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How manufacturers can baby step their way into the Internet of Things (on the cheap)

ManualIOTWhile at the gym today (no jokes please, yes I do make it there occasionally!), I noticed that all of the gym equipment included stickers that allowed members to text the manager about an equipment problem. This sticker included a unique machine number so that the gym manager could identify exactly which piece of equipment didn't work correctly. 

This sticker got me thinking about CRM systems and the Internet of Things (IoT). In a perfect world, all of the gym equipment could include self-monitoring tools and sophisticated diagnostic calculations that would allow the machines to report cycle information and possibly predict upcoming required maintenance. The machines would then connect to the Internet and report their data electronically to a central database. Both Microsoft and Salesforce offer comprehensive IoT technology platforms that could handle this type of monitoring and reporting. This type of IoT technology could provide a lot of benefits to both the equipment manufacturer and the gym/retail location, including reduced maintenance costs, lower operating costs and increased customer satisfaction.

I thought this sticker idea offered a clever way for them to "baby step" their way into the future of IoT. The sticker implementation provides a few benefits:

  • Saves the cost of buying and installing electronic monitoring sensors on each piece of equipment.  Stickers are CHEAP and EASY! Any manufacturer could deploy a similar system quite easily. This particular gym had me sign no less than 50 pages of paper to join, so believe me when I say they're not on the cutting edge of technology. If they can do this, any manufacturer can.
  • Sets up their reporting infrastructure to have a service / maintenance history on each piece of equipment they own. If/when they implement electronic IoT monitors in the future, they're already on their way from a reporting standpoint.
  • Centralizes service requests into a central location (via the one text number). The service desk can then monitor and report on any service level agreements they might have in place with the equipment manufacturer. They can also report on any equipment maintenance trends such as certain machines / brands break down more often than others.
  • Captures their customer's mobile information (via the incoming text). This mobile information might come in handy in future marketing and sales efforts.

Taking this idea beyond the gym to industrial equipment and commercial manufacturing, IoT continues to remain top of mind for many businesses. Most manufacturers I speak with acknowledge that IoT systems will eventually become universal on everything they manufacture...but different sub-industries carry a wide range of expectations on when IoT might hit their industry. Some "old school" industrial equipment manufacturers talk about IoT with a 10-20 year horizon, while we hear life science manufacturers thinking shorter term (next 5 years).

If you're one of the companies thinking IoT remains 10+ years away, perhaps this sticker reporting idea might work for your business in the interim? It might help jump start your IoT effort by getting your business to start tracking and monitoring individual machine data into a central system (CRM of course). If you're thinking IoT lurks right around the corner, you would probably jump right into electronic sensors and monitoring. Either way, please contact us and let Sonoma Partners help you improve customer service and operational efficiency by leveraging IoT concepts and technology to hook up your equipment to your CRM system.

Topics: CRM for Manufacturing