Some of my clients think that the Internet of Things (IoT), "smart factories", and "digital twins" are technologies for companies ready to spend tens of millions over years. As described by The Wall Street Journal, the experience of Unilever proves otherwise. It provides three learnings for companies embarking on a journey to build a "smart factory":

1. Existing plants with old equipment can be "digitized." Just connect the Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) or USB of your old equipment to the cloud and let algorithms digitize your old plants.

2. It takes weeks (not years) to deliver benefits. Unilever began realizing $2.8M in annual run-rate savings at a plant making Dove soap in Brazil within four weeks.

3. Small, successful digital initiatives are more likely to generate excitement and secure organizational buy-in. A small (and successful) start at Unilever demonstrated immediate results and allowed Unilever's team to roll out "digital twins" to eight plants across North America, South America, Europe, and Asia.

If your company hasn't yet started its digital journey, I hope this article shows you that it doesn't take years and millions of dollars to see tangible benefits. As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.