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Connecting to the future

How connected systems change the game for consumer products



Imagine if you had visibility into all information related to consumption patterns, and could use it to drive the forecasting process? And – in doing so – bring economies to inventory levels, planning of preventative maintenance, selling of upgrades and more? Imagine if this single piece of information could also enable the owner to market value-added services to customers to complement their existing systems and services packages?
Right now there is enormous growth in the development of software and app solutions that allow companies big and small to leverage data from their products in the field. In fact, these initiatives are expected to drive multibillion euro growth in both connected hardware and software applications.

Just imagine what would be possible if you had the opportunity to have a real-time ‘dashboard’ of your systems in the market? Through them you could learn how to improve on product performance, offer your customers value-added services and real-time advice, and a host of benefits that you might not have even thought about yet.


The technologies are rapidly developing, and to really reap the benefits, the right resources are needed. Experienced service specialists must design future value propositions, including the data required from multiple sources to offer the right conclusions and advice. Companies need to invest in capabilities to design systems that deliver structured information, that can collect and process big data, as well as the right people resources to create insights and services based on the outputs.

So what’s the recipe for success? It begins with the design of systems, in which the added value of connectivity can be determined across three stages:


1. Connected Design
It is already possible to simulate designs digitally, checking the benefits of the connected systems and optimizing different parameters, and it’s proving to be an extremely efficient way to develop new propositions. This even goes beyond the boundaries of a company and can include both products from suppliers, as well as the installation on the customer side.

2. Connected Manufacturing
Embedded intelligence is like having the product designer or owner traveling with the system on the production line, one that can tell line operators what the next process steps need to be and which values need to be applied at certain steps, for example. In a smart manufacturing environment, systems and process come together through data like never before, creating efficiencies in how a product is manufactured. Information can be collected in an electronic Device History Record (eDHR), which can be used for continuous improvement and quality tracking purposes.

3. Connected Performance
Like an app on our smartphones, hardware and solutions can easily be updated through service packs. Further, data can be used to feed into many levels of a business, from engineering to R&D – even driving product design on the supplier side. In the automotive industry, car manufacturers already make use of feedback from the field to enhance the products of their suppliers, licensing back the IP they generated in the process.


The next phase concerns the operation of systems in the field, and there are three areas where companies can benefit from connectivity:


1. Connected Services
With the reduced cost of sensors, data collection and storage, it probably makes more sense now to incorporate connectivity beyond any immediate needs. In the future, use cases will spring up that allow for the extended use of remote service capabilities. In such a scenario, having sensors already in place will enable you to reduce the cost of servicing your systems, and/or create value-added offers moving forward.

2. Connected Operations
Imagine if equipment specialists didn’t need to be on site, but could instead remotely operate systems from multiple locations while local staff focused on customer experience. In a hospital environment, for example, multiple steps in diagnosis and treatment could be continually optimized based on real-time feedback from the systems and people involved in the process. This would improve performance, cost effectiveness and user experience, as well as reducing waiting times.

3. Connected Added Value Services

In the big data world, there are a lot of secondary uses of data that support the creation of additional value-added services. Data can tell us if people are using equipment properly, or teach us about best practices that can then be scaled to other customers. Data allows systems to become "self-learning” and smarter over time.


Finally, connectivity will also help the circular economy. Does it make sense for a system or its components to be refurbished for a second life? Or is it cheaper to scrap or recycle it? The right data from the system’s history holds the answers.


As insights into operations and costs grow, systems business models will shift more and more toward managed services business models. Design will in turn be optimized for economies in operations, service and versatility, and the ability to add value and services over time. This may be a vision of the future, but it’s one that companies need to start working on today.

Hans van 't Riet

Order to Cash Transformation Leader

Beginning his career in Healthcare, Hans van’t Riet has worked with Philips for 24 years across the value chain in Innovation, Marketing & Sales and Operations, holding leadership roles in several businesses in various geographies and markets including Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Germany, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands. He is currently leader of the Order to Cash Business Transformation and has a track record of delivering successful End to End transformations for the organization.


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