Success Stories of Digital Transformation

Jan 31, 2019

The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the biggest drivers for manufacturing companies in various markets like industrial, healthcare, residential, transportation and more. With such great potential, it is up to company leaders on how to leverage the power of IoT to strategically transform their business. Are you prepared? Or are you paralyzed and not sure which direction to go?

Have you ever been afraid to ask yourself any of these questions:

  • “What if I make the wrong decision?”
  • “What if I choose the wrong partner?”
  • “What if I choose the wrong technology?”

These can be challenging questions to face. However, we believe company leaders should be looking at the other side of the coin and asking themselves:

  • “What if I choose wisely?”
  • “What if this reinvigorates our business?”
  • “What if this creates new business value?”
  • Or here’s another, “What if you choose to do nothing?”

At the end of 2018, we moderated a panel with three Twisthink customers from Herman Miller, Whirlpool and Morey. who have been faced with these questions in their own IoT developments and deployments. (View the full presentation video here.) One common theme is their consistent approach to IoT that focuses on understanding the stakeholders and their pain points first, called human-centered design. Then letting those insights drive the solution that follows, rather that starting with the technology and working backwards.  

Whether you’re in the beginning research stages or at the end of your IoT deployment, we hope these experiences from different companies and industries can be helpful for you:

Bringing valuable data to office furniture consumers and owners:

Our first panelist, Jeff Gibson, Director of New Product Commercialization at Herman Miller, started his IoT journey by exploring how to attach an appliance to your Wi-Fi network in your home, while at Whirlpool many years ago. When he transitioned to Herman Miller, he was not expecting to be working with IoT, as Herman Miller was not known for their digital products. Then one of his colleagues came to him to discuss the idea of putting sensors on chairs.

This led to a project with our team at Twisthink, where we worked together to find the answer to the question, “could applying sensors to the famous Aeron chair create a new business model for Herman Miller?” Through research with customers and key stakeholders we discovered that there wasn’t enough value with just the chair to support the cost of development and deployment. We also discovered that the 3 main costs for companies are: people, space and operational costs. This discovery led to the creation of Live OS, which was created to use sensors to help organizations have a better understanding on how their office spaces are being used. But the value proposition is not only in the data but more importantly in the way that the Herman Miller clients engage with the insights.  

“Just in the past three years, since we started to launch this product and platform, there have been a ton of new companies coming into the space of putting sensors in the office, but they don’t have the differentiated features of user experience” said Gibson.

Herman Miller has been on this journey for a few years now and has been deploying the platform for about a year-and-a-half.

“By leveraging data science and statistical methods, they [Herman Miller customers] are able to get to insights that they would have never gotten to without the solution they have in place” said Gibson. “I think that’s the reality is that you have to get to a point where you can scale it. But once you get there, there really is value in data and insights as you engage with clients.”

From utility to transformative user experiences, in the home:

Matt Ebrom represented Whirlpool as their IoT Solution Architect. He shared how Whirlpool’s IoT journey began nearly a decade ago before the acronym even existed. Since then Whirlpool has made significant changes from focusing on finding ways to use technology in their appliances to save energy, prevent burnouts and distribute sensing, to really changing the user experience. Now they have the opportunity to have a relationship with every one of their customers for the lifespan of the appliance, which is very different from where they used to be.  

“Generally, we didn’t want the customer to contact us or have a relationship with us after they bought the appliance, because it meant something was broken which is really not a pleasant experience” said Ebrom.

Ebrom shared two examples of human-centered experiences that are enabled by IoT technology. One is their scan cook technology, which allows you to send instructions to your oven or microwave so it can cook your frozen dish correctly and automatically. The second is “yummy”, a guided-cooking app that gives you recipes with step-by-step instructions, video tutorials, timers, and other tools to make cooking easier and more enjoyable. These recipes can then connect to your Whirlpool appliance to adjust temperatures, settings, cook time and more all from your phone. These are great examples of how Whirlpool is using digital solutions to create an ecosystem experience with its consumer.

Similar to Herman Miller, the data insights for Whirlpool have been very powerful. What Whirlpool is also learning today is how to “deal with volatility and properly set up our own product architectures to accept consumer electronics, but also be able to survive that volatility and change internally without a major impact to those physical products and assets that we have” said Ebrom.

Technology comes at a high cost in the industrial space, always lead with UX:

Morey Corporation started their IoT journey back when it was called satellite telematics in 1994 with Caterpillar. The biggest challenge for Morey has been working with connected devices over the past 1-2 decades at a cost of $1,000+ per asset. In the industrial space with high cost equipment, it is especially important for them to understand which products deserve to be built.

Ryne DeBoer is the Vice President of Business Development at Morey Corporation, and through Morey’s experience of deploying millions of different devices for their customers, they have found that the main problem or constraint is their customers lack of understanding on what to do with IoT. According to DeBoer, they don’t understand how to drive meaningful business value out of the data.

“The whole design elements piece is going to be one of the most important aspects of making IoT solutions successful” said DeBoer. “We’ve had at least a half dozen, if not a dozen customers, over the years that spend a few million dollars developing something, then they spend a few million dollars trying to see the market, and then they fail. And they create devices or they create pieces of hardware. They don’t bring a valuable solution to the marketplace. They are trying to lead with technology instead of leading with user experience.”

Understand the value of iteration and prototypes:

At the Integr8 conference, the keynote speaker Tom Kelly, Executive Director and CEO of Automation Alley, spoke about iteration and the importance of learning from each iteration. This is incredibly important when developing IoT products. From changes in marketing or branding, to changes in the standards from the Wi-Fi alliance, to misalignment in compatibility with apple or a new release of iOS, “you’ll experience all kinds of volatility and you have to set yourself up for success” said Ebrom. “You have to have the processes in your organization to be an iterative and learning-based organization.”

Valuable insights are unlocked when you are sitting and talking to actual humans who are going to be consuming your offering and digging for those insights and pain points using visualized ideas as a tool.

“I think that being able to show a proof of concept early on is really important. Because if you’re talking to people that haven’t thought about the experiences of what these new digital interfaces can do, you can explain it in a presentation, or in words, but once you finally get to a point where it’s something that’s almost real, that takes it to a whole other level” said Gibson.  

If you are in need of a partner to help you understand the needs and pain points of your stakeholders before you start your IoT deployment, let us know. Or, if you already have a clear understanding of your stakeholders needs, but perhaps need support answering the question “what’s technically feasible” and visualizing those ideas to get real-time feedback before development, we can help. Contact us here.

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