Be flexible with your business, or go under

A business that wants to move with the times has to be flexible. This is the most important factor for survival in the future. Certainly now that the 'the Internet of Things' is on the rise.

The only thing that is certain is change. And if a company is to take advantage of unexpected changes in the market, the competition, consumers and technology, a flexible approach to the game is an absolute must. This is the conclusion of Arnold Hardonk, Sector Specialist at Rabobank.

'The world is changing faster than ever. Since the arrival of the Internet, everything has changed. Companies have to react immediately to all the events surrounding them,' says Hardonk. 'Technological developments are setting the tone. The most important trend at the moment is 'the Internet of Things', also known as IoT. This development is really turning everything on its head, as we are already seeing.'

More than a smart fridge

IoT is a collective name for smart appliances that are interconnected. 'The smart fridge is an example that is frequently mentioned. In the near future, our fridges will check whether they hold enough food and drink. If not, a message will be sent to our smartwatch to say that we have run out of milk.'

But this is only the beginning. According to Hardonk, the next step is even more radical: everything and everybody mutually connected. He calls this 'Connected Everything'. Besides IoT, this includes: smart data (companies will be able to respond increasingly effectively to customer demand), 3D printing (receiving a product at home through a printer instead of a postal package) and robotisation (robots taking over tasks from people).

The most interesting aspect is when these technologies will work together with each other. Hardonk: 'The fridge will communicate with the supermarket's distribution centre, which in turn communicates with the milk producer and a logistics service provider without human intervention. The carton of milk will then be delivered on the basis of my agenda and the GPS location of my car wherever and whenever possible – with a driverless delivery car.'

Scope for enterprise

How can businesses prepare themselves for the impact and speed of these huge changes? 'By making room for enterprise, this is the key. In a more complex, faster and uncertain environment you have to be more enterprising. This requires a change to your business and your business model. We think that businesses will have to be structured more flexibly to benefit optimally from the opportunities presented by Connected Everything to them.'

For instance, this will involve new forms of cooperation and a different organisational structure. 'It might involve setting up self-managing teams, decentralised management of the business or more flexible production,' says Hardonk.

Warehouse on wheels from VDL Nedcar

For the factory that produces the Mini, VDL Nedcar has developed the 'warehouse-on-wheels' concept. This makes the parts delivery process so efficient that only half of the stock previously required now has to be held.

Electric pallet trucks and reach trucks deliver the parts in bins at the right location, exactly when they are needed for the production process. They remove the empty bins and replace them with full ones automatically. More than 70 trucks deliver the parts needed every day. This saves time, space and expensive stock. It also means that the company can plan its production much more effectively and personnel no longer has to monitor stock levels.

The parts suppliers can easily adjust their stocks and processes to the demand from VDL Nedcar, accurate to the nearest hour. The result is a highly flexible process that ultimately is driven by the purchaser of the car.

Read the whole special about 'Connected everything'.