When I speak to my customers in the hardware and manufacturing space about customer experience and omni-channel analytics, it's encouraging to realize that an increasing number of businesses are finally getting the point. Also, with the changing business perception regarding data silos as repositories of political power in the enterprise (update: those days are gone), more and more of my CXO stakeholders understand the importance (and value) of closing the loop between customer feedback and upstream processes like product design and procurement.
What does surprise me, however, is how few of them remember that their installed base is one of the channels that customers are using to speak to them.
Let's assume that you're at the front of the pack, and have already realized the value of remote asset monitoring and warranty analytics to drive preventive maintenance and technical support. Here's a trick that many in that group are still missing: analyze that same data set to identify features that can be moved from the hardware layer to the software layer.
The data you're receiving from your installed base (regardless of whether it's a wind turbine, a locomotive engine, a truck, a refrigeration unit, or a server) contains information about the actual physical buttons that your customers are pressing. A growing number of businesses are already reaping the benefits of identifying hardware features that are not being used, and redesigning subsequent product iterations with those features abstracted up into the software layer. So, the feature is still there, but now instead of being activated via a physical button, lever, or switch, it's available in the control/admin software instead.
The savings and benefits that this information delivers are obvious, and can add up to billions of dollars over the lifecycle of a single product. For instance:
- Fewer hardware components to purchase, ship, store, manage, and quality-test
- Lower power consumption, in many cases—allowing power supply requirements to be redesigned as well
- Shorter manufacturing times
- Reduced cost of quality—fewer components that can only be serviced by field service personnel
- Easier feature updates
Now, for those of you who don't know me (yet) and are therefore unfamiliar with my standard soapbox theme regarding the importance of operationalizing analytical insight, here's a quick synopsis. Start rant: It's not enough to have the process for generating analytical insights in place. The process for consuming and actioning analytical insight as a standard part of your operating layer is as important, if not more important, for the success of analytics in the organization. End rant.
In keeping with my standard theme, then, the secret sauce for making "listening to your machines" work for you is to ensure that you have an established process for that information to make it to the right inflection points upstream in your organization, and a standard cadence for actioning that information.
And finally, when you hang up with your machines, call your mom. You know you should.