Established in 1886, Robert Bosch GMBH has always been a maker of "things". Things such as automotive parts, white goods, hand tools, industrial equipment and more recently devices that enable connectivity between the virtual and physical world. So how does a 142 year old business stay relevant in today's world?
Gavin Smith started by challenging us with a quote from Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric - "if the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near". And the rate of change we are all experiencing at the moment is astronomical - in 2012 it was estimated that there were 4 billion devices connected to the internet, in 2017 that number had grown to more than 8 billion. By 2020 the number of connected devices globally is expected to be 30 billion, and is forecast to grow to 100 billion by 2025 at which time the internet could be generating revenue close to USD 10 trillion.
Aware of the rapid rate of growth in the internet Robert Bosch (GMBH) CEO Dr Volmar Denner set a strategic target for all of their electronic product categories to be internet-enabled by 2020. Whilst most of us have many devices (computers, mobile phones, cars, activity trackers) already connected to the internet how could it make sense to have all electronic product categories internet enabled?
By the late 1990s and the early 2000s, the idea of connecting home appliances to the internet (Internet of Things) was seen as the next big thing. In June 2000, the world’s first internet refrigerator was launched but proved to be an unsuccessful because consumers had seen it as unnecessary and expensive. But eighteen years later it is not so hard to imagine a future (for example) where products you bring into your house would be scanned and then analysed by your white goods to enable replacements to be automatically re-supplied when needed.
Gavin gave us the example of an internet-enabled washing machine that could log the size and number of washes you do each week in order to predict when you would need more washing powder, and order it on-line for delivery to your door.
He also described a future in manufacturing that would enable consumers to design their own products and have them custom made in internet enabled factories. Industry 4.0 is a name given to the trend towards automation and data exchange in manufacturing and fosters what has been called a "smart factory". Within modular structured smart factories, cyber-physical systems communicate via the Internet of Things and cooperate with each other and with humans in real-time both internally and across externally provided services.
Established as a wholly owned subsidiary of Robert Bosch (GMBH) in 1954, Robert Bosch (Australia) generates revenues of more than A$850 million per annum in Oceania, and employs over 1,400 associates. Their headquarters and technical centre is in Clayton, Victoria. Robert Bosch (Australia) activities are operated through six wholly owned subsidiaries and include Mobility Solutions, Industry Technology, Consumer Goods and Energy and Building Technology.
Gavin's presentation made us all aware of an emerging world of the "Internet of Things" and every person and every business will feel the impact.