Why The IoT Means You'll Never Run Out Of Paper

Alfred Becker

In business, efficiency is critical. Any improvement to a standing process – even if relatively small – can have a profound impact when scaled up. Consider, for example, software that allows a train to travel more efficiently. While cutting a minute or two from a trip may not seem that significant, when those fuel savings are scaled up over thousands of trips, it becomes a serious cost savings.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has had a transformational effect on industries seeking to make their processes easier and more efficient. By leveraging the power of connected devices and data analysis, companies and governments are figuring out new ways to modernize established processes. Cities use IoT technology to reduce traffic congestion and pollution. Farmers use connected devices to improve crop yields. Railways use IoT technology to enhance safety and timeliness.

And companies can use it to ensure they never run out of paper supply.

How the IoT can keep paper supplies fully stocked

The applications of IoT technology are so varied as to seem almost unlimited. Companies are discovering ways, large and small, to increase productivity and efficiency through the use of data-based sensors and other devices.

Consider the case of paper companies and printer producers. The two have what should be a naturally synergistic relationship. Each produces half the equipment in a common office device. Yet, historically, paper companies and printer producers haven’t necessarily worked together. A business purchases its printers and paper from separate suppliers. Paper is restocked either through an ordering process initiated once paper stock runs low, or though a planning process that automatically orders paper through electronic data interchange (EDI). Both approaches are based on planned paper consumption, not real-world use, which often is different. In addition, there is always a time lag, even using the planning approach, between paper order and receipt.

It’s easy to see the inefficiency in this process. Waiting for the printer’s “load more paper” light to start flashing is a reactive move. It’s also inefficient, as it all but ensures printers regularly run out of paper, forcing workers to wait while paper is resupplied or go to another location.

Now consider an even larger problem for companies that require a variety of specific paper types in order to operate. If an error during the inventory process results in one paper type running out, the company’s productivity slows and costs rise while it waits for delivery.

Fortunately, this is a scenario that no longer needs to occur, thanks to IoT-driven process improvements. Paper companies and printer producers can collaborate to ensure paper supplies remain constant. Sensors can transmit data from printers to paper companies, showing the precise type of paper being used and predicting when it will need to be replenished. This real-time data can be integrated into the planning process – ideally using the print shop’s production planning software – and order paper automatically via EDI based on actual consumption.

This ensures there are no gaps in supply, no halt to productivity. The predictive power of IoT technology helps printer and paper companies collaborate in an efficient manner that benefits all parties: Businesses are guaranteed the timely replenishment of paper inventory. Printer and paper companies benefit from the synergies facilitated by the IoT. Print shops can offer customers the option to automatically stock paper as a value-added service, requiring no action from the customer.

The end result? Greater productivity, higher efficiency, enhanced collaboration, and new business opportunities.

The awesome growth potential of connected devices

Ensuring continuous access to paper is just one small example of the transformational power of IoT technology. Opportunities such as these can be found in virtually every industry. The way we work, live, travel, and take care of our health and our homes can all be improved through the use of smart, connected devices.

The most exciting thing? We’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Because IoT technology is relatively young, even more revolutionary opportunities are likely to develop. According to Gartner, roughly 8.4 billion connected devices will be in use in 2017. This represents a 31% jump over 2016. Business spending represents slightly less than 60% of the overall market.

By 2020, overall IoT spending is expected to reach nearly $1.3 trillion. This rapid growth will be driven in part by increasing adoption in the manufacturing, retail, healthcare, and transportation sectors. Cross-industry IoT spending, featuring use cases relevant to all industries (think smart buildings), will also be a significant growth driver.

The takeaway

Ultimately, IoT technology holds not only the promise of sustained innovation and business transformation, but profound changes to the way we live and work. Having printers that never run out of paper is but one example of the almost countless number of opportunities that will arise as IoT technology matures.

Learn how to bring new technologies and services together to power digital transformation by downloading The IoT Imperative for Energy and Natural Resource Companies. Explore how to bring Industry 4.0 insights into your business today by reading Industry 4.0: What’s Next?


Alfred Becker

About Alfred Becker

Alfred Becker is the global lead for Paper & Packaging Industry and Manufacturing within Mill Products Industries at SAP.