In the context of information technology, “killer” has come to characterize that one software application whose value is so fundamentally compelling that it validates an entire new class of technology investment.
Think spreadsheets and the IBM PC, or mobile email and the Blackberry.
In both cases, a single value proposition was enough to set off a virtuous cycle of investment, innovation and value creation that has only intensified since, resulting in the powerful personal computers and smartphones we take for granted today.
Industry stands now at similar threshold. The convergence of information and operational networking infrastructure together with increasingly powerful devices, software applications and essentially on-demand computing power are poised to enable a new level of industrial productivity, efficiency and agility that Rockwell Automation calls The Connected Enterprise.
And while few would argue the sweeping array of business benefit embodied in The Connected Enterprise vision, many of the industry professionals who will attend the upcoming Automation Fair, November 18-19 in downtown Chicago, are seeking that very first “killer” value proposition that's compelling enough to jumpstart their own journey toward becoming one.
For this observer's money, the killer value proposition for The Connected Enterprise is improved visibility.
Visibility has the twin advantages of ultimate scalability and clearly demonstrable value. Ask yourself, “What's the one data point or handful of KPIs that could help you run your operations more effectively?”
Then use that improved visibility to justify a pilot roll-out that's not so small as to be overlooked, but not so “enterprise-wide” that it bogs down before positive gains can be demonstrated.
For example, Jon Reichert of Tyson Foods' Hillshire Brands discussed at the Smart Industry conference earlier this month how they had justified implementation of Rockwell Software FactoryTalk Historian and VantagePoint EMI dashboards largely to gain better visibility into product give-away for a sausage-making line.
They quickly exceeded by a factor of five the targeted improvement of 0.1% used to justify the project, and are busily adding complementary KPIs at the request of operations.
“Once the platform is there, it costs little to implement additional applications,” Reichart said.
Come Automation Fair week, this reporter will be attending the industry forums to learn how other industrial companies are using Connected Enterprise concepts to improve visibility as well as leverage those baseline investments into additional sources of business value. I suspect that's where we'll see ROIs on becoming a Connected Enterprise that are really killer.