing process is organized, you will get a quick heads up when problems occur, allowing you to more accurately convey to customers how long their orders should take before completion.

Big Data and Machine Learning

IoT devices are constantly recording data. In the case of IoT tracking, you will not only know the current location of a given asset, but its historic locations as well. Feeding all of this data into machine learning algorithms can provide you with some key insights about how your operation is running. The machine can learn (or be taught) which anomalies represent a problem and automatically alert someone so the problem is taken care of quickly. These algorithms can spot chokepoints that slow your productivity and give you a heads up so that you can make the changes necessary to resolve the problem. Perhaps a commonly used path takes a significantly longer time than a less commonly used one. Switching your flow up could lead to a significant boost in performance thanks to insights that otherwise would not have been available. 
Click here to download our ‘What Lean Manufacturing Means in the Age of IoT’ white paper >

Aspects of IoT Solutions

A functioning IoT implementation brings together several different aspects that will all work together to ensure that your productivity and user experience is maximized. These different parts should not be viewed in isolation, but rather as parts of a whole. The performance of one aspect can have profound impacts on the performance of the others.
- Hardware - The hardware in an IoT implementation is the 'things' part in the 'Internet of Things.' These are the actual devices that will be communicating with your software to provide data about their operation and about the data that they are supposed to be monitoring. The hardware is the heart and soul of the implementation.
Software - The software that powers your IoT installation will provide the brains that the hardware needs in order to make your automation efforts worthwhile. This is the part of the installation that allows all of the devices to be accessed from a central location and that processes the data that they are all sending in order to make meaningful use of it.
- Consulting - Digital transformation and the move to industry 4.0 is complicated. So is the move to an IoT-based manufacturing process. It is vital that you have someone on your side who can evaluate the needs of your business and give you useful advice about the best way to proceed with a new installation or any upgrades that you may be considering. Having knowledgeable consultants on board is an important step to maximizing your ROI in the move to IoT.

How Can Help

Awareness that IoT-based manufacturing can improve your productivity is one thing, but the confidence that you can implement it seamlessly and affordably with your current workflow is another. This disconnect could be why businesses that are aware of the benefits haven't taken the step towards implementation yet. The fourth industrial revolution is upon us, though, and soon you'll need to begin your digital transformation in order to remain competitive. Here are 3 ways can help give you the confidence you need to make that step.
- Single Source Provider - provides hardware, software, and consulting for the adoption of IoT in your manufacturing processes. This reduces the expense and ensures that your adoption process will be as painless as possible. 
- Technology Agnostic - We talked a lot about BLE devices in this post, but our Simon AI platform is technology agnostic. It will work with BLE, but also with UWB, WiFi, RFID, and more. This helps to maximize the compatibility with your existing workflow.
- Multiple Integrations - Speaking of your existing workflow, you'll want an IoT partner that is able to integrate with the tools that you want to use. At, we already have integrations with Cisco Meraki, Ruckus, Juniper, Rigado, Quuppa and more. By integrating with the tools you want to use, we can help reduce the cost of your installation.
If you are ready to see what Simon AI can do for your business, contact us today.
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Digital transformation is the process of using current digital technology to improve your business. When done correctly, digital transformation improves the overall efficiency of your business, which leads to higher profit margins. Many business owners in the industrial sector don't realize just how large of an impact digital transformations can have on their business. The Internet of Things (IoT) and location data can make the workplace safer for employees, aid with the organization of your inventory, improve the customer experience, and even help lower your utility bills. Most importantly, by using the IoT and digital transformation to automate business operations, you have more time to focus on different ways you can improve and grow your industrial business. Digital transformation is so important that industrial experts predict that by 2025, the IoT will be responsible for $11 trillion in economic growth.
Benefits of starting digital transformation include:

Working your way through the four stages of starting a digital transformation in industrial sectors is the key to enjoying the maximum benefits of the change.

1. Eliminate Silos Before Beginning Your Digital Transformation Strategy

Some businesses owners consider silo elimination the first step of digital transformation, while others roll it into the first stage. The one thing everyone agrees on is that eliminating silos is the only way to make the digital transformation process go smoothly. 
Eliminating silos before implementing your digital transformation requires that you identify the areas in your workforce where communication about tasks, jobs, and other information is severely isolated. Your company can use that information to open up clear lines of communication. 
Some business owners have found this to be the most challenging part of the digital transformation process because certain groups of employees struggle with the idea of maintaining open lines of communication with other workgroups. It's up to you to make sure each employee understands the only thing that maintaining the silos accomplishes is putting the business's future at risk. It may take time, but most workforces learn how to break down silos. 
Once the silo is down and the automated programs are up and running, lines of communication remain smooth and no new silos form. This is especially useful in the industrial sector where it's common for workgroups to be scattered across multiple locations
In many cases, breaking down communication silos to make room for digital transformation involves the following steps:

The good news is that once the digital transformation is complete, your employees will realize how much it has improved the workplace. Also, they will quickly accept and appreciate the value of strong communication and find that they are more excited about going to work than they ever were before. A good management team that works well together goes a long way towards breaking down communication silos and allowing digital transformation to take place.

2. Identify Your Digital Foundation

Before you can begin to implement an automated program for your industrial business, you have to sit down and figure out which aspects of your business are best suited to automation. This will create a foundation for your digital transformation. The exact areas vary from one company to another, depending on the type of services they provide, the inventory/equipment they deal with, and the areas of business in which they lack efficiency. Most industrial businesses start building their digital transformation foundation by looking at tasks that are currently being handled manually but which could be done by an automated program.
When creating the foundation for your digital transformation, you want to identify the areas that you can easily automate without disrupting shipments, employees, and customers. Once you have those areas automated, you can gradually automate areas that create a disruptive ripple.

3. The Synchronization Stage of Digital Transformation

The whole point of digital transformation in the industrial sector is to streamline business operations. Two key components of this are, first, using the foundation-building stage to prioritize the automation process and, second, making sure the different initiatives are properly synchronized. With careful planning, this stage can be completed with honed IT skills and knowledge of digital transformation and automation programs. 
This is the stage when you and your IT expert troubleshoot and remedy potential glitches. Many also use this stage to start explaining the upcoming changes to their employees, suppliers, and customers. Some refer to this stage as the partially synchronized stage and the next stage as the fully synchronized stage.

4. The Strategy Stage of Digital Transformation

The strategy stage of digital transformation is where everything starts to come together. It's usually at this stage that business owners start seeing how going digital will improve their industrial business operations and get excited about the future. It's also at this stage that you take what has only been set up in parts and engage the entire system. You and your staff finally get to experience how much easier the digital transformation makes the regular business day.
Shortly after the strategy stage of the digital transformation, you'll notice a marked improvement in both your daily operations and customer handling. There won't be any more questions about whether you have too much or too little inventory because your business's equipment will be properly logged with electronic records. The improved organization and efficiency create the perfect situation for you to decide if you should expand your business or hold steady.
Don't be surprised if, once you've started reaping the many benefits connected with digital transformation, you discover additional aspects of your industrial business that would benefit from being automated. The good news is that once everyone has discovered how much easier the automated system makes the workday, they'll eagerly embrace additional automated efforts.
Essential Guide to Asset Tracking Solutions

Warehouse management is an essential aspect of making sure your business not only operates smoothly but also generates needed revenue. The more efficiently your warehouse runs, the higher your profit margins become.

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The challenge many warehouse owners and managers encounter is knowing how to take their current operation and streamline the process. The only problem is, they can't decide if an automation solution such as a Bluetooth-based RTLS, or Real-Time Location System, is something that will benefit their warehouse.
The answer is yes. This system is easy to set up and use and will benefit your warehouse in these six key areas:

1. Improve Your Inventory Knowledge

Knowing precisely what is in your warehouse is a huge factor in long-term success. An RTLS with asset tracking and management capabilities that allows you to use your smartphone, computer, or tablet is one of the best ways to keep an eye on your inventory. This single feature not only ensures that you never run out of something your business needs to function smoothly, but it also allows you to:

The University of Arkansas conducted a detailed study which showed that it didn't take long for warehouse businesses to notice an improvement in their inventory knowledge. Data collected during the research program revealed that, once Bluetooth-based RTLS technology was incorporated into the warehouse management solution, knowledge of inventory accuracy increased by 27% in just 13 weeks. Before incorporating the RTLS system, inventory chains experienced inventory inaccuracy rates that reached as high as 65%. Experts believed that solving this discrepancy resulted in a 10% revenue reduction. 
Not only does RTLS lead to improved inventory accuracy, but the same solution can be used to help manage equipment, tools, and other supplies. Bluetooth-based RTLS solutions have been extremely beneficial to warehouse managers. This holds true in a broad array of industries that include retail, commercial storage, transportation, agriculture, and imports and exports.

2. Profit from Fewer Lost Assets

It's surprising how easily and how frequently assets are lost. Most of these assets are lost through a simple mistake. But, in some cases, they're stolen. In either situation, Bluetooth-based RTLS prevents costly lost asset issues from hurting your warehouse business. 
As soon as a tag is affixed to one of your important assets, you gain the ability to track its exact whereabouts. The information appears right on your screen, so you don't have to pull all your employees away from important tasks to participate in a warehouse-wide search for missing forklifts and toolkits. Being able to fetch the asset yourself saves you a great deal of money.

3. Fence in Your Assets

In warehouse management circles, there are always new stories about how much expensive damage was done when a careless employee drove a forklift into an area the forklift shouldn't ever be. Our Bluetooth-based RTLS solutions prevents this from happening to you. All you must do is decide which areas equipment and inventory is allowed and set up a geofence. If the asset or inventory breaks through the geofence, you'll be alerted instantly so you can investigate the situation. This capability has drastically decreased the number of thefts warehouse managers dealt with during the course of an average year.

4. Improve Workforce Efficiency

Workforce efficiency is a major component in successful warehouse management. In most warehouses, the staff is scattered all over the warehouse. In warehouses that don't use an RTLS system, employees are required to travel to and from their workstations to pick up new assignments. The lack of automation leads to overlapping tasks or tasks getting overlooked, overworked employees, confusion, and an unhappy workforce. 
An automated RTLS system allows you and your employees to streamline the entire process. The system will enable you to create easy, well-managed work plans. Also, you can use it to:

Not only will you notice improved work efficiency, but the smoother management style also increases employee satisfaction while decreasing costly employee turnover.

5. Enjoy Fewer Security Worries

Security is a constant concern for warehouse owners. Without a reliable RTLS, it's difficult to know who is and isn't in the warehouse. The RTLS allows you to stop spending all your energy worrying about potential security threats and focus on other aspects of your business. The way this works is with Bluetooth and LE-enabled card tags. Each card tag is personalized so you can set them up in such a way that only certain people can enter the warehouse or the property. They can even help you restrict access to certain parts of the warehouse.
The LE-enabled card tags are also helpful when you have visitors at the warehouse. Each visitor is assigned a tag which they wear the entire time they're at the warehouse and return when it's time for them to leave. This allows for easy monitoring and more comprehensive security.
Also, many warehouse owners have found that they're able to use the card tags to improve the accuracy of when the employees' clock in and out.

6. Keep Your Staff Safe

No matter how many safety measures you have in place, there is always the risk of an accident. Warehouses are big, and cell phones don't always get good reception. If someone is working by themselves when they get hurt, hours might pass before anyone finds them, and their health could be in serious jeopardy. But Bluetooth-enabled Card Tags CT18-3 connected to an automated RTLS system have a built-in panic alarm. If one of your employees is in trouble, the card sends a signal, and you can send help their way. Getting to the injured parties and making sure they get the medical help they need decreases the number of injury-related incidents on your site. Knowing that they'll be found as soon as they're in trouble can also improve employee loyalty.
The sooner you download our whitepaper, "Value of Location Based IoT Data in Warehouse Operations" and schedule a demo of Simon Analytics Platform for warehouses, the sooner you'll realize the value of location data in your warehouse.

It’s understandable if you learn to tune out certain buzzwords and phrases that get repeated over and over in business and management guides. We all have enough of “synergy” and “thinking outside the box”, don’t we? After the millionth time you hear about it, you no longer really care if it’s something you should pay attention to. 
If you’re starting to do this with any combination of “IoT”, “digital transformation”, “digital twins” and “Industry 4.0”, I’m here to tell you that you’re making a mistake. These are not empty catchphrases or clichés, they’re real concepts that define the fundamental organizing principles of any manufacturing operation that hopes to be successful in today’s marketplace.
IoT-based visibility gives insights into every link in production and supply chains. Assets and workstations can communicate constantly via online networks. Machines, systems, and products exchange information in an omni-directional conversation that enables fine tuning and optimization to a level never before possible. This efficiency means leaner production and lower costs.
We’re witnessing a transformation that is reshaping the way factories work. The changes are powered by the potential unleashed by the digitization of processes and the deep insights gained through machine-level analysis. If your operation hasn’t already at least started down this road, you’re already behind.

Time for a Digital Twin

The information collected through IoT in manufacturing is easily gathered, stored, interpreted and displayed in real time. You can use this information to make better decisions regarding the allocation of financial and personnel resources, track the position and use of physical assets, get more precise and reliable information about employee work time and more. You can track the performance of any connected component of your operation by following its digital twin.
A digital twin is a virtual replica of a physical device or a network of devices that mirrors its real-world counterparts in real time. Data from machines and other assets is reflected in the digital version, their twins, in a way that makes it simple to follow and turn into business benefits. Tracking a digital twin is more informative and easier than observing a physical twin and can be done remotely. With everything integrated into a single interface, opportunities for improvement can be identified much more quickly.
The transparency provided by IoT solutions increases efficiency in production by making it easier to adapt to fluctuations in demand and enabling smarter inventory management. Bottlenecks in workflows can be identified and assets and can be better managed and more quickly located. When information is shared throughout a network, multiple shareholders can access it as needed without waiting for gatekeepers or processes to catch up.
Deeper real-time insight also means that potential issues can be identified and resolved before they become serious. With conventional, pre-IoT monitoring, problems show up on the radar after they’ve become, well, problems. That’s when you’re looking at production stoppages, open-ended downtime and maintenance issues. Machine-level analytics and access to historical data can quickly flag incidents and out-of-normal-range performance and provide early warnings about potential problems before they get out of hand. The value of keeping production running smoothly in this manner alone can exceed the entire cost of IoT implementation, with everything else just like nice digital cherries on top.

The Tools for the Factory of the Future are Available Now, What’s Stopping you?

Getting your facility positioned to operate on the cutting edge of technology is a matter of the smart use and integration of analytical and data-gathering tools available right now. Still, not everyone is as far along as they should be when it comes to their own move towards fully connected manufacturing operations. Surveys indicate that about a quarter of manufacturers have yet to formulate a plan to push their digital transformation forward. It’s hard to say exactly why something so important is still not a mission-critical priority for so many decision makers, but identifying what they’re missing out on is easy.
Industry 4.0 is defined by the application of online capabilities to conventional manufacturing processes. With machines and other assets that can interact with each other and share information about their performance, benefits flow directly to every aspect of the operation.
Reduced costs, increased automation, higher throughput, more informed decisions—all this and more is what IoT brings to manufacturing, even at this early stage in Industry 4.0. Getting started is as easy as talking to a solution provider like us.
If you’re curious to learn more about manufacturing use cases for IoT, join our webinar on this very subject and dive a little deeper into the specifics of how digital solutions are supporting manufacturers in new ways every day. Just click here.

Digital Twin IoT in Manufacturing Webinar invitation

If you work in an industrial sector like supply chain or manufacturing and you haven’t started connecting your physical business processes to digital, then you’re behind.
If you have started to leverage digital solutions and have deployed a pilot or rollout, then you’ve likely underachieved your goals.
IoT is bringing the physical and digital world closer together each day yet remains in a state of constant change. Both unmatched opportunity and genuine risk stand before businesses that hope to improve their bottom line and gain a competitive edge through digital transformation. Its potential cannot be understated: new value creation, efficiency, and innovation are and will continue to be unlocked through digital and physical convergence.
However, successful business models of the future, regardless of industry, will need to thoroughly understand the opportunity and risk associated with a more connected enterprise in order to survive.
Let’s take an equal parts look at the opportunities and risks associated with connecting your organization’s physical assets and workflows to digital applications and embracing the IoT in a more rational way.

Understanding the Opportunities

Optimization of Manufacturing and Supply Chain, a topic near and dear to, is one of the main business processes that companies use IoT to optimize first. Since industrial business models focus on improving productivity metrics to remain competitive, the more data they have on their workflows, the more efficient they become. That’s why manufacturers are increasingly connecting their machines and workers with sensors like these.
Becoming proactive can come in a variety of forms. Like when we have the right amount of data and analytical capabilities to detect anomalies before they occur. For example, by connecting warehouse forklifts with sensors, we can know how much time they spend in each area, the routes they take, the speed they drive, and more. This location data is valuable when planning how to organize the floor layout, flagging danger zones, and reminding the driver of best practices.
New business models can appear when a machine becomes connected. Whether a consumer product like a coffee machine or an enterprise asset like a specialized machine for making textiles - new business models will drive new value creation for companies and consumers. It’s still hard to imagine that we could all be riding in self-driving, electric cars for our trips by 2030. Just think of all the new business models that will manifest around that! Greater connectivity will give rise to new business models, as new business models evolve with greater connectivity.
Creating a safer workplace for employees is another feature of a more connected workplace. We highlighted the role of personal alarming systems in hospitality in a previous post, but this application extends to the safety of tradesmen, students, industrial workers, and healthcare professionals. The ability to locate employees on site in the event of an emergency or allow them to instantly inform management of a threatening situation in a time of need is quickly becoming a gold standard among industries.

Calculating Risks

Just as “great power comes great responsibility”, so too does great opportunity come with great risk. Undertaking an IoT project without calculating for and addressing widely known risks happens everyday and has resulted in a close to 75% failure rate of IoT projects over the last two years. These are setbacks that can not only cost companies millions of dollars in the short-term and bruise their confidence, but compromise their goals for building a long-term digital strategy.
Some of the risks businesses need to be prepared for are:
Breaches in security have been a trending topic as half of all firms with IoT devices are unable to detect them. Causes and solutions for such breaches vary, as thoroughly outlined here, which is why it is important to choose a partner that prioritizes robust security in their embedded devices and software.
Poor or failed deployments see diminishing returns for companies hoping for big gains from IoT. Over ambition, lack of expertise, and a short-sighted or ambiguous framework can turn dreams into a sinkhole in a matter of months. Not only is this costly, but it can result in an organizational setback for years to come.

Advice for Mitigating Risks

Every decision comes with a degree of risk. Risk that it won’t work out as intended. A recent IBM article on risk mitigation in IoT and software development provides clear steps for exposing and addressing risk that resonate particularly well on the topic. They pointed out:
“Reducing risk is about exposing the unknowns in a project early so that you can mitigate or avoid them, know when risks materialize, and have a plan to deal with them. Most importantly, reducing risk is about addressing and eliminating risk as early as possible in a project so that your risk profile is reduced long before you deliver the product.”
Additional ways of mitigating risks are:
Choosing the right partner can bring the much needed expertise, knowledge, and expertise that your organization needs to deploy IoT successfully. They should provide references of past deployments, assist in the development of your digital strategy (and take into consideration these points) and have close working relationships with notable technology providers throughout the industry.
Much of the legwork involved in IoT comes from the range of technologies that must be integrated to share data across applications. A good partner should be able to bridge these gaps and more.
A long-term vision is a prerequisite for developing a strategy for IoT and sticking with it. Short-term gains are appreciated, and can validate the effectiveness of a solution, but a long-term vision will position the company for greater, sustained success in the future.
Secure devices made with best security practices from hardware to firmware substantially mitigate the risk of cyber threats and hackers. Compare providers, understand who adheres to strict security measures, and disregard the rest.
With the opportunities and risks in mind, you can go forth to create new value for your business, community and planet.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact our team about it.
Download our white paper and learn more about how IoT transforms the way you track and improve warehouse efficiency:

Supply Chain is a leading area for digital initiatives and investment in 2019. Find out how to leverage Supply Chain in your digital transformation and avoid common pitfalls along the way.

Last month, Deloitte released a short series of blogs titled “The Industry 4.0 Paradox” where they analyzed the results of a widespread survey on how major industries were investing in Industry 4.0.
The results revealed a number of paradoxes that are altogether not so uncommon.

From an IoT company that has worked on the frontline of digital transformation over the last six years, these findings are commonplace, if not inherent to any man-made institution.
Despite the familiarity with the above findings, there was one paradox that stood out as a valuable insight worthy of a closer look: The Supply Chain Paradox.
In this article, we will explore the rising role of the Supply Chain in the context of digital transformation and provide 4 steps to ensuring the success of your company’s digital strategy in 2019.

Growing importance of Supply Chain in Digital Transformation

Supply Chains are as complex as they are global as they are competitive. Competition is driven by the pursuit of greater efficiency, a variable which will be sought until it can be sought no more. Until physics itself is the only obstacle slowing the journey of raw materials to end customers.
The survey asked 361 C-level executives from manufacturing industries like aerospace, automotives, oil and gas, etc. to rank various business areas of their organization by order of importance for current and future digital initiatives.
Supply Chain was rated as the highest priority for future digital investment as well as one of the top areas where digital transformation was underway.
As a Bluetooth solution provider, we have seen the increasing interest in digital technologies across the Supply Chain first hand.
In a recent white paper, demonstrated how a global logistics provider is deploying BLE location tracking technology to increase worker efficiency by as much as 20% in the Value of Location Based IoT in Warehouses. This company has a clear digital strategy and is an innovator in a range of Supply Chain services, affirming that the race for digital transformation is in full swing.
In summary, the importance of bringing digital solutions to Supply Chain cannot be understated. This survey delivers a strong signal to competitors and related industries alike:
The digital transformation of Supply Chain is well underway and will continue far into the future.

The Supply Chain Paradox Explained

The Supply Chain Paradox is based on the fact that in 2019, Supply Chain is a top priority for digital investment and innovation, yet is not seen as an area capable of driving that innovation nor worthy of participation from the CSCO in the discussion of how the budget should be spent.
According to the survey, “Only 22 percent of the overall respondents said that the CSCO was either a key decision-maker or highly involved in the decision-making process.”
The authors offer some practical solutions for improving this like involving the CSCO in decision making and training them to think more strategically.
However, they miss a more central problem that many organizations are facing when undertaking digital transformation:
Approaching digital transformation like another technology project rather than an opportunity to build a digital business model of tomorrow.
Six years of experience on the cutting edge of IoT technology has shown us that it is the people, not the technology, that curb digital growth and value creation. This is the result of a general lack of long-term vision.

4 Steps to Digital Success in 2019

Digital transformation requires the ability to evaluate, plan, act and follow through with a long-term vision for digital success. In 2019, it is as critical as ever to create a digital strategy for your business. Competition is fierce, organizations are moving fast, and technology is lifting off.
Here are 4 steps to follow to kickstart your digital transformation:

1. Prioritize business areas of digital investment

If you are unsure how you should be prioritizing your digital investments, you can take a hint from similar industries. Evaluate which business areas have the potential to bring your company sustained, long-term advantages in your field and go from there.

2. Choose a business case

Unlike a technology upgrade, the road to digital transformation begins with the participation of all relevant stakeholders. Gather heads of all relevant departments for an innovation workshop with the goal of developing 2-3 ideas to build business cases around.

Look around to see who is already doing what. In Supply Chain, Bluetooth is already enabling countless business cases and creating a strong foundation for companies to expand digital solutions across departments. Find a little inspiration here.

3. Create a long-term digital strategy

This is what leaders are for. Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, recently pointed out:

“Effective leaders possess at least three qualities:

1. Awareness (e.g., global & industry trends, company performance, compassion, one’s own strengths and weaknesses),
2. Synthesis (separate signal from noise, connect dots/generate insights, develop a plan, make quality decisions),
3. Inspiration (clarity of vision, courage of conviction, ability to communicate both)."

In the context of digital transformation, all three of these are highly relevant. Awareness of industry trends and company performance permits the development of a quality, informed plan that the company can believe in, stand behind and get excited about.

4. Follow through

Don’t. Slow. Momentum. Once everyone is onboard with the digital vision, push ahead. Schedule follow-ups and deliverables. There is no doubt that the road to digital transformation is a difficult one filled with knowledge gaps, growing pains and other risks. But the full potential of a digital solution can take time to realize, so persevere.

Prioritize areas of your business for future digital investment, create a long-term vision for digital strategy, choose a business case, and stick with it. Oh, and start now.

Contact us to discuss solutions for your business

[Updated for 2020]
[Updated for 2020]