How to build products that customers Love?
Last week we had team discussion with the sales team of METI, an IIoT company, who has the reputation of building amazing products, especially hardware. We were discussing on what value addition the products we’re offering to their customers. The main value addition that METI emphasised was remote monitoring. But we wanted to get deeper and understand why customers wanted Remote Monitoring Solutions.
We met their customer which was an Engineering Services company and had a two-hour discussion. The process of the interview is as follows
Meti: Why do you need a remote monitoring solution?
Company: To do energy monitoring in our foundries.
Meti: Why do you need energy monitoring in the foundries?
Company: Want to check if the furnace is fully loaded.
Meti: Why do have to check if the furnace is fully loaded?
Company: Otherwise there will be wastage of power.
Meti: Why do you say power is wasted if the furnace is not fully loaded?
Company: Whether the furnace is not fully loaded or not, the furnace will consume the same amount of power. If the furnace is fully loaded then the entire power is efficiently utilised, otherwise, power is wasted.
Meti: Is there a benchmark for comparison?
Company: Yes. Usually, it takes 590 units to melt one ton of metal.
Meti: How does remote monitoring help you achieve your goal? What is the goal?
Company: Remote monitoring helps us understand the power consumption pattern. We estimate the power consumption pattern every minute and the quantity of metal melted in the foundry. This will help us understand if the foundry is working in full efficiency. In other words, we understand if the machine is running is the maximum capacity or is it under-utilised which only means power is wasted.
METI: Can you please elaborate quantitatively?
An optimal value to melt one tonne of metal is 590 units. If we can do that 610 units, it’s still productive. The manager showed the data wherein before the remote monitoring system was employed, the company was consuming 710 units to melt one tonne because of under utilisation of machines. Remote monitoring helped them to reduce the power consumption to 610 units/ton.
Meti: What happens without a remote monitoring solution? Cant we not monitor it manually?
Company: If there is no remote monitoring solution then there must be a supervisor who has to go and inspect the machines every one hour and come back with a report. It only helps in a post-mortem. It does not help the system take a timely corrective action. Even if a sample is collected every one hour, it will not be enough for optimisation as the pattern varies in a minute to minute basis.
Meti: What is the power consumption of the unit?
Company: The power consumption of the factory is 50 lakh unit. The foundry consumes 48 lakh units.
Meti: How many tons do you melt every month?
Company: 3000 tons
Meti: what are the other value additions that you derive out of real-time monitoring?
Company: If we are able to understand the maximum load duration and the period, we shall work to keep the maximum load off the peak hours (6-9pm). Further, if the maximum load is kept after 10 pm, we also get a 20% rebate.
Meti: What else sir?
Company: Remote monitoring also helps to maintain the power factor, apart from optimising the furnace usage.
Meti: What else do we compute from the patterns?
Company: The solution has helped to improve /maintain the power factor and also compute the peak load. Without a real-time date, it will be impossible to calculate and maintain both of these parameters. It also makes sure we can keep our Maximum Demand in check thereby avoiding penalty.
Meti: How did you decide to buy the solution?
Company: Earlier readings used to be taken every one hour. Every tonne consumed almost 700 units.590 units is the benchmark. But you will find everyone is working all the time. Only when you know the loading pattern; you will know to how to make it efficient. The load has to be full for effective power consumption.
Meti: History of energy monitoring :
Company: Analog- mainly used to protect the switchboard. Analog meter was replaced by Digital energy meter. Now it has moved to Industry 4.0.
Meti: Future expectations?
Company: 1. Production report needs to be generated every month. The company should work to generate the report effortlessly.
2. Energy consumption every minute. Patterns have to captured.
3. Help us learn good practices from other companies.
Insights for METi after the interview.
• Having bought the product, the company was able to achieve ROI of 71% in less than 30 days.
• Apart, the device also helped the company to maintain the power factor and also calculate the maximum power demand.
“All these things, we were able to achieve effortlessly”, These were the right words from the manager.
This is real value addition, not Remote Monitoring. METI is now trying to position itself differently now with these insights.
Often, startups do not understand customer needs. Many products are launched on the market with a lot of assumptions. The biggest problem with these assumptions is that the startups do not know how to position the product in the market, even worse, if these assumptions fail, then the whole business collapses.
If you want to build a product that customers love, then build the product with the customer. Even better, let the customer build the product for you.
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