At least, this is the case for Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based Briggs & Stratton, the world’s largest producer of gasoline engines for outdoor power equipment. Briggs & Stratton’s wholly owned subsidiaries include North America’s number one marketer of portable generators, pressure washers and turf care products, and it is a leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of lawn and garden, turf care, and job site products.
The IoT is one of 5 technology pillars on which Briggs & Stratton focuses, according to Todd Teske, chairman, president, and CEO. Teske said a cross-functional team explores opportunities for how it can be incorporated “on the product side” and executes existing projects. Team members report their progress to the board of directors “virtually monthly,” Teske noted, adding that, in general, initiatives involving IoT are “very high visibility” and command “a tremendous amount of senior management attention.”
Senior management views the incorporation of IoT into its products as its highest tech priority, and as offering the “biggest bang for the buck” when it comes to leveraging Internet-connected technology, Teske said. As a result, some of its equipment has been configured to communicate with end-users. Standby generators are an example; as an add-on, consumers who own the products can elect to access, through their smartphones, information about the status of their generator and whether it is experiencing any issues. If a standby generator is scheduled to cycle at a particular time, and it doesn’t, a “push” notification is sent to the owner’s smartphone.
IoT is also being used as a lynchpin for remote diagnostics and predictive maintenance on products such as commercial lawn mowers. IoT ultimately drives the value Briggs & Stratton can provide to end-users, because it enables them to minimize downtime while maximizing uptime and “the amount of money they can make,” Teske explained.
IoT also plays a role in the company’s manufacturing processes. For example, sensors generate alerts when engines used in certain production lines fail to function.
For any manufacturer that wants to maximize the benefits of embracing IoT, Teske deemed access to resources for analyzing data gathered via Internet-connected technology key to its success. Even more important, however, is “getting the analysts in sync” with the individuals responsible for incorporating data collection capabilities into whatever is being produced. Involving analysts at the outset of any project allows collected data to be structured correctly, giving manufacturers “a fighting chance” to properly analyze it and “a fighting chance to turn data into the information that becomes valuable to the user.”