The great challenge of industry 4.0

Indústria 4.0

Industry 4.0, also called cyber-industry or intelligent factory, is becoming a fashion-expression in the business world. But, what is this all about?

Digital transformation is creating a great impact in the company organization, production and management of the relationship with clients. The digital marketing, the Web and the mobile devices caught our attention during the last years. But the greatest impact of the digital phenomenon is now in the digitalisation of industries. Some even dare to call it the forth industrial revolution… 

What is industry 4.0?

When we talk about industry 4.0, we talk about the digital transformation applyed to industrial production, the introduction of new digital technologies in fabrics. By using sensors and other information systems we can obtain the digitalisation of production processes making them more effective and efficient.

So simple and so complex

Not long ago, there was a general idea that industrial companies have been living in a parallel reality to digitalisation. Big mistake!

We were able to observe something similar with other industries that initially put resistance to the inevitable evolution. The music industry, for example, was one of the most obvious. They saw this change as a threat. Also media in general and without going any further, logistics would be an example too. All of them are now fully adapted to the digital phenomenon.

The same happened to many other industries that suffered because the organization struggled against a change of mentality in front of the evolution of the digital world. This is because the competitiveness of enterprises is at stake: the possibility of offering personalized customer service; ability to design customized products and services; ability to adapt to demand; more profitable production; ability to collect, analyze and exploit information, etc.

Industry 4.0 is a very broad concept; to understand the scope a bit better we could divide it into eight main areas that allow the operation of this complicated gear:

  1. Big data
  2. Cloud Computing
  3. IOT (Internet of Things)
  4. Augmented reality
  5. Robotics
  6. Cyber security
  7. Simulation and prototyping
  8. Process integration

A key element is to achieve greater flexibility and individualisation of manufacturing processes. Manufacturers must adapt products to the needs of individual customers and each product will be different. We are talking about a hyper-differentiation in industrial production.

All this must be done by reducing costs and improving production times, thus raising the efficiency of the value chain. We are therefore facing a great challenge.

The great challenge of industry 4.0: People

To apply all the technologies we discussed before is not an easy task. It is a long and complex process to integrate all of this into a business. It cannot be done from one day to another. It has to be done gradually.

However, the great challenge of the 4.0 industry is in 4.0 people. One of the objectives of the industry 4.0 is to create coexistence for people and machines in the same environment, harmoniously interacting in a natural process, unlike now. Today the factories have robots on one side and on the other side they have people that do not participate in cooperative processes. Industry 4.0 is about to break this barrier, creating a co-working environment for the same process and make it more effective and efficient.

Accept the digital transformation requires a change of mentality, a new culture and willingness to change … To adapt to this new environment will not be an easy task for professionals. But there is no choice: adapt or die.

Here some links to interesting videos about industry 4.0:

Machine learning in a logistics company

machine-learning

Machine learning refers to a set of techniques that surround the study and practice of algorithms, which have the ability to learn from data. They are able to create programs from general behavior pattern recognition. In other words, machines can learn without being previously programmed for something specifically.
The learning process of the machine is similar to data mining. Both systems use data to look for patterns. However, instead of extracting data for human understanding – such as applications of data mining – machine learning uses this data to detect patterns and modifies them, automatically, according to software parameters. Machine learning algorithms are classified between supervised and unsupervised. Supervised algorithms can apply what they have learned in the past and with the new data they can use it, for what we call training data. Unsupervised algorithms can draw conclusions from data sets without a priori knowledge.
This is not something new. Machine learning has much to do with the original idea of artificial intelligence; in fact, it is a type of AI.

New information technologies and telecommunications have marked a before and after in companies, in some sectors more than in others. Logistics is one of those sectors that have been impacted with great force. The ability to use and analyze massive amounts of continuously generated data has led to many improvements, for example, in continuous processes and optimization of routes.

As said earlier, we are not talking about something new. The novelty is that now large amount of data can be collected by companies in order to create the basic raw material that is used for machine learning. Sometimes companies have the conflict of what to do with them, and data by itself is not useful. When we talk about massive amounts of data it becomes essential to have proper administration and analysis, so we can turn them into a useful tool. Given this reality, we have two choices: we can simply store them, which represent a loss of valuable information and opportunities for the company, or we can use them to learn and grow.

Thanks to the advance and development of new information technology, machine learning today, little or nothing, has to do with machine learning solutions that we know from the past. Today, we can apply and use algorithms or data volumes in huge amounts, to grow steadily and rapidly. Flexible algorithms and the ability to adapt them independently, result in a myriad of solutions, ranging from software, to online recommendations. For example, as we talked a few months ago, the development of self-driven vehicles, without a driver.

Machine learning applications in a logistics company

Applications are almost endless; in fact, we can adapt machine learning to as many situations as we have data. There are many regular activities in our lives and daily routines that include machine learning. These are just some examples: search engines, filtering emails, facial recognition, medical diagnostics, etc.

But, what kind of applications in machine learning should we have for logistics companies? These are some of the applications in the management of the supply chain:

– Facial recognition, voice or objects applicable, especially in stores.
– Predictions and forecasts. Very useful in the phase of transport, for example, in order to obtain data on traffic or weather conditions; or even to avoid errors in technological equipment.
– Optimization methods to create faster and more effective assessing. For example, to determine, the best time to execute a particular task.
– Analysis of consumer behavior and productivity. It is possible, through machine learning, to detect potential customers, predict which employees can be more productive, which profitable services should adapt to the needs of customers, etc.
– The famous cars and trucks without driver …

Applying machine learning in a logistics company is not easy. It requires in addition a professional programmer with a profile specialized in probability and statistics. However, it is an option to consider, especially when it comes to problem-solving nature of complex algorithms. That is very helpful when we need to find precise solutions in the shortest time possible.

The key of machine learning is the ability to adapt and build a decision tree based on known data. Their applications are so broad and the creative capacity of each one of these applications are intended to detect patterns in data or to answer certain questions in a predictive way, saving us time in the study of data and the definition of casuistry which could take weeks, months or even years.

Finally, an important aspect to be put on the table is the kind of applications we are talking about will answer: What will happened? But not, why?   This fact is transcendental and clashes frontally with our empirical training. We will be able to detect that something will happen, but if we want to know why it will happen, we need further analysis. The reality is that we often just want to know what will happen, because then we can act accordingly and remedy it. For example, thanks to these tools we are able to predict an earthquake. Then, we can prepare ourselves, displacing people, etc., and this actions should be enough. We don´t need to know that this is because of a tectonic plate moved or that there was a tsunami in such a place that caused it.

So there is no doubt that we are only at the beginning of a revolution, where the use of big data and machine learning tools, will be in all areas of our life, especially in logistics. Regarding this, the recommendation is to think as our grandparents and save everything, especially data.  Because the unstructured data as we have today: Excel sheets, PowerPoint presentations, emails, documents of all kinds, etc.; are the raw material that is needed by machine learning in order to work and help us to manage our business better.

 

Anticipatory Shipping: The Amazon patent that allows sending products before the users have even purchased them.

logisitca-amazon

Advances in technology and innovation make the future we saw, just a few years ago, in some cinematographic films, not as a fantasy any more but now becoming part of our daily life.
It comes to mind “Minority Report,” “The Fifth Element”, “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Robocop.”

HAL 9000, the computer that we saw in “2001: A Space Odyssey” could interpret the feelings of the characters and was able to predict when they would turn it off. We do not know if Amazon was inspired by the film when creating “anticipatory shipping”, but this algorithm is something similar because it can predict the demand of users for the purpose of sending products before being purchased and they can be delivered in an hour.

In 2012, Amazon presented a patent for a delivery system designed to reduce delivery time, by predicting what users will buy before they were actually buying it and shipping the products to their homes even before the sale has been made: “Method and System for Anticipatory Shipping Package“.

Today, the Amazon commitment with users and buyers who choose the Premium service marketplace is the one or two-day delivery. Although there are already some locations where the deliveries can be made in less than 24 hours. The aim of the e-commerce giant is to minimize delivery times and in order to make this possible, the key are the so-called predictive models.

The idea is aiming to ensure that online shopping can be as immediate, as to buy goods on a physical location, in which you can pay and take the product at the same time.

How is this possible?

Big Data plays a key role in this. Thanks to stored data in the order history of each customer on Amazon, the online sales giant can predict how many new books of Dan Brown’s latest novel, how many Samsung 7 or how many drones will be sold in a given area: neighborhood, city, etc.

This model simulates the reality by analyzing the customer behavior in the past and even though it is not exact, it allows to approach the number of orders that will be carried out. Given this estimate, Amazon sends a variety of products to its distribution centers and even trucks assigned to an exact area. From the user finally ‘clicking’ on the button, until the arrival of the purchase at home, the shipping can take just a few hours or less.

We cannot ignore that carrying packages from one place to another, has a cost. Even for Amazon. But if there is anything that characterized them in the past, is having an efficient logistics that allows them to make a difference and their excitement to innovate.

What happens if their predictive model is wrong?

This part also is under control through a system that is able to calculate whether it is worth (speaking of costs, of course) to return the product to the plant or if it is better to send discounts and promotions to customers in the area where the products are (always a lower value than the cost of returning the product to the plant). The idea is not so far-fetched. It allows offering great deals to customers and making them happy, as well as the liquid stocks are reducing costs and maintaining a complex logistics machine running.

Amazon is very sure of their prediction algorithm and its reverse logistics capabilities, which in the US is now already sending products to certain customers without them even done “the click”. It is already in the last phase, where they will be able to know the purchase of a product even before we know it. Really incredible and disturbing, they know more about us than ourselves.

Implementing the model worldwide where customers are counted by millions, with hundreds of distribution centers to control all across the planet, and thousands (maybe more) suppliers is not an easy task. But it is undoubtedly a brilliant step to the future and a unique way to differentiate them from the competition.

Alan Key said:
❝The best way to predict the future is to invent it❞.

The future of road transportation: Driverless Trucks

camions-sense-conductor

A year ago or maybe a bit more, we`ve been hearing the media talking about a near future in which vehicles can go without a driver handling the steering wheel. But not only by media giants, like Google or Uber, even manufacturers such as Ford and Mercedes-Benz predict a future where autonomous vehicles can be driven without a person.

Mercedes-Benz presented what they consider the truck of the future, which is called “Future Track 2025”. A model that represents a breakthrough in efficiency, security and networking. It is a vehicle with an automatic, integrated system that allows the driver to rest or perform other tasks meanwhile the truck is in charge of getting cargo to its destination, safely and efficiently.

The prototype of Mercedes-Benz, as you can see in the link below, represents a revolution of traffic and infrastructure, for professional drivers and the road transportation sector. Among many other objectives and advantages, it ensures the highest level of traffic safety, promoting the creation of networks and intelligent data management, preserving resources and reducing emissions. Having in mind that over 90% of accidents are caused by human error.

It has recently come to light, that the giant Google has a patent that describes a driverless vehicle for packaging transportation. As reported by the journal Quartz, Google pretends that the packaging recipients receive and type a PIN code at a corresponding locker, in the truck when it arrives to their door.

The patent does not provide details about the vehicle autonomous operation. Although it refers to common elements of driverless cars or other vehicles prototyping: laser and radar sensors, video cameras, navigation maps, communication systems, connecting vehicles to an external controller, etc.

Google wants to deliver packages from self-driving trucks

The industry is showing great optimism to the possibilities, but the truth is, although they are already testing this technology, driverless vehicles present more obstacles than just the technological:

High Costs

Currently, the costs involved in creating a vehicle with this kind of system and driving it on the streets are very high. Which undoubtedly makes a mass production of driverless trucks still a dream.

Road safety rules and other legislative barriers

Legislation is still not prepared for this, in almost any country in the world.  A few months ago the biggest problem in drones development and innovation, broke at the legislative level. In this case it does not look very optimistic. Governments, both local and national, are unsure about the idea of putting millions of human lives in the hands of robots.

In case of driverless vehicles, for example: Current regulation takes for responsible, the person behind the wheel, driving. Imagine in case of an event or accident, the responsible will be the robot!

Rejection by part of the sector.

We cannot forget that millions of people are working as full-time professional drivers and certainly this type of technology will be rejected at the first sight. This is not something new in human history. Technological revolutions involve stop doing certain things and start doing other instead. Like manufacturers of carriages were jobless when cars appeared. Surely, professional drivers can do other things related to people and goods transportation, in which they are involved. In any case, it will be a long road where everyone have time to adapt, if they want to.

However, the benefits are many: security and management, resource optimization and even in an environmental level. People with disabilities, either by age or disease, a group that is growing in number, anxiously await such solutions to change their lives, giving them the autonomy they had before.

All these factors, in a short, medium term, would start leaning in favor of accepting driverless vehicles. We will begin seeing them as normal on our roads in about five or six years from now, I dare to predict.  The first radical change, will come in the next 2-3 years. It will be unstoppable the introduction of electric cars, then the autonomous cars and probably much later they will gain the ability to move not only on land but also on other surfaces like water or air. In short term, we are facing an exciting future, if we make the best of it. And in this case, innovation must move businesses and entrepreneurs, to bet to this new world that awaits us.

The impact of mobile devices on consumer habits

movil y habitos de consumo

Over the last decades, globalisation and technology have had a major impact on consumer behaviour. Thus, mobile devices have entered our daily life for good, becoming an essential part of our routine, both at a personal and professional level. If fact, these devices take the lion’s share of our current technology usage time-wise. Needless to say, such extensive use has significantly altered our buying and consumption behaviour.

Today, mobile devices make any information readily available, including of course offers or promotions before visiting the store, whereby consumers can advance their purchasing and decision-making processes. For example, there is a growing number of consumers who compare online prices with those at the store before buying the product. Likewise, people at the store increasingly check out product information on their phone before purchasing.

Not surprisingly, mobile devices have become an essential instrument of corporate strategy. Accordingly, online strategies must set goals for macro and micro conversion ratios to properly assess performance. Every website has a clear main goal, and we use conversions (macros conversion in this case) to assess whether goals have been met. As you can imagine, most of the efforts are focused on doing so. On the other hand, this focus on a very small fraction of traffic makes us ignore other goals, which our website (micro conversions) also fulfils. In addition, this encourages brands to include elements at the store for mobile consumer interaction, such as scanning QR codes on product labels.

Beyond information search, the massive use of smartphones and other mobile devices constitutes a key entertainment platform, with an ever-growing content offering. It is with good reason that mobile devices are one of the few elements snatching people away from TV, which has made them one of the leading content consumption platforms. Not least because the quality of mobile content and the accompanying visual effects have grown exponentially in recent times. Therefore, brands and companies seeking to remain relevant will be compelled to adapt their communication to the audio-visual format.

Moreover, the massive use of mobile devices has led to the emergence and spread of mobile applications (apps), the influence of which on our buying behaviour and habits can hardly be overstated.

Chances are you have a mobile app to organise and remind you of your grocery shopping; perhaps an application from one of your favourite brands, which sends real-time information on their offers and new products; most likely, you have also downloaded an app to manage and organise your next trip (buying tickets, hotel reservation, tourist guide, etc.).

A useful app, designed with potential customers in mind, does not only represent a new sales, information and promotion platform, but is also a direct communication channel between the brand and its customers, and a powerful source whereby companies capture information about user behaviour, and execute cross-selling campaigns  to offer new products or services of interest.

Simply put, the Internet has changed the rules of the game. On the back of ubiquitous mobile devices, consumers have changed their habits, and continue to do so. In the very near future, common and recurrent behaviours today will become an oddity, or simply disappear. There is no doubt that retailers will need to change and adapt accordingly, even more so than other industries.

In 10 years, according to certain studies – like this one prepared by IBM and referred to by Computer World (http://www.computerworld.com/article/3023345/retail-it/thanks-to-tech-stores-are-evolving-into-showrooms.html), stores will become mere showrooms so that customers, as part of their shopping experience, can physically see, touch and test products, which they will buy online afterwards for home delivery.

In this new operational model, retailers will require real-time information, as well as deploying in-store technology to allow any ordering process. Furthermore, they will offer free and fast shipping to compete effectively with the convenience of in-store buying from stock.

While Ikea – amongst other brands – has already begun to test this new model, its stores work rather as a delivery point, skipping the supply chain for now.

In closing, I would like to stress the fact that we are indeed facing a revolution in consumer habits, the dramatic change of which depicts an exciting future for companies keen to adapt and reap the ensuing opportunities.

The digitalization of retail purchase

digitalizacion-en-el-retail1

Consumer habits, in terms of the search of the product or service and in the purchase, are changing, not only in the online environment, but also in the physical store. This has driven companies to innovate and invest in technological solutions that enable them to provide users with a unique shopping experience with no barriers.

The emergence of new technologies has brought about many challenges and, like the saying goes, it is “adapt or die” in the world of retail purchase.

Multichannelling is one of the most important changes triggered by digitization. Today, consumers relate and interact with brands through multiple channels… And this, in the field of retail means that, although the point of sale is still the predominant channel, ecommerce and mcommerce, and even the social networks or media, are gradually gaining strength and relevance.

Mobile devices play an increasingly important role. Consumers expect their phones to facilitate their purchasing processes, in fact, most online purchase processes are already made through mobile devices, which signals the rise of mcommerce.

Omnichannelling and innovation as the key to success

Omnichannelling and innovation are essential factors. An omnichannel strategy allows us to maximize the advantages offered by new technologies. Besides, innovation becomes essential in order to offer consumers an unparalleled shopping experience.

Despite the relentless growth of electronic commerce, the physical point of sale is still important for consumers. The reason is clear: the point of sale allows for certain features that are not possible through online shopping, such as experiencing the feel or the smell of products. But this does not imply that businesses should lower their guard with regard to digitization. In fact, they must be more alert than ever. One of the changing aspects is that customers walk in the store with lots of information about the product they want, thanks to the research done on the Internet and the comments and opinions of other consumers on social networks. This takes us to the first conclusion: the brands have to actively listen to what happens on the Internet and to what the users have to say. The new consuming habits have made digitalization a necessity, but it is also a great tool to get feedback from consumers.

The first examples we could talk about are QR codes; but today we have many other options and solutions like beacons (http://ignasisayol.com/es/beacons-entre-el-comerc-electronic-i-la-localitzacio/) or digital fitting rooms (http://ignasisayol.com/en/espanol-tecnologias-que-cambiaran-radicalmente-nuestros-habitos-de-consumo/).

This video gives evidence of Burberry’s commitment to a solid omnichannel strategy. They have turned their point of sale in Regent Street into a referent that is also used as a venue for events that are broadcast over the Internet. They have installed smart digital fitting rooms and screens that provide information on materials and manufacturing processes as a starting point for a memorable shopping experience.

The role of Big Data

Today, customers and brands communicate interactively and multidirectionally, which provides valuable information on the profile, needs and desires of the target audience. It will be essential to take all this information and adapt the message to create a strong bond with the customer to help achieve the goal: a unique shopping experience.

You can learn more about Big Data in this article: http://ignasisayol.com/es/big-data-i-comerc-electronic/

Improving operations and processes

From the organizational point of view, digitalisation should also apply to operations and processes so as to successfully face the challenges arising.

Having integrated platforms that allow connecting all the channels, having a real-time view of stocks, as well as information on the product and on consumers will become a necessity.

As a referent in this regard we could mention Inditex, who have managed to make the most of Big Data. Through a strategic information management system, they are able to connect all their stores around the world and to adapt their offer to the customers’ needs quickly and efficiently. Furthermore, this allows the brand for a better insight of what products work best and in which stores, and this is the key to the well-known fast fashion that has made the company the most successful fashion business worldwide.

Therefore, it is clear that the digital world will become an essential tool for retail in the coming years if we are to provide a great shopping experience for our customers. The sum of tradition, innovation and quality as seen in the Burberry video we have recommended above is an example of the future to come.

 

The evolution of electronic commerce in the near future

upv-universidad-verano-comercio-electronico

Looking back just about 5 years ago, we can see there has been an alignment between supply and demand in the field of electronic commerce. Until then, the online purchase of virtually any product on the network was still not a reality.

Far from slowing down, ecommerce will continue to grow organically at a dizzying pace. The reasons are probably that it is simple, convenient and affordable. No doubt much of this upward evolution of ecommerce is due to the strong commitment of hundreds, even thousands of entrepreneurs to this business model. Companies and entrepreneurs have worked very hard over the last five years to raise awareness among the users and make them realize that buying online is safe, easy and convenient.

And now, what is the key to survival? What are we facing?

The truth is that what works for some might not work for others and every case will depend on how we use, take advantage and make the most of its resources and tools. Those who have been in the trade for a while will only need to consolidate customer loyalty; others will find their strength in the commitment to a strong brand, while for others it will be key to have a good internationalization… What is certain is that there are many changes ahead. Guessing them all is no easy venture, but I dare to predict a few:

The power of Big Data

Getting to know what users want, how, when and why is essential to the success of an ecommerce and the implementation of data analysis in e-commerce can be critical to the ROI of any online store.

I previously discussed the power of Big Data and its relation to e-commerce in this post I invite you to read:  http://ignasisayol.com/en/big-data-i-comerc-electronic/.

Manufacturing on demand

Stock control is vital for any offline business, as it allows having the products that costumers demand available. And in the field of online sales, it is just the same and this aspect is necessary for success.

The evolution in this sense is towards shortening the design and manufacturing deadlines, thus reducing the production costs, as we will be able to know what the acceptance of the product is or whether it will be sold well in advance.

Some failure examples in terms of bad management of stock are many supermarkets that have decided to sell online but have not been able to control stock yet. They have been accumulating products without an effective digital strategy that allows them to obtain the customers they need.

An example of the trend for manufacturing on demand we are discussing is the platform Bubok, the first ecommerce that enables authors to self-publish their books or works through a business model that allows printing on demand. Thus, the editing costs are paid once the book has been sold.

Online and Offline will go hand in hand

The offline channel has gained even more importance: in customer service or distribution, for example. Everything will be connected and the tendency will not be towards the creation of online shops, but towards the digitization of traditional businesses –in other words, what we could call the alignment between retail and online business.

Marketplace

People prefer to do the shopping in a supermarket. And the reason is straightforward: you can toss meat, fruit, your dog’s feed, cosmetics and cleaning products in the same shopping cart, pay it all at once and take it home straight away.

The concept is the same for an online store. However, it is not very convenient to shop from a mobile device, despite the fact that online shopping is increasing. In fact, almost 70% of online purchases are already made from a mobile device, but it is not practical to access multiple platforms or web sites, make the payment in each of them and, in some cases, have to pay for the different shipping costs and even receive the products at different times.

And here comes the doubt, what can small businesses do? Perhaps the solution is to search for marketing agreements that allow them to be present on different platforms.

In the end, it is all about listening to customers, giving them what they want and making it easy for them.

 

Graphene: The material of the future

 

grafeno-el-material-de-futuro-300x200Graphene promises to revolutionize the field of technology and especially the mobile sector, but its impact will be seen in many other industries. In fact, the versatility of graphene is considered in terms of the different presentation forms and approaches of each manufacturer for its industrial application.

Beyond the many possibilities in the production of smart phone screens, this material has potential applications in devices such as brain-embedded chips that allow detecting epileptic seizures in real time; or ink that, once used in the printing, will allow us to interact with other devices.

This reality is bound to be the very near future. But some of this technology is already underway. This is the case of flexible screens, made possible thanks to graphene, and which experts estimate will be on the market in about three years.

Now first things first, what is graphene?

It is a carbon-based material. It is so thin that it is considered only two dimensional, and it is one of the most flexible, lightweight (five times lighter than aluminium) and resistant materials out there (200 times stronger than steel), in addition to its high conductivity of heat and electricity. It is a relatively inexpensive material. Therefore, it has all the features to become a key material for building many of the elements that we know, and others we don’t, at a lower cost, with a lower environmental impact and a higher performance.

Surprisingly, it is not a new material, since its structure was described eight decades ago. However, it was not isolated until 2004 by researchers Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, which led them to be awarded with the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2010.

http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/2010/

Current applications

Graphene chargers

One of the firms participating in this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona (MWC ‘16) was Zap Go, a start-up that develops graphene batteries and chargers that will charge mobile devices in just five minutes.

Flexible screens

Maybe one of the most surprising and unexpected… In just a few years it will allow us to wear our mobile on our wrist.

Graphene ink

The company Novalia presented a poster with audio at the MWC’16. The poster showed the image of a battery printed in graphene ink and, when touched with the fingers, the different parts of the instrument powered some speakers that reproduced the sounds.

And much more…

Graphene chargers have an impact on the automotive sector as well. The field of Aeronautics has also discovered a material that is especially interesting for the industry for its lightness; or even the health sector. As mentioned above, this material can be embedded under the skin or clothing to detect and monitor processes and reactions in our body, such as vital signs, and it is even intended to help recover speech or vision.

The possibilities of such material are almost endless. Some of them were revealed at the MWC ‘16; many others are still to be unveiled or discovered…

A long way to go

Despite its many features, the huge expectations and the fact that it is already being used in the manufacturing process of various devices and technologies, there is still a long way to go.

Mass production of graphene is perhaps one of the barriers to overcome. Companies like IBM or Samsung are focusing much of its efforts in the research of mass production of graphene using methods that yield a very high quality material that can be used in high-tech. Researchers predict products and devices made from graphene will be on the market in about three years, but the commercialization and widespread use might take a little longer.

No doubt graphene is here to stay. And companies will try to make the most of its many properties to dominate the market, if possible, before making them public.

The impact of 3D printing on ERP manufacturing systems

3d.printing

A few months ago we spoke of 3D printers in terms of the engines of the next industrial revolution. In this regard, we resume the discussion on the future of these printers. In short, it will advance towards the democratization of this technology. In fact, they are already available not only for large companies, but for anyone interested. While they are now producing small items (toys, shoes, etc.), they are expected to suit almost any industry. As an example, a Chinese businessman has started to make houses with a huge 3D printer in just 24 hours.

You can learn more about this entrepreneur’s project in this news:

http://www.eleconomista.es/tecnologia/noticias/5710807/04/14/Un-empresario-chino-empieza-a-fabricar-viviendas-con-impresoras-3D.html

3D printers are already common in our lives and that is a fact. It seems that the trend is precisely what we discussed in a previous article some months ago: instead of products, we will end up importing and exporting designs and we will go to the shops to have these designs printed.

This creates endless business opportunities, not only in terms of manufacturing new products, but also in the area of maintenance and spare parts, for instance. 3D printing will eventually revolutionize stocks as well. The speed of these machines will allow you to print parts and products according to the needs and capacity of each company, thus reducing product storage needs and optimizing stock management. All we will need to do is print the parts or products when needed. We are in for a truly ‘just in time’ experience!

One of the biggest challenges we face at the moment is to adapt 3D printing to the ERP systems (enterprise resource planning systems) and be ready for the impact it will have. Taking into account this new reality and its needs, 3D printing has to be integrated with the company’s products, as well as in manufacturing and data management systems. However, this is an extraordinary scenario that includes multiple and diverse fields, ranging from engineering and design to manufacturing or, as I said, its integration with the distribution systems, ERP, and even PLM (product lifecycle management).

But if we focus on ERP systems, there is a concrete reality: all manufacturers using 3D printing require that their ERP manufacturing software be adjusted to it, since monitoring and maintaining records of each article or piece has become more important than ever.

It is true that stocks are reduced. Yet, organizations need an accurate forecast that allows knowing at all times the amount of raw materials that will be consumed and the use given to each 3D printing machine.

Speed will be essential in the future. Thus, in recent months there has been much talk on Carbon3D, announced in several specialized media as the fastest 3D printer in the market. Its printing speed, well above the average, has been possible thanks to the 3D printing technology it is based on, called CLIP (Continuous Liquid Interface Production). It uses liquid resin as the raw material, an ultraviolet laser solidifies the photosensitive resin and uses oxygen to dramatically accelerate the process of solidification.

You can see it in action in this video:

These are just some of the challenges organizations will face. But, as the use of 3D printers is increasingly common and widespread, I’m sure other challenges will come up that we can’t even imagine now.

Facing the future: the digitization of public transport

 

001_small-300x200New technologies and digitalization have affected all sectors. And the case of public transport is no exception. Looking back on 2009, although Spain had over 51 million mobile phone customers, only 2 million had a smartphone.

Back then, it was unlikely to envision the growth we would witness in just seven years. However, some brave entrepreneurs encouraged the development of digital channels beyond a Facebook or Twitter profile. In an Internet environment, social networks, relationship marketing and mobile devices have changed the whole evolution process.

In the field of public transportation, we first witnessed the integration of systems of monitors, which were modest at first, through an entire infrastructure offering information to users (estimated times, countries, incidences, etc.). But providing real time information at each station was not enough. The information was important but it was necessary to redesign processes. And this is where the web came into play, along with mobile portals, social networks and, as mentioned before, relationship marketing. The key was not only to provide information, but to establish what information had to be offered and on which channels.

The levels of social penetration and Internet users as well as smart mobile devices have dramatically increased in the last 5 years, which has forced the public transport sector to continuously adapt all the digital transformation processes. Thus, the commitment was based on four clear basic principles:

  1. The user. It is vital to provide products and services that meet the user’s needs and interests.
  2. Specialized channels. Use the appropriate channels based on the user’s purpose and use of each channel.
  3. Customization of information. Provide fully customized information with a clear commitment to the mobile channel.
  4. Optimization of web space. Focus on providing a practical and user-friendly experience.

Today, the main challenge is the mobile sector. The goal is to make secure mobile payment a reality and to make mobile devices the main gateway to mobility services.

In this regard, many companies have already decided not only to adapt the website to such devices, but to include options such as apps that allow users to have a customized experience by creating routes based on their usual journeys. Some are even working on real-time customer service through instant messaging through the application.

A good example of this is the application of the Barcelona public transport:

AMBtempsbus:

 

As for the mobile device payment, the main technology is perhaps the NFC (Near Field Communication); a short-range wireless communication technology that is a tool for identification and collection/data sharing between devices, and has its greatest potential in the payment via mobile phone. Companies like Xerox Seamless™ have taken advantage of this open platform technology to develop their own solutions. In the case of this company, it involves the installation of NFC tags in transport lines.

 

Users just need to download the company’s app, register and activate their account. In order to travel, all they have to do is touch any NFC tag on their smartphone to perform the transaction. Follow the link to watch a video of the latest updates in the public transport in Valencia.

This technology is already implemented in some pioneer cities and will probably become a standard procedure, according to experts, which will also contribute to boost the payment via mobile phone in other areas and sectors, thus becoming a role model in the public sectors.

Like in other fields, we expect some exciting months and years ahead.