Technology is leading us to a resource revolution

Technology is leading us to a resource revolution

A few years ago the hype was around the cloud revolution – talk of moving to cloud was radical and being touted as the new frontier. Today, it is common place and we are now ironing out the security issues and other limitations.

Big players have emerged to swallow or break smaller suppliers, and niche providers have found their place too. In a few more years it will be the only sensible choice for our servers and central business systems.

The key driver for cloud will be low-cost computing power, other drivers will be environmental impact and (believe it or not) security for SMEs.

McKinsey and Company recently published an article on the resource revolution discussing how we may be about to face the next industrial revolution as technology drives vastly different productivity in how we consume resources.

Of course, this trend is driven by the need to reduce cost in everything we do in business and to find new ways to drive margin and profit in competitive times.

McKinsey talk about five keys to ‘winning the revolution’, and these are:

  • Substituting low-cost, highly available materials for scarce and expensive commodities
  • Optimisation through embedded software in resource-intensive industries to improve production and consumption cycles
  • Virtualisation of processes so they no longer happen in the real world
  • Circularity, which is essentially finding a new value for a consumed item
  • Waste elimination by finding better designs for products and services

This is certainly going to play out in large businesses and I am excited by the work that is now being done and will have an impact over the years ahead.

If I was looking for a new direction right now this would be the most exciting area to seek as a specialisation, because I hate to see the abuse of natural resources. The first key to success in this revolution is to identify the waste, although lean manufacturing methodologies have been trying to do this for years.

We are a very wasteful society and yet there are billions of dollars to be made from waste reduction, recycling, reuse and redesign of process.

Reducing the cost of how we consume resources is not a trivial exercise but it begins, like anything we want to improve, with measurement of the status quo. This is where business intelligence tools are beginning to drive the questions on how other technologies can be used to make improvements. The process of improving anything is ‘plan measure improve’ (PMI), and this is not a once-off action, it is an ongoing cycle where after each improvement a new plan is derived and a new cycle of measurement is carried out to find the next best improvement.

I believe there is a very big opportunity in this for small innovators to find the waste in their own business, reduce the waste and then teach larger businesses how to do it on a bigger scale. The need here is for smart independent thinkers to find new ways to do things. Often large companies are too entrenched in internal politics and ‘the way things are done around here’ to see the innovation under their noses.

The key to much of this improvement is first gaining a good view of the measurement of what is happening today. This will form the base line for observing the improvements.

This is part of why business intelligence is at the top of the CIO agenda this year. Leading businesses are realising they have the benchmark data and need to manage that before they start to invest in the change that will lead to larger profits. At the forefront of these projects is data visualisation, which is why it is exciting to see iDashboards launching the Australian Cloud Platform of their data visualisation product that allows local businesses to create and share meaningful company data in powerful ways to drive the insight required for change to happen and be seen.

The potential of the tools from Microsoft, with Power BI now built into their Office 365 offering, lends itself to preparing data for such shared dashboards and is just one of many cloud solutions that can create data input for the visualisation tool.

Once measurement is under control and reporting is taken care of, new technologies can be implemented and the change in results measured quickly to allow fine tuning of process and equipment to get better outputs. Technologies that will then come to the front are Bio Technologies, Nano Technology, Robotics and high-speed centralised data processing in zero waste IT environments. Then better mapping of brain functions and human performance envelopes will lead to job design and work environment controls for better outputs. Not science fiction, science future just around the hype corner.

What are you doing in your business to measure the waste in terms of process, cost of materials, consistency of output, cost of sale, cost of management and other changeable factors that could lead to cycles of improvement with a little good planning?

If you are in a commoditised service business or a business that consumes expensive commodities there are new technologies that can dramatically reduce your costs and make you an industry leader again.

I for one am looking forward to the resource revolution. I believe it will create some of the biggest opportunities of our generation. Viva la revolution!

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