14 October 2014

Developing industrial-strength systems of engagement

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Meshing social, mobile, data, the cloud, and the internet of things (IoT), systems of engagement enable companies to deliver rich, digital experiences to their customers. Today, we look at how manufacturers, construction companies, and professional services businesses—the organizations that typically use To-Increase solutions with their ERP systems—can benefit from systems of engagement to innovate and create more value.

In a recent post, we discussed systems of engagement in a consumer context and highlighted a few basic steps for companies that go this route. Add equipment-as-a-service (EaaS) and the nigh ubiquity of internet-connected machines to the mix, and you’re a lot closer to compelling value scenarios for companies. Innovation results from the coming together of product data, gathered from connected equipment and machinery, and social data from customer conversations and behavior. Connected machines can send real-time data about their performance, utilization, and status to the companies that manufacture and maintain them. Social listening and observation can harvest insights, emerging requirements, sentiments, and the social pulse of customers who share socially and contribute to communities.

Systems of engagement can apply to a company’s employees as well as its customers. At a basic level, you can engage more closely with your people and benefit from ideas and creativity that may come out in social, unstructured forums that were not always available to them. I’m reminded of the company whose security guard was responsible for more new patents than anybody else, using a new social channel to communicate his ideas.

You can also help your people accomplish more with their qualifications. Imagine a team of equipment maintenance workers, onsite at customer locations installing and servicing machinery. That customer’s other machinery is already connected and sends information to an app on a technician’s mobile device. Because the app includes social feeds and back-office data, this data reaches a worker who is already close by and has the expertise to understand and work on the equipment in question. The machine may have communicated a higher-than-expected temperature or an elevated proportion of waste to output in one of its components or processes. It’s not close to failing, but a minor tune-up or part replacement can prevent an expensive, disruptive outage in the future. The information about this event, in turn, can feed into the equipment manufacturer’s PLM systems and design processes, where it can support innovations in the machinery’s design to eliminate these risks.

If your connected equipment is at many customer sites, you can receive much useful information that can drive the design of the next generation of the machinery. If you also add and analyze social conversations and feedback from your customers, you gain further, potentially competitively valuable, insight into their experience and requirements. Today already, many companies are using machine-to-machine (M2M) communications within the IoT to make production lines more reliable and efficient. M2M can feed into your systems of engagement to support higher customer service levels, better design, and more cost-efficient use of materials and components.

From the perspective of individual or organizational customers, there is much to gain if the companies that manufacture, install, and service machines and equipment deploy systems of engagement. They will be better informed about customers’ actual usage and preferences, and they will be able to review the performance of equipment and, proactively or at least promptly, ensure it’s in optimal working condition. Leading high-end innovators such as Tesla already practice this today—when your vehicle has an issue, you can be instantly in touch with a support technician who can review up-to-the-moment data from it and get to a quick resolution. Over time, this level of connectedness and responsiveness will become something we all expect from our suppliers. Companies across industries therefore need to devise a strategy for systems of engagement today rather than tomorrow.

What are your ideas and plans for systems of engagement? Send me a note at lcunha [at] to-increase.com, follow me on Twitter, find me on LinkedIn, or simply contact To-Increase.

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Luciano Cunha
Luciano Cunha,
Luciano Cunha,
Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

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