For all industries and businesses, the future is digital. With increased access to low-cost mobile applications available in recent years, coupled with technologies such as blockchain and cloud computing, more companies have the low-cost tools, and the increased knowledge of technology, to shift software into new paradigms. Additionally, cloud computing has reached consumer stability and maturity, setting a foundation for increased movement towards as-a-service software offerings. The benefits of SaaS (Software as a Service) include quicker implementation and deployment, lower overall total cost of ownership, and earlier product releases, as well as the flexibility to “try-before-you-buy”. This applies to a number of industries, and in the scale industry, the situation is no different.
A look at history. With the advent of electronic scales came the foundation for weighing with improved data collection. Information was now in digital form and this provided a path to graphical displays and spreadsheet calculations. Over time, as technology became less expensive and more familiar, integrated devices were developed to improve processes by collecting process data and storing that data in databases. These same databases provided a structured and common method of storing the data, in addition to a foundation for quick reference and sharing, which lead to integrated scales and all their ancillary databases communicating with business systems.
But in the past few years, they’ve come even further. Now, we can see that scale software has evolved from stand-alone scales to software that connects networked devices. The benefits of this evolution are far-reaching. Digital scale information is now available to be shared with many devices via databases, integrated APIs, and more common connectivity technology like ethernet. Scale data is now linked to existing and new software to provide applications that are considered business “smart.” Scale indicators are becoming more sophisticated and have improved speeds and capabilities. From simple weight displays to advanced process control and computing power, a well-designed system provides a method of improved performance, simple configuration, and ease of use.
The sharing of data made possible by software also has a multiplying affect. Different departments and personnel, within or outside an organization, can view the same data to improve areas of scheduling, purchasing, order fulfilment, process improvement, continuous improvement and managerial decision making. The net effect is improved processes, increased visibility, and greater profitability.
With new capabilities provided by software innovations, scale information can be validated, conditional decisions can be made, and as a result, operations are improved. The level of connectivity facilitated by modern scale software provides increased speed in monitoring critical weighments and processes, allowing businesses to make quick decisions and corrections that can maximize company profits.
This is all excellent, of course, and represents a huge improvement over scale technology of even a few years ago. But the best thing about software is that it will only keep improving. With AI (artificial intelligence) likely to be the next step in the software evolutionary chain, the software itself will begin making process decisions based on business rules.
Imagine the capabilities…As these types of connections mature, devices will have additional capabilities and applications — such as self-correcting processes, the ability to call for maintenance before a failure, becoming aware of the environment and users, — will result in an overall improved experience. And, of course, as more devices improve their capabilities, a more universal move to connected devices through the IoT (internet of things) will initiate improvements in monitoring KPIs and running businesses.
This all sounds nice, but what about measurables? What’s the ROI on this scale software technology? Fairbanks Scales does not keep specific client software ROI data. The reason for this is that there are several ways to evaluate ROI depending on the scope you adopt. Much of the time, our clients will use a straight comparison – process time versus time saved (column method). ROI may also be calculated on a project basis using CASE software (project method), or through measuring reduced risk in a process or method (risk reduction method), or by measuring improved quality (quality method). However the ROI is computed, though, the ROI of software in scales has been increasing continuously over the last few years. Research suggests that the average return on every dollar spent on software realizes an improvement of more than $13.01. (2014 Nucleus Research Study)
Scale technology has come a long way from it’s stand-alone, analog roots. The only way forward in scales is through the hyperconnected data landscape that software can create. Are you on board?