Every company needs to utilize modern technologies, processes, and holistic business models to their fullest extent, and manufacturing companies are no exception. Hardwood floors, panel siding, and counter-tops may disappear into the background for some families, making not only the product seem the same across brands but also making different manufacturing companies appear to be the same across the board.
In our contemporary technologically-focused environment, embracing the “digital business transformation” may be the reason you’re able to distinguish yourself as different from the rest, reach more clients, implement methods to increase efficiency and cost-reduction, and keep your customers happy and loyal.
It can even ensure constant, coherent, and even exciting communication between your company and your customers, employees, and partners via the Internet. Furthermore, it can bring together all parts of your business into a holistic model that vastly improves every component of your business.
What exactly is the “digital business transformation?” It may seem at first glance like meaningless-by-virtue-of-having-too-many-meanings jargon, but it’s actually a specific locution describing a specific, historical moment in the age of hyper-connectedness, rapid technological innovation, and digital importance.
It is about the transformation of a business with respect to the presence of technologies dominating our personal, public, and professional lives, and with regards to the socio-cultural and economic changes of our times.
Think about Trump’s presidency and the focus on protectionist and anti-outsourced manufacturing policy focuses, about increasing automation and subsequent human cost, about customer-facing models, and about the rapid acceleration of technological products, services, and processes.
All these are changing the market and the way consumers behave, and the manufacturing industry needs to keep up with these changes.
What’s important is that it’s nothing new, but it’s accelerating at a rate that most companies are not keeping pace with, and embracing it can make all the difference. The manufacturing industry may be diverse, but that doesn’t mean all companies are keeping pace with change.
The manufacturing industry is leading the digital transformation in many respects, including implementing new technologies for manufacturing that increase efficiency, cost reduction, speed of production, Internet of Things, establishing IT/OT departments, and implementing countless other innovations.
Embracing digital transformation methods can set you apart, result in cost-reduction, increase in efficiency, retain clients, and develop your employees. We have outlined four major themes for taking advantage of modern technologies and geo-political and macro-economic trends to streamline your process, model, and establishing your company as an industry disruptor.
1: DEVELOPING A HOLISTIC AND VISION-FOCUSED BUSINESS APPROACH
For most companies, a holistic picture is missing and the separate parts of the process, and traditional approaches, bog down a company and prevent it from fully integrating into the digital revolution.
It’s important to understand the entire process of your business, from the gathering of raw materials, to production, to advertising, to consumer usage. Utilize methods such as customer mapping, developing company culture, and design thinking to connect all the parts of every component of your company.
Consider how employees feel and the impact that has on efficiency. Think about macro-economic trends and how that should impact your strategy.
Implement experiential moments for your customers to connect them to the importance of your goods. Emphasize the importance of keeping manufacturing nationally by taking advantage of the consumer trends of “buying local.”
Perhaps most importantly, consider how manufacturing should not just be about physical production, but, increasingly, has been about digitizing and the digital presence of your products. It’s important to exist in both the physical and digital realm, and to see them as intricately intertwined.
In addition to the above and on a more general level, consider investing in improved IT/OT systems to increase efficiency and allow for cost-reduction.
2: TAKING ADVANTAGE OF HUMAN TALENT AND ENABLING WORKERS IN THE AGE OF AUTOMATION
Success starts at home, and manufacturing companies are no exception. In the age of automation, traditional production processes in manufacturing normally carried out by human labor is increasingly performed by automated machines and the need for that human labor is diminishing.
Instead, it’s important to focus not just on the labor employees perform, but who they are and what they can individually contribute to your company. We haven’t been able to automate creativity and personality (yet!) and that’s the advantage your workers bring to the table.
Utilize their individual talents and respect the differences in workers: some may be introverts, which means they should be encouraged to take on individual projects, and others may be more inclined to group projects. Encourage community knowledge sharing and community building by fostering a work environment that encourages and develops its employees.
Take advantage of the digital transformation by implementing means of speeding up communication between employees, and new HR methods to gauge how employees are feeling. Make sure they want to come to work and that their talents are being utilized. Allow them to contribute to the holistic model of your business, about new ideas to connect to consumers, and individual talents of social media maintenance, advertising ideas, and customer experience.
Also consider the impact of where work is done–consider allowing employees to work outside of work, as they might prefer a different environment to be at their best. Don’t always assume that workers work their best in an office or work environment. Encourage them to engage with your product so that it’s not an abstract thing-being-produced but an entire experience.
3: IMPROVING CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE AND CLIENT-FACING THINKING
After employees come clients, and the customer experience is everything. Customers are increasingly no longer caring just about the product itself but their experience and relationship with a brand as a whole. They want to be wowed by packaging, by the speed of customer service, by the experience of using a product, and by the feel-good experience of buying local.
What some people seem to forget is that manufactured goods like hardwood floors or cabinet panels, at one point in time, were considered technological innovations like the iPhone, Internet of Things, or the Amazon Fire Stick are today. Because they’ve been around for a while, people tend to forget about the vast improvements they bring into our lives.
It’s important to recognize this in the context of today, and to implement strategies to ensure that customers see your products not just as products, but as an entire experience and service you’re providing.
Embracing the digital transformation, in many respects, is not just about embracing and implementing new technologies into the manufacturing production process. It’s largely focused on consumer behaviors and trends, geo-political conditions, employee opinions, partner interest, and so on.
Instead of focusing on the phone as technology, understand the way phones are used by consumers to browse and experience products they can’t see in person. Improve and streamline your service based on what customers want and the experience they want.
Consumers live in a hyper-connected world, and you need to take full advantage of that by connecting to them through every possible avenue. They want direct-to-home services and the ease of engagement.
4: MAINTAINING A STRONG DIGITAL PRESENCE AND COMMUNICATION
Knowing what your holistic message is, your company culture and internal/external brand, and the customer experience is crucial to ensuring a strong presence in both the physical and digital realms.
Embracing the digitization of physical goods and informatics/big data systems not only improves and extends the customer experience, but also reduces waste in the manufacturing process. Build virtual tours that show your products. Invest in a good website, and social media accounts. Use digital technologies to connect your employees, keep your partners updated, and ensure positive touch points with your clients at every point in the buying process.
Digital marketing certainly isn’t the only component of the digital transformation, but it is an important part of the consumer experience. Don’t just stop at changing the way customers see your products, brand, and process, however – change your products as well. Create digital twins by digitizing physical assets for testing purposes to ensure that your manufactured goods are performing like they should.
Turn your goods into software that customers can engage with without having to leave their house if they don’t want to, or encouraging them to leave their house to see your product in person. Better yet, make them feel like they’re engaging with you in person through the internet.
Utilizing the digital transformation can let you tap into new revenue streams and locations you might not otherwise have reached – the internet makes paths everywhere, and don’t have to limit your manufacturing goods to traditional methods of delivery, experience, or production.
DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION AND BEYOND
Digital transformation shouldn’t be seen by your company as just a set of technological processes and innovations to implement, but a series of challenges and obstacles your company needs to first even recognize as challenges and obstacles, and then respond to with agility and speed to stay competitive in the modern world.
However, the IDC predicts that by 2018 only 30% of manufacturers investing in digital transformation will be able to benefit because they are held back by outdated business models and technology, but that by 2020, 50% of manufacturers will derive business value from the integration of digital transformation implementation.
Don’t you want to be a part of that 50% as quickly as possible? Don’t you want cost and waste reduction, access to new markets, more customers, digital products, new product features, and being a part of the stream of hyper-connectedness to the world? Don’t you want to go down in industry history as a technological disruptor, and be a part of those who make the rules for the game?
Of course you do.