The digital landscape is continually changing for manufacturers. We see this change generated by rapidly shifting consumer expectations, connected devices and technology improvements in neighbouring supply chain industries.
There are some significant advantages to these shifts, for example, helping businesses adapt to changes quicker or even foresee adjustments before they happen – both of which are critical to manufacturing. So, it’s no surprise that IDC predicts that by 2022, 50% of all manufacturers will be invested in resilience improvements and AI (Artificial Intelligence) to stimulate productivity advancements.
Customer expectations and solving customer issues are still the main drivers for digital transformation within companies. With CRM and ERP platforms, customer data is more visible than ever and cannot be ignored by manufacturers. So what’s getting in the way of moving the industry forward?
Challenges of digital transformation in manufacturing
There are several things that can hold manufacturers back from digital transformation initiatives. Whether it’s trying to sell the idea to management or fighting over fears surrounding business and personnel resources, nonetheless, starting the discussion can offer manufacturers an unbiased look at their inefficiencies and resourcing and introduce them to new technologies.
Based on our experience, here are the four main challenges holding businesses back:
- Any digital transformation initiative can place enormous demands on the IT department’s technology stack. This may require the use of new processes, APIs, or innovation in other areas of digital performance.
- Digitalisation in the manufacturing industry creates costs on human resources: the workforce may feel disenchanted by changing workplace realities. In addition, employee reluctance and communication problems also pose a challenge to manufacturers.
- Being in a dynamic and cash-conscious industry, manufacturers need to address any budget and resource limitations. Unfortunately, this can lead to reservations about the stability of their digital transformation strategy.
- Manufacturing operations are complex, with tight schedules and several resource restrictions. As a result, management doesn’t take to negative effects on operations before seeing any benefits from digital transformation.
Top 5 digital transformation trends in manufacturing
Many new technological advancements help businesses on their journey to digital transformation to counteract these challenges. We have identified our top 5:
Industry 4.0 is a trend that fuses traditional manufacturing and industrial factories with digital. It is referred to as “the fourth industrial revolution”, the main aim of Industry 4.0 is to automate production processes where applicable to the point where all these processes are automated and controlled in real-time.
For example, there could be a machine with a sensor that interacts with another device based on incoming data, all happening without the intervention of another human. Thus, Industry 4.0 can blur the line of actual and virtual warehouses that can free the workforce for more competent collaboration.
A key technology of Industry 4.0 is the Internet of Things (IoT). This is a network of connected physical objects that communicate based on calculated data and their environment, including data fed from outside. It can lead to new functions, services, and benefits for manufacturers.
The most prominent IoT cases lie in operations, personnel management, and asset management. For example, manufacturers can create preventative maintenance programs with real-time monitoring and improve energy efficiency and working conditions through intelligent air management, risk management, and worker productivity.
With the amount of data machines collect, it’s simple to quickly utilise algorithms to perform the finest course of action among multiple options – something too inefficient with humans. However, today’s machines have proven that quality is not sacrificed for efficiency, as machines can more carefully identify and predict which aspects will impact assembly line quality or speed.
Examples of machine learning include suggesting the best course of action for employees, predict shipping times, waiting times, or behaviour models for risk prevention. Also, data generated by machines offer insights into all areas of the production process when integrated throughout the supply chain.
Future robots aren’t expected to differ much from what we see in manufacturing today. However, what will change is the learning aspect from previous behaviour and pattern recognition for improving results. In addition, the number of connected devices, how they interact with each other, and the volume of data are all expected to increase.
Robots will continue to innovate. With movement data being interconnected with IT systems and teams across longer distances and geographic locations, it is likely we will see this drive quicker and more effective business decisions.
Today’s B2B eCommerce platforms should quickly react to B2B buyer needs. These tend to mirror those of B2C consumers. However, preserving B2C-like experiences is difficult when B2Bs demand that custom checkout workflows, pricing rules, product data personalisation, and other complex functions run in the background. Manufacturers can now digitally transform their stores by implementing platforms such as OroCommerce, which enables them to use a particular website for segmentation and multichannel capability.
Benefits of digital transformation manufacturing
As digital technologies advance all around us, manufacturers are increasingly coming to a crossroads: to develop and transform or stick with the tried, tested, and true methods. Digital transformation offers plenty of benefits in the long term, including:
Better data usage
Digital transformation optimises data usage in operations, and manufacturers can utilise data more efficiently – feeding it to their B2B eCommerce, ERP, CRM, warehousing, and finance systems.
Digital transformation can revolutionise your operations department. For example, real-time insights can assist with monitoring, resolving, and predicting situations to optimise machinery lifecycles. This helps maintain error-free operations and avoid any interruptions.
Innovation encourages innovation. A digital transformation strategy sets the agenda for a holistic optimisation approach. For example, utilising smart factory capabilities in your ERP helps you improve your business performance, as well as the supply chain.
By introducing remote monitoring, troubleshooting, proactive maintenance with data at their fingertips, manufacturers can restrict disruptions and eradicate risks of hurried solutions.
Manufacturers can get closer to customers by implementing a B2B eCommerce platform with separate portals for brands, regions, products, or clients. Furthermore, manufacturers can use sales data that accurately predict customer demand and adjust their production accordingly.
Primarily, digital transformation trends in manufacturing target customisation, efficiency and agility. Nevertheless, any digital transformation strategy must never lose track of changing times. That’s why manufacturers should never forget that while digital transformation is inevitable, it shouldn’t be seen as a solution to any single manufacturing area. Instead, designing and implementing a manufacturing digital transformation roadmap should be considered an ongoing process of getting ahead and staying at the top of your market.
If you’re interested in learning more about Digital Transformation, then check out our dedicated page. Here, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the impact Digital Transformation has on business, how culture plays a vital role in your plans and more.