Fast prototyping to solve business problems with IoT

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The first step to initiate a digital transformation journey is to find new ways to solve real business problems using emerging technologies. For ThoughtWorks, innovation needs to always be at the service of the organization, contributing to the evolution of services, products, and processes.

Yara is a global company specialized in developing products and solutions for the agricultural industry. Founded in 1905, the company now has more than 15,000 employees and is present in 160 countries.

In 2013, Yara consolidated its leadership in Brazil acquiring Bunge's fertilizing business, with the local operation representing around 30% of the whole organization. Based in Porto Alegre (RS), and with offices in São Paulo, today the company has two factories in Rio Grande (RS) and Ponta Grossa (PR), 32 mixing unities and one distribution center, located in several states.

The company had the challenge to accurately measure inventories. This type of project requires the development of customized solutions in a quick and efficient way, minimizing possible risks and failing fast to learn with each new attempt. Besides a deep technical knowledge, it was essential to work in partnership with the client, using design and collaboration methodologies that allowed us to collect the best ideas and to test them in an agile and iterative way.

We didn't have a ready solution in the shelf, so we knew we would have to exploit several different ideas.
— Adriane Lemos, User Experience Designer, ThoughtWorks

In order to achieve this result, we initiated an inception process together with Yara's team. This was the first time in the engagement where we faced the challenge and acquired the maximum amount of information in record time.

Following this, we moved on to an ideation exercise, where we create a diverse and democratic environment to encourage creative ideas that are capable of solving business problems. The people included developers, product strategists, usability specialists, business consultants, clients, and operators who were thinking together to create, prioritize and come up with the best solutions.

I think that this process can bring in more collaboration, not having any restrictions, being an open world, where we can express any type of idea.
— Bruno Farensena, Digital Architecture Analyst, Yara

It was at this moment that we imagined several different solutions and were able to solve the same problem and could ensure more efficiency to the Yara's inventory measurement process. Then, we used specific methodologies and chose the more promising ones to enter into fast cycles of prototyping.

We identified that the most suitable solution would involve the use of several leading technologies in a connected measuring object that would use infrared rays to accurately measure the piles of fertilizers stored in the Yara factories, and then send the data collected to a computer which would automate the calculations.

To validate this answer, we developed a functional prototype using parts of a video game and software developed by our team. We tested the application in the field and validated its efficiency, co-creating the embryo of a new digital product quickly, using agile methodologies and our experience of more than 20 years working with emerging technologies.

We accomplished this in a simple way, without a high cost, in a short time, and results with an accuracy of 97-98%. That gave us the conviction that we can evolve into one product.
— Rafael Tabasnik, Operation Performance Coordinator, Yara