Live Product Innovation, Part 3: Process Industries, IoT, And A Recipe For Instant Change

John McNiff

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at how in-memory computing affects live product innovation. In Part 2, we explored the impact of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data on smart connected products. In Part 3, we approach the topic from the perspective of process industries.

Digital this, connected that. Smart whatsits and intelligent doodahs. Those of us who talk about IoT are often reminded that not every manufacturer makes products per se. But IoT isn’t only about the addition of sensors to products. The principles of live product innovation are equally relevant to process manufacturing.

In fact, the “data refinery” offers the potential to manage the Internet of everything — including traditional Big Data sources in tight conjunction with business processes. If your products are food, packaged goods, or chemicals, the promises of live product insights are still compelling. It’s only the data sources and dimensions that are different.

Live and compliant

The complexity of regulatory compliance in process industries continues to grow — whether you’re talking about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.K. Food Standards Agency, trade embargoes, or hazardous substance management. And compliance isn’t getting any simpler to manage across jurisdictions and industry sectors.

What’s more, customers increasingly demand shortened delivery cycles and highly targeted or even personalized products. That means you can no longer wait till after you formulate a product and release a recipe to determine whether you can actually sell it. You need instant visibility, whether you’re talking about nutritional safe levels assigned by a particular region for food products or volumes of hazardous substances for supply and transit.

But that’s the advantage of live, compliant product innovation. It enables you to perform analytics on previously disconnected data. And it allows you to manage real-time embedded processes across previously disparate systems.

Product data is everywhere

In our last blog we explored the advantages of smart connected products — the ability to link everything from initial product concepts through downstream product delivery. Now let’s apply that to process manufacturing.

Let’s say you see two factors coming together for the SoySnak product you sell in North America and Asia. Your sales data shows that American consumers want 10Kg packages, while Asian customers prefer smaller multipacks. At the same time, your compliance database alerts you that new regulations on salt levels are about to go into effect in several of your target markets.

You want to respond before the regulations are implemented, for several reasons. You’ll need to update recipes, specifications, labels, and packaging. You’ll need to inform your suppliers, manufacturers, quality planners, financial controllers, logistics providers, and retailers. And you’ll need to get the replacement product into the affected markets, with auditable compliance with salt level requirements. Otherwise, you risk producing a large quantity of unsellable inventory.

This example shows us several things:

  • Insights must be as instant as possible.
  • Those insights might come from a variety of sources that your R&D folks didn’t previously have real-time access to.
  • Your products must be localized to a very granular level.
  • Even a minor change affects everything from recipes to packaging specifications, costs of materials, regulatory reporting, logistics providers, retailers, and on and on.

And that leads us to several conclusions:

  • Product data isn’t mission-critical only to R&D. It’s linked to every downstream business process.
  • A live, compliant, and collaborative environment, with the ability to instantly adapt to change, is a business requirement.
  • To achieve that requirement, product data must be part of business processes.
  • The platform the R&D team relies on must be linked to downstream platforms, and it must allow you to leverage and act on real-time insights.

Digital product innovation platform

Of course, the streaming of sensor data from connected things is still relevant in process industries. But for process manufacturers, the most important use cases are more around traceability, supply chain logistics, and product innovation. At some point, data from connected goods will allow new models that more tightly couple the supply chain with innovation cycles.

But a live and compliant product innovation platform achievable today. The question is whether you’ll get there before your competition does.

Come to SAPPHIRE NOW 2017 in Orlando, Florida from May 16 – 18th, 2017, and check out my session “Boost Visibility into Operations for Connected Products with SAP Leonardo” on Tuesday, May 16th, 2017 from 1-1:40 p.m. in Business Application BA324, or check out our R&D sessions.

Follow the conversation on @SCMatSAP and #SAPPHIRENOW.


John McNiff

About John McNiff

John McNiff is the Vice President of Solution Management for the R&D/Engineering line-of-business business unit at SAP. John has held a number of sales and business development roles at SAP, focused on the manufacturing and engineering topics.