Reimagine your possibilities with digital transformation in manufacturing
When you look at lists of top companies over the past 50 years, it’s clear that success in one decade doesn’t necessarily guarantee success in the next. A primary cause? Digital disruption. New tools and processes create new possibilities for how and what we make—and for the businesses we build. Established businesses that can’t or won’t transform often find themselves being replaced by the companies that can and do. As the Harvard Business Review wrote, “Since 2000, 52 percent of companies in the Fortune 500 have either gone bankrupt, been acquired, or ceased to exist as a result of digital disruption.” And the same is roughly true for small- and medium-sized businesses as well.
That’s why every company needs to be thinking about digital transformation today. It’s true for us at KETIV as much as it is for our manufacturing customers. We all need to be asking ourselves: how will business be done in my industry in 20 years? How can I lead the way into the future?
If you want to find out more, here’s what we cover in this article:
- What is digital transformation in manufacturing?
- Reimagining your possibilities: Automate, Connect, Delight
- Digital transformation for manufacturing in action
- Making better products, building better businesses
- Forging a place in the future of manufacturing
What is digital transformation in manufacturing?
The nature of digital transformation changes from decade to decade. In the 1980s, it meant moving from paper-based processes to digital desktops and CAD. In 1990s, it meant adding email, the Internet, and faster processing for graphics. Today, it means using tools like AI and machine learning, VR and AR, the cloud and the IoT to do things differently. Simulation, generative design, new subtractive processes—these processes were barely viable 10 years ago. Today, they’re becoming standard practice.
Digital transformation means something different for every company—there is no one-size-fits-all strategy. You make unique products and have unique relationships with customers, and the future of your business looks different than it does for others.
And it’s not one-and-done. Digital transformation is a journey, not a destination. It’s an ongoing process, a business imperative, and every company is at a different stage of transformation.
Wherever you are in your digital journey, there’s something you can do now to transform your business—some way that you can use data and digital tools to separate yourself from the competition.
Reimagining your possibilities with digital transformation in manufacturing
If you’re not sure where to start with digital transformation in manufacturing, I suggest asking yourself three questions:
- What processes can I automate?
- How can I connect siloed data to improve processes?
- What more can I do to delight my customers?
Automation can take many forms—from installing robots on your production line to using generative design to optimize the design process. If you have people doing repetitive tasks on a regular basis, that’s a good candidate for automation. Whether the activity is physical, like drilling holes, or mental, like calculating a Bill of Materials, automated systems can often do the work faster, more efficiently, and with fewer errors.
Connecting data, processes, and teams can be a great next step. You have different types of data in your business—ERP systems that help you operate, CRM systems that help you sell, PLM systems that help you manage the product lifecycle. In most companies, these data sets are siloed. What become possible if they are all connected?
Delighting customers is what it’s all about at the end of the day—no matter what era you’re in. Today’s digital tools and processes open up new possibilities for how you do that. Customers can learn about, order, install, and use your products in new ways. And they can stay connected to you after purchase, creating greater value and loyalty.
Digital transformation for manufacturing in action
Recently, we helped a customer that makes food production and packaging systems build a cloud-based configuration tool. In the past, if they had a potential new customer, a sales engineer would spend a week or two designing a customized solution for them. It was labor-intensive process that was prone to error. It was common for them to invest hundreds of hours customizing a system that never became a sale.
With the cloud-based tool that we helped them develop, potential customers can do the configuration themselves in their web browser. They can laser scan their own facilities, upload the 3D model, and then arrange and configure machines virtually and simulate production—all without an engineer getting involved. CRM, ERP, and PLM data all play a part.
Customers love the flexibility, ease, and speed. The manufacturer saves hundreds of hours on each potential customer and millions every year. That’s digital transformation in action.
Making better products, building better businesses
Planning for digital transformation is a lot like designing a new product—the answer doesn’t always present itself immediately. You need to talk to customers and team members to learn about the challenges they face and brainstorm solutions. You need to look at what others in your industry are doing—and what companies in other industries are doing, too. What if your customers could experience a design in immersive VR? What if sensors in your products could communicate whether they are being used correctly? The possibilities are always changing as the technology changes.
Forging a place in the future of manufacturing
We’re at an important inflection point today. You have the opportunity to rethink what you make and how you make it a fundamental level—and how you connect to customers. At KETIV, we can help you not only make better products, but also build better businesses, businesses that are ready for what customers will expect in five, ten, or twenty years.
Disruptions like this have happened before—whether at the dawn of the industrial age, the birth of the computer, or the birth of the internet. Each required innovation from industry to harness the potential. That meant companies had to transform.
The journey isn’t over. And the pace of change continues to accelerate. AI will continue to become more intelligent, more capable, and easier to use. The line between the physical and the digital will continue to blur. Rather than rest on the laurels of past success, we all need to be building on that success and reinventing ourselves.
There is a place for you in the future of manufacturing, but you have to create it. You have to carve that niche. You have to be willing and able to transform what you make and how you make it and reimagine how you connect to customers.
Want to connect with us?
It’s a dynamic time. A challenging time. But also a time of tremendous possibility. The important thing is that you’re not alone on your digital transformation journey. At KETIV, we’ve helped thousands of companies transform, and we can help you, too.
I’d love to hear how you’re thinking about digital transformation. Call me at 714.458.3386 or schedule a time to talk with me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s talk about what’s next.