Modernizing can help manufacturers meet new market needs at a moment’s notice. The pandemic gave us many impressive examples:
- Textile companies switched to making masks
- Food companies now produce hand sanitizer
- Water treatment companies churn out disinfectant
- A tent company pivoted to outfit COVID-19 test sites
Yet many manufacturers aren’t sure where to begin. While manufacturing leaders know they need advanced technology to achieve top business priorities, such as increased engagement, superior customer experiences, and a single view of the customer, past digital projects — like years-long enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementations — left some scars. The idea of change can be daunting.
Digitization does not have to be a painful, years-long, or expensive process. Manufacturers can begin the journey now by tackling common misunderstandings that hold their companies back.
Myth 1: Change is too difficult
Technology has evolved rapidly, particularly with cloud-based solutions that easily integrate into existing systems, like your ERP and supply chain systems. With these tools, digitization is much easier to implement.
It’s important everyone believes the change is important and doable. Engage all stakeholders from the start to encourage their buy-in. Ask the following questions to ensure everyone is aligned:
- Do we have a vision for our partner and customer journeys?
- How can we ensure everyone understands and supports this vision?
- What competitors are doing this well? What can we learn from them?
- What experiences ensure partners and customers love what we’re doing?
These conversations can put to rest the notion digitization is an impossible task and clarify your goals for it. Next, determine which digital capabilities are most important for you. The right partner can help you prioritize your project into phases with a crawl, walk, run approach. Once you launch one phase, you can move on to the next. An effective partner should also work with you to review performance, find new opportunities to drive efficiencies, and improve the experience for partners and customers at every turn.
Myth 2: Wrangling systems and data is too complex
Manufacturers have historically relied on highly complex systems designed for functions, like pricing, inventory, and orders. These systems operate independently and are difficult to integrate. That leads to lackluster customer experiences, which increases churn, putting revenue and margins at risk.
Modern systems, like a cloud-based relationship management (CRM) platform designed for manufacturers, bring everyone onto the same page. This is done through application programming interfaces (APIs) on the back end that connects data across systems, breaking down silos so everyone can do their job better. From there, you can unravel complexity and simplify processes. For example, you can automate manual work and forecast more accurately with the help of artificial intelligence (AI). If a product is at risk of breaking, you can proactively troubleshoot the issue so the customer doesn’t need to reach out.
During the pandemic, custom tent manufacturer TentCraft found a way to serve new customers by relying on their connected digital ecosystem. When demand plummeted for their core product — promotional tents used at events — leaders pivoted to a new opportunity to provide medical tents to healthcare facilities. With visibility into the changing demand with Salesforce and the ability to track leads in a brand-new market, everyone from executives to those on the shop floor worked to align the supply chain and operations to meet the new need.
Myth 3: Employees won’t use digital tools
Think about how employees spend their nonworking hours to quickly put this myth to rest. They stream entertainment, browse social media, and spend countless hours on their mobile phones. COVID-19 extended their use of digital tools for work. Nonessential employees were suddenly required to work from home, conduct meetings by phone or video, and route information by email or other digital applications. Many found they enjoyed these new ways of working – and they were easier and faster.
Manufacturers have traditionally relied on face-to-face interactions, but in a remote world, employees need digital tools to keep business moving and find opportunities for growth. CRM platforms build easy-to-read data profiles that capture all interactions with customers and partners. This allows employees to engage from anywhere. It also encourages collaboration among employees who can view the same information at the same time and work toward shared goals.
In addition, these systems segment populations and can identify new opportunities. You can visualize data on dashboards and layer on artificial intelligence to get deeper insights, such as next best steps, or ways to personalize experiences for your customers.
Your employees can learn how to use new tools and technology with simple online training programs.
Myth 4: We don’t need to constantly evolve
Once you’ve aligned your organization, adopted the right technology, and started delivering the best customer and partner experiences, you might not want to change a thing. But technology is always evolving, enabling improvements in experiences few could have imagined.
If you aren’t anticipating the future, you’ll fall behind when a competitor launches a new product or service, or a buyer changes their mind about your relationship. Always keep up on your industry, use social listening, and survey your community to understand customer, partner, and employee pain points. Listen to feedback channels and upgrade old ways of doing things to create more value for your partners and customers. Be sure to include all relevant departments, such as marketing, commerce, sales, service, product, and IT, so you understand all customer and partner issues. A solid digital foundation makes it easier to spot trends and act on them.
That’s how 100-year-old De Nora Water Technology, based in Milan, stayed competitive in recent years, and why it was able to quickly spin up new products and services to help fight the pandemic. The company provided self-service, sustainable onsite disinfectant generators to municipalities and private businesses. It used Salesforce to visualize data and identify virus hot spots without local distributors. The technology helped it manage an onslaught of leads and double its annual growth opportunities.
Truth: It’s time to digitize
The sooner your company adopts new technology, the sooner you can reap the benefits. If you bring your manufacturing company up to speed quickly, the next time the world shifts on its axis, you will be ready to adjust. Find out how to get started with the Manufacturer’s Playbook for Ecosystem Collaboration.