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IoT changes manufacturing

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IoT being built into the product design, manufacturers adopting a more service-centric business model and 3D-printing reaching the tipping point of realising business benefits are three game-changing trends that ANTONY BOURNE at IFS outlines for 2018.

By the end of 2018 over 50 percent of manufacturers will be building IoT technology into the design phase of their products 

When you think “IoT”, is your first thought newly affordable, available sensors being added to products after they’ve been manufactured? If it is, well I believe 2018 will change that perception as IoT takes a decisive step forward in its evolution. If we think of IoT as like a product’s nervous system, 2018 will see it grow from picking up signals at the periphery to being the brain of the product, constantly sending, receiving, growing and gathering information, from the centre of the product throughout its lifetime, in the process enabling new services and revenue streams. Manufacturing is one of the markets most heavily impacted by IoT today. According to Global Market Insights, IoT in the manufacturing market was valued at over US$ 20 billion in 2016 and will grow at more than 20 percent (CAGR estimate) from 2017 to 2024. Current IoT investments that are unique to the manufacturing environment are taking place in three major initiatives:

·         Smart manufacturing to increase production output, product quality, or operations and workforce safety as well as lower resource consumption

·         Connected products to impact product performance, including collecting detailed information on products in the field, remote diagnostics and remote maintenance

·         Connected supply chains to increase visibility and coordination in the supply chain, tracking assets or inventory for more efficient supply chain execution

We will see IoT being included as a part of the design process in all three of these IoT initiatives. Manufacturers are realising that by engineering IoT technology into products and equipment already in the design process, they will be able monitor not only the equipment’s performance to predict when it needs repair, but also how and when it is being used—which provides game-changing competitive advantages!

By the end of 2018 more than 50 percent of manufacturers will be building IoT technology into their products from day one—already thinking forward in the design phase and asking themselves what services and revenue this product can generate throughout its lifetime.

In fact, where will our revenue be coming from in the next five years?’ It’s a good question. And it leads us to my next key prediction.

Servitisation speeds ahead: by 2020 most manufacturers will earn over half of their revenue from services

With the manufacturing industry becoming more and more commoditised, the need for companies to differentiate themselves is key to survival and profitability. We now see that a large number of manufacturers are shifting to a more service-centric business model—the buzz word is “servitisation”.

Servitisation is a way for a manufacturer to add capabilities to enhance its overall offering in addition to the product itself. One famous example is Apple, which did this a few years ago when it had gained the majority of market share with the iPod and introduced iTunes to increase loyalty, differentiate itself, and generate more revenue. You may think that it will never apply to your business, but companies are now reaping the benefits of servitisation across many different sub-segments. For example, Philips provides Schiphol airport outside Amsterdam with “lighting as a service”, which means that Schiphol pays for the light it uses, while Philips remains the owner of all fixtures and installations. Philips and its partner Cofely will be jointly responsible for the performance and durability of the system, and ultimately its re-use and recycling at end of life. This has resulted in a 50 percent reduction in electricity consumption without having to buy a lamp!

I see this development among IFS’s customers as well. For global furniture manufacturer Nowy Styl Group, servitisation has been crucial to its growth. In 2007, it announced “for us, chairs are not enough”, starting a transformation from pure manufacturer to world-class office interior consulting company. Another example is a customer that manufactures cleaning products and started to offer delivery and service dosing systems. The company understood that choosing the right cleaning products was just part of its customers’ main objective, i.e. keeping its premises hygienic. Applying the products in the most effective way, choosing the right accessories, establishing the right routines— all these too were crucial to keeping premises clean.

Both these customers realised that with technology accelerating as fast as it is, no matter how beautifully designed a chair, or how effective a cleaning product, today’s luxury products turn into tomorrow’s commodities faster than ever, pulling prices down with them. With servitisation, manufacturers escape the corrosion of commodification. Expert services built on years of experience provide a kind of value customers will always pay for, regardless of technology trends.

According to the IFS Digital Change Survey conducted by the research and publishing company Raconteur, 68 percent of manufacturing companies claim that servitisation is either “well-established and is already paying dividends” or “in progress and is receiving appropriate executive attention and support”. However, almost one in three manufacturing companies is still to derive value from servitisation. These are missing out on revenue streams and new ways to develop their offerings. To be successful in their response to customer needs and increasing demands, manufacturers must look to new business models to compress time to market, taking an idea through from design to a saleable item as quickly as possible.

New technology like IoT adds an additional layer to servitisation. With sensors detecting when your product or equipment needs service, this data can trigger an automated service action that will realise significant benefits to make your service organisation more effective. This type of automated predictive maintenance will become more and more common as it is a natural next step after implementing IoT to optimise service efforts.

By 2019 the hype around 3D printing will be over, and real benefits blooming

My third prediction is that 3D printing, just like IoT, will enter a new, more mature phase. No matter how big the ‘wow’ factor is when we first see it, apart from smaller-scale manufacturing production like hearing aids and jewelry, 3D printing has so far failed to live up to its full potential. All this could change in 2018.

We are seeing a couple of developments that point in that direction. The first one is the improved scalability of 3D printing solutions. A new generation of 3D printing companies is moving into manufacturing traditionally dominated by injection-molding manufacturers, with new, faster, better connected automated systems that reduce some of the time-consuming pre- and post-processing that has been such an obstacle to wide-scale uptake. One company, Stratasys, for example, has collaborated on a new printer, the Demonstrator, that combines three printers into a stack system—each printer able to communicate to its neighbors in real time. The new printer is highly scalable, meaning it can significantly increase production capacity, printing from 1,500–2,000 components a day. This means that you can achieve an economy of scale to bring costs down, which will be an important catalyst for the success of the 3D printing technology.

The aviation industry is pioneering 3D printing technology today, and the manufacturing industry can learn from that. One successful example is the new GE turboprop ATP Engine, which was 35 percent 3D printed, taking it down from 855 components to 12 and contributing toward the engine being lighter, more compact, and delivering a 15 percent lower fuel burn and 10 percent higher cruise power compared with competitors’ offerings.

The expanded capacity and reduction in pre- and post-processing that new, highly innovative mid-size 3D printing companies are bringing to the field, means that in 2018, we will see manufacturing companies joining in with A&D, and flying high with new 3D printing capabilities.

* Antony Bourne, Global Industry Director of Industrial and High-tech Manufacturing at IFS, outlines for 2018.

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Smart home arrives in SA

The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.

The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.

The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.

The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.

The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.

My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.

Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.

Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?

These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.

Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.

Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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