In the past 5 years the acceleration of the digital transformation for manufacturers has been nothing short of awe-inspiring. Every few months advancements in managing big data, connecting equipment through the Internet of Things (IoT), serving customers with relationship software (CRM), and connecting through mobile technology open new doors. The question is, will employing new digital technology open the door to improved business or drained expenses.
Manufacturers need to choose the right strategies and tactics. Here are a few guideposts offered by experts at the Made for Manufacturers summit event titled Deciphering the Digital Transformation.
- Embrace the data – go beyond the ERP
- Use a consistent digital voice
- Organize your commercial engine – digitally
- Connect your industrial systems
Embrace the Data – Beyond the ERP
Business software has evolved to help you manage data like never before. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software is part of the infrastructure of nearly all manufacturers. However, installing an ERP is not enough. You have to go further.
The finance team should see how efficiently the money is flowing through the company. The production teams should see how product and labor is flowing through the shop floor. Sales should have tools to help manage complex product forecasts. Service staff should instantly see customer history so they can better serve.
You need to democratize the data through custom dashboards.
“The software collecting the data is generally not designed adequately to also analyze it,” says Paul Ausserer, CEO of Marquis Data. “In addition, the decision makers require information found in various systems and databases – both on premises and in the cloud. That’s when you take a step back, create an integrated data strategy, combine data from multiple sources, and design blended dashboards designed to truly help managers and staff make better decisions, faster. You have to democratize the data by putting the decision-making capabilities into the hands of the people who need to act on it.”
Data democratization is more than a catchy phrase. It’s a powerful business trend that can improve company performance.
Use a Consistent Digital Voice
The digital transformation has strong impact on the marketing world. Changes come rapidly. Today, most buyers move over 60% of the way along the buyer journey before ever contacting your company directly. How are they moving along the journey without talking to you? Digitally.
“Access to information has never been so easy,” says Jessica Harding, president of Keenspace Marketing. “Buyers make decisions about your brand quickly and you have to know how to break through the noise.”
Hundreds of choices are available to marketers regarding maximizing the effectiveness of their digital channels such as their website, blogs, email campaigns, white papers, webinars, and lead nurturing, just to name a few.
“The key to breaking through the noise is to start with the marketing fundamentals: powerful, effective messaging that resonates with your target market. Then you can manage your digital voice and create powerful integrated campaigns. Consistent messaging helps raise brand awareness and fill the top of the commercial funnel,” says Harding.
Organize Your Commercial Engine – Digitally
Manufacturers with strong commercial engine’s move projects through their funnels quickly. New leads are generated from the marketplace and efficiently move to becoming sales ready, sales projects close quickly to become customers, and new customers progress to the point of becoming loyal customers. Top manufacturers align their marketing, sales, and customer funnel segments to the buyer’s journey. They adjust their company structure and software better manage the business and serve the buyer.
“Organizing your commercial engine digitally requires three steps. First, map out the buyer’s journey. What stages does the buyer go through as they move from the point of being a new lead all the way to becoming a loyal customer? The second step is to align your company infrastructure, such as your staff and departments, around the buyer journey. Third, fit digital systems and processes to the buyer’s journey, such as making sure your CRM is optimized to help you move leads through your sales funnels as well as help you engage with customers to earn loyalty,” said Brian Kent, co-founder of Fairmont Concepts.
Customers expect more personalized interaction from you, and the digital transformation gives you the communication channels and tools to meet those expectations. By aligning your software, processes, and departments to the buyer’s journey you can serve leads and customers better, and in turn grow your revenue, profit, and employee morale.
Connect your Industrial Systems
The digital transformation has also impacted the shop floor. Connecting industrial equipment, databases, and business management software gives manufacturers an opportunity to streamline their business. The business of manufacturing is complex, but it can be simplified by using industrial IoT technology. Industrial Internet of Things can track and predict machine performance, connect the shop floor with the enterprise system, and provide visibility into productivity as never before.
The key is to get the machinery data integrated into your business data to ultimately serve the customer better. Start from the business outcome you are after, such improving shop throughput or machinery up time, and then work backwards to collect the right data and create the right dashboards to enable better decision making.
Whenever we are faced with technology, it is always wise to cover the fundamentals first. Consider the 4 areas above and you’ll be on your way to improving your business performance and avoiding expensive pitfalls.