Manufacturing digital transformation

The next generation of manufacturing leaders is starting to embrace the cloud and make digital transformation its main initiative. Modern-day demand planning requires more attention to manufacturing customer experience (CX), encouraging sales and operations processes to evolve in response. 

Digital advances are showing their power in the manufacturing industry now more than ever. Industry 4.0’s influence is reshaping how things are made and exposing the demand to strengthen manufacturing operations and CX. 

There are changes needed to accommodate where manufacturing is trending. The digitization of manufacturing will take the computers and automation of the third industrial revolution and enhance it with smart and autonomous systems fueled by data and machine learning—leaving future-ready manufacturers primed and ready for sales and operations planning (S&OP) innovation.

The Pandemic’s Aftermath 

COVID-19 has affected manufacturers in nearly every sector, highlighting the need for an increase in machinery, tightened processes, and better tracking systems. 

Industries that are thriving—technology, health care, home remodeling, and shipping materials among others—have experienced a significant increase in demand, therefore driving up demand for manufacturers to increase production of related products and equipment. 

While the pandemic affected manufacturers’ entire supply chains, supplier and production capacities bore the brunt of it, exposing more antiquated systems and an industry ripe for disruption. But adoption of technology solutions to help has been slow, largely due to a lack of perceived value as well as primitive technology infrastructures and hesitancy to implement. 

After this past year, the impact felt on manufacturers will leave behind fundamental changes that will need to be addressed. 

Why Manufacturing CX?

One such change is the connection between profit and CX. More than half of manufacturing organizations are finding that product alone is making it harder to compete. Because of this challenge, 86 percent of manufacturing customer experience professionals believe CX is a competitive differentiator.

Why? Customer demands for faster deliveries, greater choices, and instant gratification are apparent more than ever. Satisfying those demands will require manufacturers to adapt quickly, either by innovating new products or modifying existing systems. One example would be offering customers the flexibility to customize products, therefore implementing a system that can handle such variations.

Leveraging reliable components such as cloud computing, advanced robotics, and lower-cost 3-D printing will optimize manufacturing with a direct connection to the manufacturing customer experience. As machines become smarter over time, they access and share more data across their network, making for better use of analytics and deeper insight into the customer that will drive smarter decision making. 

What might seem like a defensive play with manufacturers on their heels scrambling to catch up with demand is actually a needed push for growth and evolution within the supply chain. 

Improving Process by Digitizing S&OP

As manufacturers navigate the changed landscape, they must adapt by changing systems and processes that they have grown accustomed to. Once manufacturers take control over their production processes, they’ll gain control and visibility into the real relationship between production and demand. Over half of manufacturers anticipate permanent changes in sales capabilities and customer service as remote selling, ecommerce, self-service, and other ways of doing business take hold. 

Gone are the days of leaving revenue on the table. In fact, 81 percent of manufacturers say they need both new approaches and new tools for accurate forecasting. Rather than ordering raw materials, feeding them into production lines, and hoping for the best, with the right technology, manufacturers can have precise accounting of the yield that a given order will provide. This translates to improved tailoring of their sourcing to future demand. It creates synergy between buyers’ needs and their own operational workflows.

Supply chain issues have their own challenges. Core systems are in place, but there are gaps in service and sales. Oftentimes, manufacturers don’t know who their end users are. The process of getting the customer is well defined, but nurturing them once they are a customer can be improved. This is why manufacturing customer experience is so important.

Access to the right data can create a process after the purchase—one where the manufacturer knows who the customer is and can help facilitate post-sale practices such as registering serial numbers and generating technical support software updates.

Omni-channel communications options can also help. Customers now expect to interact in a variety of ways, including online chat/live support, social platforms, mobile chat, video support, and more. This is where a platform such as Salesforce can play an impactful role—adding in a customer support and service process in conjunction with a sales and fulfillment process to really close the loop by digitally engaging with customers. 

Today’s digital revolution requires a certain inertia that needs to be overcome, and a longstanding industry like manufacturing is ready to adopt such technologies.  More and more newcomers to the industry, who are least resistant to change and technology, will help evangelize the need for such a platform. It’s an undertaking with benefits that far outweigh the reluctance of well-established manufacturers. 

Streamlining operations with smart technology and data insights puts the human operator back where they belong — raising productivity through fewer errors, higher output, and improved quality, safety, and speed. Using the right value chain will help manufacturers uplevel their processes to thrive in this change. 

See how Forcivity can help enhance your manufacturing operations while building meaningful relationships with channel partners through the right CRM solution. 

Steve Baines