Delivering for Best-in-Class Wholesaler-Distributors
November 18, 2016  |  ByPaul St. Germain, NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence Author
NAW-The Internet of Things for Wholesaler-Distributors - Wholesale Distribution Trends #10

The Internet of Things Continues to Grow

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects, embedded with sensors and electronic components, which gathers, stores, and analyzes data. Forecasts project that there will be more than 20 billion connected things in use worldwide by 2020.

The IoT is one of the greatest technologies shaping the business world today because of its power to collect and deliver information that businesses can use to develop better customer services and improve internal operations.

Although the technology has been around for decades in various forms, its use is still in its infancy. Until very recently, two main impediments held back the growth of the IoT: the sheer volume of data generated by systems and devices and the difficulty in making sense of and using the data strategically. Today, cloud technology removes the need to store the data on premise, which is making data management much more manageable. New analytics capabilities, including cognitive analytics, which use machine learning to make sense of data patterns and connections in as fast as real time, help businesses capture and analyze the data for their own operations or as part of a value-added service to other companies.

The IoT has become nearly commonplace for homeowners wishing to manage home security, energy use, lighting, heating, air-conditioning, entertainment systems, and even garage doors. Consumers reap twofold benefits: convenience and lower utility bills resulting from energy conservation. Larger buildings with sophisticated internal climate controls are also becoming markedly more common and serve as examples of how companies can improve internal operations with IoT technologies.

The Internet of Things and Becoming the Disruption

Distributors have a twofold opportunity to capitalize on the IoT. First, they can use sensors within the business, such as in warehousing, transportation, and equipment monitoring to improve operations. Automating warehouse management and inventory is a prime example. By equipping stock bins with weight sensors that are programmed with the weight of the item in the bin, distributors can gain a real-time count of all stock. Furthermore, if an item is put away in the wrong bin, the system can alert the warehouse manager that the destination bin remains empty while the bin with the rogue item registers an incorrect weight.

If a company wants to become a true disruptor, it can offer this kind of service to its customers, which is the second opportunity for wholesaler-distributors. Using IoT technology, distributors can provide new services to customers and create differentiating capabilities, such as preventive and predictive maintenance, that can minimize the effects of disruption or allow the distributor to become the disrupter.

While there are several advantages to the IoT, some challenges exist and are being addressed. Not all devices can communicate with each other, security remains a concern for many people, and questions arise over who owns the data that is created and transmitted.

Nonetheless, the IoT provides an excellent opportunity to wholesaler-distributors that want not only to survive but also to thrive in a disruptive economy.

In the brand-new 11th edition of Facing the Forces of Change®: Navigating the Seas of Disruption, you will find much more detail on all of these topics, including strategies and examples from leading distributors, along with suggested actions to understand and minimize the effect of disruption on a business, or present the opportunity to become a disrupter.

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Paul St. Germain, NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence Author

Paul St. Germain, NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence Author

While working for IBM, Paul St. Germain was responsible for managing IBM’s business and strategic initiatives within the global wholesale distribution industry. He researched critical issues and trends, developed IBM’s point of view on industry imperatives; guided IBM’s industry offerings and solutions; and engaged with wholesale distribution executives to help them transform their organizations.
Paul St. Germain, NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence Author

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