Lexmark CIO: Continuous learning is key to digital transformation

Brad Clay, who is upgrading everything from how Lexmark replenishes printer toner to how employees consume corporate information, says the company must learn fast and learn continuously.

Lexmark CIO: Continuous learning is key to digital transformation
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If Brad Clay gets the formula right, Lexmark printers will no longer go thirsty, running out of their precious toner during critical business tasks. Leveraging machine learning (ML) and internet of things (IoT), Lexmark's printers will soon predict when their business-critical liquid will run out and automatically order more before leaving customers high and dry, says Clay, Lexmark's CIO.

Printers typically warn corporate staff when their cartridges are down to their last 10 percent of ink or toner, but an uptick in use can quickly drain supplies before they can be replenished. Clay says his team is building proprietary algorithms that read information firing from sensors to track quantities and usage rates, as well as quarterly close or other timelines that precipitate spikes in use, to ensure that fresh toner arrives the day it's needed. Just-in-time replacement can also help curb waste associated with replacing cartridges before they're empty.

"It's not just the printer tells you that you need toner, but using machine learning to accurately predict exactly when the printer needs a new cartridge,” says Clay, who is leveraging IoT and cloud technology from Microsoft for the initiative. "The optimization is to deliver not just toner to the printer, but the day that the cartridge is 100 percent empty."

Smarter printers are par for the course in this new era of automation, where algorithms, sensors and robotics are emerging as go-to tools for business process optimization. IoT adoption is growing in large part because increasingly affordable sensors can yield data that affords companies significant business insights. Global spending on IoT endpoints and services approached $2 trillion in 2017, Gartner says.

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