In our consumer-centric society, product recall announcements grab headlines and attention. As their costs continue to climb, enterprises have weathered recent recalls with record-breaking costs that have soared into the billions. Beyond the bottom-line, product recalls can also be costly to people’s quality of life – an outcome that both companies and consumers are motivated to avoid.

Thankfully, the Internet of Everything (IoE) is on track to make the last product recall a reality.

Imagine a world where organizations can predict failures, patch code and remove parts from the supply chain before defective products reach consumers, completely preventing product recalls. What if issues could be fixed with wireless software updates so that consumers didn’t have to physically return and replace products?

Recently, I had the chance to discuss these ideas and more in a new Future of IT podcast episode with Matt Littlefield, president and principal analyst at LNS Research where we discussed how IoE is making the last product recall a reality.

From dynamic digitization to the importance of brand loyalty, Matt and I had several key takeaways for company leaders who are ready to make product recalls a thing of the past:

  1. Digitization of the entire production process must be dynamic.

From a manufacturing perspective, the cost to pay people to examine every product just isn’t feasible in today’s business environment. In the event of a product recall, figuring out which products are defective, which ones aren’t, and where the “breakdown” occurred can prove nearly impossible. But with the introduction of a digital process – for example, high-speed imaging that provides analytical feedback from connected devices – companies can respond much faster in the event of a product recall, or even use this feedback to prevent a recall from happening in the first place.

Right now, we lack traceability across processes, simply because not every product is connected to a network. But we have the technology on-hand to make this happen. And once more smart connected products are deployed, the processes we use to collect and analyze data must be dynamic. This is because time is never on anyone’s side when a defective product, component, or part is discovered. From creation to inspection to production and beyond – everything must be digitized and dynamic.

  1. IT and manufacturing must come together to apply analytics to production processes.

The Internet of Everything is all about the connections of people, process, data and things. But the key to tapping into the full potential of IoE is our ability to use the data it gives us to impact and change processes.

At many manufacturers, there seems to be an invisible line between IT and manufacturing teams. This situation must change if we want to use real-time data from connected sensors, devices, and products to anticipate quality control issues and ultimately eliminate product recalls. During our talk, Matt provided an amazing example of IT and manufacturing groups coming together in the pharmaceutical industry, with data coming from dispensing, labeling, and manufacturing systems laying the foundation for a fully traceable infrastructure.

Continued partnerships between IT and manufacturing – like Cisco’s venture with Rockwell – are tying analytics directly into manufacturing processes. And in the process, we’re able to reduce and eventually eliminate product recalls.

  1. Companies must remember that true values lies in people who will benefit from IoE innovations.

Consumers are very loyal to brands, especially ones that trust-worthy and value their people. And when you consider the vast number of products consumers use and rely on – from connected cars, connected streetlights and even connected devices – the costs of a product recall go far beyond a company’s wallet. We’re potentially talking about loss of life. By working to eliminate product recalls, we can aim to prevent these tragedies.

Connectivity is changing everything about how we work, play, and live. Businesses need to see beyond what we can connect and automate and keep a keen eye on how IoE innovations can impact our society. We must see the whole value that connections can provide. And we must use the data that connected devices provide us in a way that captures the experiences end-users have with them and remain transparent into how this knowledge is used. This adds value to the products consumers purchase and solidifies their loyalty to companies that use the information they receive to create the most reliable – and recall-free – products on the market.

For more insights about how we can make the last product recall possible, listen to the new Future of IT podcast episode with LNS Research’s Matt Littlefield. It’s available for free download on iTunes.

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Joseph M. Bradley

Global Vice President

Digital & IoT Advanced Services