It’s not only the COVID-19 pandemic that transformed the investments and priorities of manufacturing companies. The industry has been constantly digitized and modernized in the past few decades. After the first three industrial revolutions, now we are entering Industry 4.0 which comes along with a complete digital transformation of production processes. What are the top manufacturing investments in 2021 and the major technology-related needs?
According to “The Future of Customer Experience in Manufacturing” report published by the Harvard Business Review, in 2021 manufacturing companies will definitely develop a new customer-centric approach, and CX (customer experience) will become their top priority. One of the tools that will help them to achieve their updated goals is data analysis. Customer behaviour is rapidly and constantly changing, mostly due to the dynamic development of digital commerce channels. Understanding the trends is simply critical to track and follow their purchasing decisions and preferences.
How can manufacturers improve data analysis? For the last few years, many companies have been coping with disconnected systems to fully analyze and understand the market trends. According to Harvard Business Review, 58% of manufacturers are now planning to improve this by investing in enterprise solutions collecting customer information. They also note a need to integrate customer-related data with other systems, such as ERP or SCM. Moreover, 47% are also up to investing in intelligent analysis and predictive modeling.
The manufacturing industry is obviously no stranger to technology and innovations. For the last few years, the companies have been constantly implementing and developing software, hardware, robots and sensor-based solutions among others. Why do they decide to invest in them?
It’s a competitive pressure that forces manufacturers to upgrade their productivity. Collecting data, related to both customer behaviour and production efficiency, is only the first step to gain a competitive advantage. The next one is process automation that leads to reduced costs, and an enhanced OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) and production speed. Improvement of those metrics allows not only to increase the volume of production but also to retain the resources required to complete more priority tasks. It means that automation, combined with lean methodology, MES, AI and IoT solutions, obviously leads to higher business efficiency and an increased profit.
However, what are the other examples of automation in manufacturing? Except for the obvious connotation with the production process itself, it can also be applied in customer service. Implementing digital tools enabling customers to receive instantly generated quotes is a huge step forward in increasing their engagement and frequency of their purchases.
The COVID-19 pandemic has obviously influenced the demand and supply in a number of product categories. Many companies struggled with disturbed shipments of raw materials caused by international restrictions. On the other hand, some of them needed to cope with an enormous increase in demand for particular products which could not be covered even by a temporary increase in the intensity of production.
However, the pandemic changed not only the production process itself but also the communication. Manufacturing companies, exactly like hundreds of offline industries in the world, were suddenly forced to find new ways of reaching out to customers. Many of the businesses required an instant digital transformation and major investments in developing online communication channels, both internal and customer-facing.
This is how, according to the Harvard Business Review, 82% of manufacturing companies were forced to change the way they interact and engage with customers. The most common digital tools that they implemented are:
- video conferencing software
- shared collaboration spaces
- remote trainings
- remote operational support
- cloud solutions.
According to Harvard Business Review, 26% of manufacturing executives are planning to invest in personalized products and services in the next 24 months. What is the reason behind it? As you may assume, their goal is also related to their new consumer-centric strategy and following their expectations.
Sounds simple? In fact, it’s not simple at all. Customers provided with modern e-commerce and digital tools tend to be more demanding in terms of product features. This makes product personalization one of the strongest trends in manufacturing in 2021. This is why companies are planning to boost their investments in enhancing the consumer experience. It's clearly unavoidable if gaining a competitive advantage is their long-term goal.
The number of available e-commerce stores grows rapidly. Along with this trend, we can also notice an increase in abandoned shopping carts. Moreover, customers tend not to come back even if they were satisfied with the previous purchase. Why does it happen? To put it simply, they cannot recall the store in which they placed their prime order. They might have forgotten their name, e-mail address or phone number, and the chance that they will find the same retailer just by googling the product is very low. This challenges e-commerce vendors to keep their customers loyal and engaged even a few weeks or months after the purchase.
How to accomplish this goal? At IT Solar we help our clients to find the right solutions. For example, one of our customers runs a brewery. They have already received orders from restaurants that claimed to be satisfied with the purchase. However, they never came back. This is why our client was in desperate need of a solution that would keep their clients more loyal and engaged. Eventually, they reached out to us, and we provided them with a SalesForce-based solution enabling proactive communication and building a relationship with the previous purchasers.
Dynamic development of the manufacturing industry is not a novelty. However, right now it's turning its course in the direction that was never a priority beforehand. Are you curious about where the modern trends will take the industry in the upcoming years? We are, indeed! Let us know in the comment.