At Beca, our industrial clients are in the midst of a significant transformation thanks to
The benefits can be substantial. One of our clients recently tested an IoT solution for 1,500 vacuum sewer pits to reduce instances of overflow. The PoC itself – involving a battery-operated IoT transmitter – was successful but the project hit a wall when it came to integrating the technology successfully into the business.
What was needed – which we then carried out – was an
By conducting a more thorough assessment, we were able to identify and select the various options to produce a ‘scaled up’ solution that integrates the technology into the client’s business and fulfills their wider business requirements.
This allowed the client to
But this type of step change can only be achieved if PoCs work at scale. And that’s proving harder than many
In my experience, about 75% of companies that have conducted successful trials with technology vendors or universities don’t evolve PoCs to the next stage.
This is either because the PoC isn’t driven by management to achieve a commercial benefit – or because the team doesn’t follow the project life cycle processes that are essential to
Why do so many PoCs fall at the first hurdle?
The problem is that a PoC only informs FEL-1 business analysis within the limits of its:
One Scale – PoCs occur in isolation to test the viability of a technology to achieve its intended application. They don’t take into account all the business elements required to operate at scale.
You need to consider: how the PoC will work with your business IT, network and engineering standards or your communication protocols; how different stakeholders will access or use the technology; or where the data will be stored.
Failing to take any one of these issues into account can derail
But, right now,
Technology – Often, the technology you test belongs to the first person who walked through the door with an idea. It’s great that the PoC worked. But that doesn’t mean the technology is the best on the market for your business or will work at scale.
Many PoCs fail because they either:
- don’t define the full business benefit the commercialised technology will create or;
- progress a technology without considering the business needs of a commercialised solution. At this point, PoCs are either dropped altogether or installed as point solutions.
Neither of these responses is appropriate. The first is a missed opportunity. Management may not be able to see the value as the PoC stands. But with more thought and input from other potential business users, the business case often stands up.
The second is always a disaster. The point solution throws off some immediate benefits but soon becomes an orphan that can’t join up to other data sets, making it unusable in an enterprise-wide Industry 4.0 strategy.
This frequently happens with IoT solutions. Plants end up being littered with different IoT-enabled products – condition monitoring as a service, solar as a service, trade waste monitoring, smart forklifts – that either
I call it: the IoT of chaos.
What does it take to
commercialise a PoC?
First, make sure the right people are on the case. Often, these are not the people who ran the PoC. PoCs tend to be run by keen, tech-savvy folks who don’t necessarily take a commercial view or know how to present information to commercial stakeholders.
Either transition to a new team who are used to getting capital projects approved or give the original team business support to correctly define the project and its costs and benefits. Then:
1. Business analysis (estimate the benefits correctly)
Benefits need to be considered right across the business. Digital technology implementations often deliver a range of benefits that no one accounted for in the original business case. Consider how the implementation can enhance other parts of the business.
Will the new data set allow marketing to trace products to drive sales? Can another line of business use the data being thrown off to
2. Select option
The right technology is one that performs the task, is priced competitively and meets your business needs.
You need to take into account licensing costs, scalability, future migration paths, security, maintenance and interfaces with other systems. Preliminary designs and pricing are used to inform your decision process.
3. Feasibility (understand the total capital price for capital approval)
Now you should have sufficient information to progress to a feasibility stage to determine the key elements and cost within capital tolerances so you can get a capital budget for the project. It’s not enough to just ‘conceptually’ understand that the PoC will improve your business.
Unless you can tangibly demonstrate to stakeholders how it will deliver a better return than another application of capital, it will not progress past this stage.
Industry 4.0 may be supported by bleeding-edge emerging technologies
Then, you need to follow your
Otherwise, your brilliant PoC will remain just that – a great idea that never grew up.
Stewart Coleman has been working with clients in the Industrial segments for a number of years providing traditional business and engineering solutions to meet their needs. My goal is to increase the productivity of the industrial world by thinking differently, making these technologies tangible and delivering them effectively.