Digital transformation in manufacturing - Getting started - Part 2

August 23, 2017
In previsous’s blog post, we covered why now is the time to focus on disruptive technologies and steps 1-3 in the journey to digital disruption. Today, we pick up the story, starting with point 4….

4. Leverage sensors to protect equipment value

The use of smart sensors has transformed the production process for manufacturers in all industries, from discrete manufacturing to Food & Beverage companies. Smart sensors can be used to monitor machine performance and identify anomalies which may predict impending failure or maintenance needs. Acting as an early warning system, sensors can help keep machines running and extend the life-cycle of critical equipment. Sensors can also be used to monitor conditions throughout the supply chain, especially important for fresh ingredients in F&B which require refrigeration.

5. Optimize the marketing and sales processes

Marketing and sales are increasing important for manufacturers. Many organizations, though, are still using old-school marketing tactics, missing opportunities, and losing market share to upstart, aggressive competition. Transitioning to a digital marketing approach is an important part of the overall modernization strategy.

Digital marketing is marketing elevated to a science, using modern technologies and digital tactics for aligning with prospects. Modern analytics, and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions organizations understand the customer profile, target buyers when and where they are most likely to make a decision, and track prospects through their sales cycles.

Business-to- Business (B2B) purchases are often complex, carefully considered decisions. Marketing tactics used in business-to-consumer marketing (B2C) won’t begin to address the complex sales cycle of products and services used in industrial-commercial applications. Tracking the extensive marketing efforts throughout the decision-cycle, therefore, is essential in order to maximize investment of marketing dollars—and efforts. Random campaigns will only waste time and can potentially annoy prospects who don’t want to be bothered with a sales pitch that is not tailored to their needs. Prospects expect the manufacturer to understand their pains, needs, and what products and services will solve the problem. Generic messages and hype won’t work for today’s savvy buyer.

Providing customized proposals and quotes, sometimes with detailed design specs and CAD drawings, is typically part of the sales cycle. What was once a time consuming process can now be streamlined and highly automated with Configure Price Quote solutions which use rules-based parameters to configure variations of the product design and determine pricing.

In the Food & Beverage Industry, digital marketing is even more critical as companies need to align with prospects early and often. Understanding the consumer’s taste preferences as well as desires for clean labels, healthy, non-GMO, or organic offerings will shape the R&D process as well as development of new products. Marketing tailored to niche markets will help build demand for specialized offerings.

6. Support field technicians with advanced tools

Many industries have an in-field component, whether it is technicians to repair installed equipment at the customer’s site, or crews to service vending machines, or in-plant maintenance crews who keep process operations running smoothly, from dairy to distillery. In each case, organizations can benefit from new technologies which make the technician more productive and well-informed, helping him to resolve maintenance and service orders in less time with fewer trips back to the service center for parts or tools. With a current shortage of skilled technicians, enhancing the ability of each technician is more and more important. Some modern digital applications in field service include:

-Drones to inspect assets in remote or dangerous locations

-Virtual reality environments to train new technicians or introduce prototype products

-Live video communication between field technicians and product design engineers from the field

-Voice activated access to the ERP for service history, parts inventory, and warranty status so the field technician can keep his eyes and hands on the task.

-Machine learning and extended knowledge base which can track, learn, and remember solutions. If the same problem arises in the future, the system can draw on past experiences and suggest a solution, even projecting estimated time and cost.

7. Go for anytime, anywhere business

Mobile solutions, online portals, and remote connectivity are all essential for modern business applications. As field technicians service equipment in the field they need access to data in order to make well informed decisions and increase first-call resolution rates. Checking service history, parts inventory status, and warranty and service contract agreements will help the technicians make timely repairs and provide sound advice to the customer.

Connectivity also helps workers who are always on the move, from managers to sales people. Companies can make it easy for personnel to do business from wherever they’re located, whenever the need arises. Whether it’s a sales rep who needs to update invoices in real time, a customer who wants to track an order, or a procurement specialist who needs to modify a purchase order on the fly, integrating mobile devices with core software helps the organization work more efficiently.

Concluding thoughts; why the urgency

In today’s marketplace, technology simply can’t be an afterthought. It must be a part of the company’s overall strategy. Digital transformation is impacting businesses of every kind, size, and location. Manufacturing is no exception. Because of the high-value and complexity of equipment used in the process and increasing global competition, modernizing operations takes on added significance. Doing nothing is high risk. Muddling along with legacy software, manual systems, and outdated tools is a direct route to obsolescence.

Manufacturers in both discrete and process applications now have the opportunity to jump start growth. They can leverage modern technology in order to better align with customers, optimize the use of sensors and data, and streamline activities. End-to-end visibility throughout the organization—and to the extended value chain—provides one of the most significant opportunities. Extending this connectivity further to include the customer also helps to align with customers and build value and loyalty.

Now is the time to plan a modernization strategy which ties together all seven of the entry points listed in part one and part two of this blog post. A comprehensive plan will ensure that the various components are compatible and contribute to the high level objectives and priorities. With system-wide modernization in place, the organization can embark on building new customer-centric revenue streams, adding service offerings, and turning data into tools for growth and customer alignment. It is a new era for manufacturing. Companies can embrace digital tactics or be left on the sidelines as the competition rushes past.

Learn more about the “Nine Starting Points to Digital Disruption” in this whitepaper by R “Ray” Wang from Constellation Research.
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