As a supply chain executive, you have probably heard all about the benefits of integrating an Internet of Things (IoT) solution into your supply chain. According to recent reports, by 2020 manufacturers will spend over $250 billion on IoT, and 84% of business leaders believe IoT will help them create new income streams. You may already be working with technology partners, or exploring options for what sort of IoT system is right for you. But before you implement a new IoT solution with your organization, there are a handful of questions worth answering to ensure that you get as much value as possible from your new system. We’ve compiled a quick checklist to help you get started.
1. Data Security
A successful IoT solution will require a comprehensive data security strategy. Since IoT devices can give you access to large amounts of previously inaccessible data, questions will arise that you may not have considered before:
- Which people and teams will have access to which new data streams?
- Which existing data stores will hold the new data (and therefore should be evaluated for security risks)?
- Are there any existing databases or systems that might be overwhelmed by new data streams (either maliciously or inadvertently)?
- Are there any new APIs you will expose to IoT data that might be subject to attack?
- What technologies (data encryption, authentication, etc.) and systems (security audits, information sharing policies, etc.) will you use to ensure that sensitive data is secure?
- What existing security measures will have to be modified as you introduce IoT?
2. Data Organization
Once you have your data security plan in place, you will need to consider your data organization infrastructure. An IoT solution is a great way to gain access to data, but access is only half the battle. Once you have that data, how will you structure it in a useful, actionable framework? To build out your new data organization structure, you will want to consider the following questions:
- IoT devices can give you all sorts of data. What kinds of data are most important to your organization, and what will you want to filter out?
- How will your new data streams be funneled into your existing data management structure? Can those systems support the new volume of data?
- What analysis tools will you use to visualize this new source of data?
- What new infrastructure will you need to support data intake, processing, and analysis for large, dynamic datasets?
3. Software Integrations
As you prepare your data infrastructure, you will inevitably run into areas of overlap or even conflict with your existing, traditional software systems. These software platforms may require adjustment or the addition of new third-party tools to support a successful IoT integration. Here are some questions to get you started thinking about what software integration work may be necessary:
- How will you need to reconfigure your existing WMS or ERP systems to integrate the new IoT tools?
- What internal systems and capabilities will need to be upgraded to meet the requirements of a larger, more complex data structure?
- How will you connect new cloud-based data storage systems to your existing internal database tools?
- What internal or third party resources will you need to leverage in order to make the necessary adjustments to your existing software systems without compromising your current systems?
- What middleware products could help supplement your existing software systems (APIs, integrated CRMs, data processing products, etc.)?
4. Training and Organizational Change
Implementing these new tools, analyzing the data they provide, and acting on those data-driven insights will likely require new skills in your organization. This is not just a matter of distributing a user manual or giving a presentation. An integrated IoT solution will require an integrated, cross-functional team with a diverse skillset. As you prepare your team for IoT, you will want to keep the following questions in mind:
- Which people and teams will need training in each element of the new IoT system?
- Which departments will need to be involved in the IoT project, (Supply Chain, IT, Manufacturing, etc.), and how will resources be allocated among those departments?
- What new skillsets and personnel (software engineering, data science, statistics, etc.) will you need to invest in to get the most value out of that data, and how will you integrate these new teams into your existing org chart?
- What new organizational structures (i.e. task force, steering committee) will be necessary to support interdepartmental collaboration?
- What can you do to develop and strengthen a collaborative, interdisciplinary team culture to support the required collaboration across multiple departments?
IoT technologies are enabling huge strides in efficiency and waste reduction for supply chain management, but they also require significant preparation to achieve effective implementation. As you explore your options for integrating these exciting new solutions into your existing systems, it is important to make sure you and your organization are poised to make the most of these systems. Whether you’re just getting started, or already in the process of incorporating IoT into your supply chain, developing an action plan to address the questions listed above will put you in a great position to move forward with confidence. For more information about what it would take to integrate IoT into your supply chain, contact us today.