The Internet of Things (IoT) is looked to as a potential savior to fix all that ails device manufacturers. It can be a conduit to exceptional customer experience; a free-flowing data bridge between devices in the field and technical support teams in R&D, manufacturing, and operations; and even a pathway to move from selling a hardware widget to accessing a reoccurring revenue stream.
The problem is IoT often falls short of that grand vision. The majority of companies that embark on this journey find themselves stuck in pilot mode after months and even years of effort.
Why? The reasons are many. It is difficult to build a platform – many vendors will dump a bucket of software building blocks in front of a company and they are on their own from there. The time to ROI is too long as there can be much trial and error involved. Even if sensor data can be harvested from devices, it often cannot be combined with other key data sets from core business systems like customer relationship management (CRM) or enterprise resource management (ERP) tools, a necessary step to unlock actionable insights. And often IoT pilots turn into science fair experiments starting with and focused on technology instead of a clear plan to business outcomes.
As a maker of connected printers and multifunction devices placed in more than 200,000 locations around the globe, Lexmark has solved these challenges for our own business by leveraging our proven IoT platform. Our solution is in market, at scale, and proven with large Fortune 1,000 customers through our managed print services (MPS) business. That makes us uniquely positioned to help other makers of connected devices discover success in their own IoT journeys.
Now, we are excited to offer the Lexmark Optra IoT Platform — the solution we built, tested, and perfected over many years in our managed services business — to the broader market. Since no two digital transformation journeys are alike, our solution includes both an engineered IoT platform, as well as technology accelerators and consulting services to help solve each customer’s unique challenges.
Drawing on our deep IoT and industry expertise and leveraging our engineered IoT platform, we are helping other makers of connected devices achieve similar business outcomes as we have seen ourselves. Replace “printer” with, for example, “medical imaging,” “industrial mining” or “banking kiosk” equipment and you get the picture. We are unlocking the same business outcomes for makers of these other connected device makers as we have done for our own managed print services business – predictive services, asset optimization, systemic innovation, and as-a-service engagements.
With predictive services, connected device makers move from a reactive, inefficient support model with customer downtime and high costs, to one that is proactive with sensor data feeding algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) / machine learning (ML) models that anticipate problems before they occur and lead to higher customer satisfaction and lower costs.
Asset optimization enables data-driven decision making, whereby product lifecycles are maximized, guiding customers whether to replace a machine, refresh their entire fleet, or continue with repairs. Devices placements are also optimized, eliminating over- or under-utilization.
The Optra IoT Platform creates and curates a product digital thread by which device performance can be accessed and connected from design in the lab, to manufacturing on the line, to quality checks at distribution centers, and then ongoing reliability in the field. You can see sensor-level performance from a device over years of operation and connect that with other important information like service records for full context. This leads to systemic innovation for both technical engineering teams for products in the field and R&D teams able to design with greater insights, leading to faster time to market.
Finally, connecting critical real-time device data to enterprise customer billing and CRM systems creates a foundation to offer as-a-service engagement models. Operationalizing this data provides customers financial flexibility while securing your organization a source of recurring revenue.
The promise of IoT has yet to be realized for many makers of connected devices, but its value is there if the right solution can be applied. The Lexmark Optra IoT Platform allows manufacturers to break out of pilot mode and get to real outcomes. We have built it and proved it ourselves as a technology leader in managed services. Now, we offer it as a business shortcut to other device manufacturers.
Phil Carter is director of IoT and managed services at Lexmark, focusing on the company’s strategy, development and management for its IoT and managed services businesses. Since joining Lexmark in 1998, Carter has held leadership roles across the company, including in R&D and global services, where he led teams that developed Lexmark’s predictive service and data analytics capabilities; manufacturing and product engineering; supply chain; and cross-functional product delivery. He holds a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He is also a graduate of the University of Michigan Stephen M. Ross School of Business leadership program.