BreakThrough Study Idea

How to promote DX in SMEs, learning from in-house IoT adoption success storiesMikio Aoyama

<Series 3 (Total 4 series)>


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Digital transformation (hereafter, DX) is the key to the future growth of companies. How should SMEs put DX into practice? Based on what the specialist Mikio Aoyama told us, we will present examples of manufacturing SMEs successfully implementing DX on their own.

Responding to demands for ramped-up production by increasing efficiency using in-house IoT

No matter how important DX is, our company can't afford to spend millions or tens of millions of yen on IT. Many small and medium-sized business owners have this concern. However, if productivity can be greatly improved by in-house IoT adoption costing in the tens of thousands of yen, many companies will want to try it. An example of such a company is the Aichi Prefecture auto parts maker Asahi Tekko Co., Ltd.

"When asked by a major customer to increase production, the company decided not to add a new production line, but to raise productivity by using data to improve utilization rates. For that, you need to get more accurate data. So, the company decided to change the production data measurements previously performed by the person in charge of the production line to IoT-driven automatic monitoring."

However, commercially available systems are expensive and the company couldn't find anything that fits its equipment. Asahi Tekko decided to procure sensors and systems on its own and adopt IoT on its own.

Basic IoT adoption from 10,000 yen is doable

Preparing for in-house IoT adoption, the company started by purchasing in Akihabara the educational computer "Raspberry Pi" that costs several thousand yen a piece, an optical sensor for several dozen yen, and a magnetic sensor for several hundred yen.

"Raspberry Pi is used by elementary school students for the summer assignment they choose, and the use of this technology for basic IoT is spreading globally. The company linked the sensors and this computer to the production equipment, and learned programming while setting up the system themselves and starting IoT adoption."

It started with accurately tracking one line's production volume and the downtime of the line. Based on the results, measures were taken to shorten downtime and reduce cycle time, expanding the results to other lines and significantly increasing the production volume. The system is now being further expanded, and the implementation of AI is also under consideration. Delivery time has been greatly reduced without sacrificing quality.

"When talking to companies, many people are surprised that IoT can be easily adopted for less than 10,000 yen. You can try this basic IoT with very little investment and see how it turns out. I want companies to know that this technique is possible."

A system that demonstrates successful IoT adoption in the manufacturing industry. Provided by i Smart Technologies Corporation, which was launched by Asahi Tekko to provide its own expertise in IoT adoption to other companies.


DX increases added value for agriculture as well

The progress of DX is not limited to manufacturing, sales, and the service industry. In fields such as agriculture, which supposedly have little to do with the adoption of IT, efforts are being made to increase the added value of crops by using data.

"Sowa Kajuen Co., Ltd. in Wakayama Prefecture, where Kishu Arida mandarin oranges are cultivated, uses the cloud to manage and analyze data such as soil water content obtained with sensors and the condition of farms filmed by drones. First, they measured various conditions related to cultivation to find out what factors make mandarin oranges with high sugar content, and they are making various efforts to help cultivate mandarin oranges with high sugar content."

The company is also focusing on the sixth industrialization, in which everything from production to processing and sales is performed. They have even succeeded in recruiting young talent to agriculture which has struggled for many years with finding young people to take over.

According to Mr. Aoyama, there are several key points to achieving DX in SMEs. The fourth and final article in the series presents these key points for DX success and a message to small and medium-sized business owners.

Series DX based on business goals and "three points" will allow SMEs to make further leaps forward

Series 1 Why should SMEs work on digital transformation (DX) now?
Series 2 The future of your company depends on achieving digital transformation (DX)
Series 3 How to promote DX in SMEs, learning from in-house IoT adoption success stories
Series 4 DX based on business goals and "three points" will allow SMEs to make further leaps forward

Mikio Aoyama
Professor, Department of Software Engineering, Faculty of Information Sciences and Engineering, Nanzan University / Chair of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry's "Study Group for Digital Transformation"

Completed the master's program at the Okayama University Graduate School of Engineering in 1980, then joined Fujitsu Limited. Worked on the development of a distributed processing communication software system. After two years as a visiting researcher at the University of Illinois, USA in 1986, he was became a professor in the Department of Information and Electronics Engineering at Niigata Institute of Technology in 1995, and a professor in the Department of Information and Telecommunication Engineering, Faculty of Mathematical Sciences and Information Engineering at Nanzan University in 2001. PhD (Engineering). He began researching DX in 2005 and assumed his current position in 2009. Chair of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry's "Study Group for Digital Transformation" in 2018

Coverage date December 25, 2019

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