Integrating M2M to Improve your ERP or CRM Investment

Submitted by Larry Bellehumeur on 

For many small business owners, this posting may not have a lot of value, especially if you use a spiral notebook to keep your inventory (or like some, do it all in your head!).  Large organizations (from large enterprises to government) use these systems to allow them to effectively share information across all teams, increasing productivity while reducing duplication of work.  It makes it possible for organizations who have tens of thousands of employees, millions of customers and countless assets to function.

However....could the implementation of a massive M2M solution improve the deployment of such an ERP system?  Without a doubt....here is how:

Better Customer service

How many times has one of your customers called for information and you have to tell them:

  • “Let me get back to you, I don’t have current information”
  • “I think this is accurate, but I don't know for sure"
  • “My system doesn’t have that information”

M2M solutions allow your ERP systems to have real time information (whether it is pushed from the field on a scheduled interval or pulled from the field as needed) to allow all of your service teams (customer service, sales, support) to have better information.  This helps allow you to fix more issues the first time, improve your service levels to your customers and give you an advantage over your competitors

Real time = better decisions

Your team is being sent out to a repair at one of your key customer locations.  They start to think....”what could be the issue?”  Since they don’t know, they try to plan for every possible situation, bringing tools that they may not need, not being sure that they have the right parts and not knowing if the problem will require other departments to fix.  Does this sound familiar?

If it does, an M2M solution will give you better information to make these decisions.  First, all of your teams will know what is going on with your assets while things are going well!  You’ll be able to fix problems before they happen, reducing the amount of calls in the first place.  However, things to break and an M2M solution won’t prevent every call.  But.....you’ll know what the issue is, know what parts will need to be fixed and will even be able to perform things like software upgrades/resets over the air to reduce downtime.

Improve inter-departmental communication

One of the common issues among big companies is a lack of communication among the departments.  Customer service is not aware that maintenance has taken certain products off-line so they are not able to proactively notify their customers.  Sales is not warned that a demonstration platform has been taken off-line and they end up looking foolish during their big presentation......I think we could go on and on about this!

ERP solutions were designed (and do very effectively) help to improve the communication between the different departments, but they are only as good as the information being fed into them.  M2M solutions take them to the next level.  Customer service can set up alerts that notify them if something has been taken off-line, so they are aware even if maintenance does not tell them.  Sales can be made aware that a key platform / device is offline automatically, so that they can change their presentation to a key customer.  

Reduce costs while improving productivity

A few ways that M2M can improve the effectiveness of an ERP solution include:

  • Entering in data automatically......reducing clerical costs and improving its effectiveness.
  • Providing better usage data.....help inventory control get a better idea of potential usage patterns real-time, which allows them to better project future stocking requirements.....help service better understand seasonal usage patterns to better optimize service calls.....help engineering get real-time error codes from devices to better predict failures / improve design of current/future products.  While ERP systems can do all of these things, they do it better with M2M!
  • Better alerts to finance of customer issues (so that they have the chance to modify customer invoices to reflect downtime or increased usage).  M2M also allows for faster input of data into the system, to allow for faster billing cycles (improving cash flow)

In short, ERP systems have been providing tremendous value to organizations for a long time.  There is a tremendous ROI for companies to implement these systems to improve their business.  M2M solutions allow for real-time information to be used, which takes these great platforms to a new level.

At Novotech, we look forward to the privilege of helping you with determining how an M2M solution can help your ERP deployments.  Let us know how we can help!

Use M2M to Improve Your Bottom Line in Manufacturing

While M2M is not new to many key areas of the manufacturing world (car companies have put in remote diagnostic systems in their vehicles for a while), it is starting to emerge as a way for companies to improve their bottom line.  For the purposes of this discussion, M2M can be done wirelessly, using a landline or satellite communication.

 Which manufacturers could benefit from an M2M solution?  

  • Any company that sells a device that is higher cost (usually in the thousands of dollars per unit) and has a long expected usage life.
  • Examples include:  Heavy machinery, large-scale printing machines, medical equipment and factory equipment and various turbine engines
  • The ROI gets even better if the company offers a service element to their sales model.

 Real-time information = less downtime

  • For many devices, they become a vital part of your customer’s daily business.  When the device goes down, it can mean that their business can come to a halt, hurting their bottom line.  In the case of medical equipment, it can be life-threatening.
  • By having increased visibility to your product, you are able to better predict possible issues, dispatching out your technicians as a pre-emptive measure.  
  • Finally, since many issues can be fixed through resets of your devices, you can lower down your rate of failure by bringing devices back on line faster.

 Improve your product design through accurate usage data

  • There was a great story that I heard at a recent trade event where a company building large agriculture equipment was debating some changes to the fuel tank size on their high-end machines.  Their theory, based on how they thought their devices were being used, was that a larger tank was required to prevent farmers from running out of fuel.  It turns out that they were totally off-base....most of their customers rarely went below 50% fuel capacity, and in fact, they could reduce the size of the tank (which saved weight/cost) and their customers would not be affected.
  • Determining the actual usage patterns can help to provide for better designs, which reduce possible failure points while allowing increased sales (first, through products that provide features that people actually want and by then allowing for better sales collateral/techniques to position the product in way that will appeal to the user base better)

 Know your flaws earlier through better pattern recognition

  • In a perfect world (and perhaps with the information provided by an M2M solution, we can get there!), there wouldn’t be any design flaws in a device.  We would know exactly how each device is going to be used, and we can improve the design of devices to the point where things do not fail prematurely.  
  • In reality, certain parts do wear out faster than expected, and this can put undue stress on your repair crews.  While an M2M solution will help you improve your design, real-time data will allow you to get better group data on a larger swath of devices, allowing you to see patterns long before it becomes an issue.
  • This allows you to be more proactive to your customers, preventing unwanted downtime and perhaps more costly warranty repairs/recalls.

 M2M can equal extra service revenue as well

  • For many of your customers, they are willing to pay extra if you provide a service that allows them to keep your devices running smoother.  It usually pays for itself quickly, and they can improve their business.
  • Combining an M2M solution with your existing programs for service can help to improve the revenue (i.e. increased monthly charges) while reducing your service delivery cost (as you can often eliminate unnecessary trips to your customers location when you repair issues over the air).

 How Novotech can help.....we offer the following components for your M2M needs:

  • All Hardware requirements (whether you build in connectivity into your device, or use a 3rd party device for connectivity)
  • Bundling together of all parts required to connect to your device
  • Hosting capabilities to view your devices
  • Easy integration of the M2M solution into your existing back-end systems
  • On-going management of your devices.

Be sure to drop us a note, to ask how we can help!

“Talk to Your Devices” for Best Field Service Outcomes

Watch our new Vlog post on youtube!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iDKAcd4_ao

As someone who grew up in the 1980’s, I was a fan of David Letterman.  One of his favourite bits was his nightly Top 10 list.  The list was usually topical in nature and it brought some laughter to justify staying up that late.  Well, I can’t say that mine will make you laugh, but instead, I do hope to bring some value to your business or organization. 

I think one of the issues that we have in the IoT space is that we tend to talk too much about technology and not what the actual benefits are.  We use phrases like, “Imagine what you can do with the data you receive!”.  Well, most of us aren’t children and we don’t want to have to imagine.  We need to do a better job in explaining it, in ways that actually make sense to most business owners.

In honour of Mr. Letterman, here are 10 ways that an IoT solution can help your business:

10) Reduces your Energy usage

Nothing drives me nuts more than wasting energy.  It isn’t all about the cost but just it is a waste of valuable resources.  For businesses, it is mostly about the cost.  Things like reduced lighting after-hours, reducing the output of key systems when not in use and not having to drive to a service call are all benefits of IoT Solutions…and they all reduce your Energy usage.

9) Brings new billing options and flexibility

It seems that no one wants to build a product and just sell it as a one-time thing anymore.  Businesses are moving towards service and recurring revenue models. One way to do this is to be able to gather information real-time.  When you have this info, you’re able to bill per use, per cycle, per month or however you want to do it.

8) Improves Safety

We all know that you are supposed to touch a door during a fire to know if it is safe to open it.  IoT solutions do that, and then some….your team can be warned of potentially dangerous issues before they get there, reducing injuries and costs.

7) Allows you to spot Trends much earlier

Want to know why some things sell better than others in your location?  Want to know why your team is not as productive as before?  IoT solutions allow you to not only gather info from the field, but also to make business decisions with it.  You’ll spot trends that you can act on much sooner than before and maybe before your competitors.

6) Improves the Life Cycle of your Valued Assets

My wife seems to wear out the brakes on her car much faster than I do on mine, even factoring in the extra distance driven.  One ride with her will show why….she has a heavier braking foot.  Knowing things like this about your equipment usage (and being able to see ideas on how to fix it) will make all of your machinery last longer, making your investments even better.

5) Reduces Downtime

Wonder how productive a printing shop is when their machines go down?  Not very.  IoT Solutions help you spot trends (things overheating, alerts to unscheduled maintenance, etc).  You can now make minor repairs before major ones shut you down.

4) Makes your Products and Services better

Ever wonder if the engineering changes you made to your product actually helped?  IoT solutions allow you to gather usage data and to spot trends that allow you to gain valuable insights into your customers’ usage and behaviours.

3) Improves Employee Productivity

Imagine a school was unexpectedly closed one day….you can bet the guys who pick up the garbage and stock the vending machines wish they knew before they went there for their scheduled stops.  Alert your team to changes, give them the best information and let them access key data remotely – all this will make them more productive.

2) Reduces Waste and Theft

Restaurants are usually pretty good at controlling waste, but even they are not immune to spoilage.  Spotting trends, keeping an eye on the temperature of a key fridge and alerts to issues with food during delivery are just a few IoT solutions that cut down on waste.  Not using perishables in your business?  Well, the same solution concepts can also be used to reduce unwanted theft, both internal and external.

And, the #1 reason….It improves your Customer Service levels

Let’s face it, in the day of quick manufacturing and Google in everyone’s hand, products and knowledge can be copied faster than ever before.  What differentiates your business is your level of service.  IoT solutions give you amazing tools to help….knowing an outage happens before you get calls, repair issues over the air (and not dispatching a truck) and improved products that meet the customer needs better are just a few of the ways that IoT can help your business.