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3 Critical Priorities That Will Define Success In Canadian Manufacturing

3 Critical Priorities That Will Define Success In Canadian Manufacturing

Find out three ways to consider how manufacturers can allocate their time and other resources in order to achieve the maximum possible return on investment.

Regardless of the products you’re producing, when the line goes down in a manufacturing facility it essentially brings the business down with it.

Even if the downtime only lasts an hour, there can be wasted materials, delays on orders and of course, disappointed customers who take their business elsewhere. One incident can have a negative ripple effect across the entire organization.

The good news is that, as more Canadian manufacturers consider their long-term strategy, the investment they are making in digital technology is having a more positive ripple effect.

In the recently-published 2022 Advanced Manufacturing Outlook report, for example, Annex Media’s annual research program revealed significant benefits organizations are seeing from their use of IT.

The report, which was supported by Salesforce Canada and others, included survey results in which 37% of Canadian manufacturers said digitization has led to increased throughput, while 33% cited improved quality of product. Reducing downtime, which was last year’s top benefit, was mentioned by 27%, which may indicate how strategic manufacturers’ use of technology has become.

Beyond the survey data, the Advanced Manufacturing Outlook was informed by a virtual roundtable of more than a dozen manufacturing leaders that I was privileged to attend, along with Salesforce VP of strategic research Peter Coffee.

What we heard was a recognition that Canadian manufacturers are increasingly aware of the business opportunities digital technology can provide, whether on plant floor to those directly selling and serving customers. Almost a third, or 29%, are backing this up by increasing their spend since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

We also heard some serious challenges that remain. This not only includes concerns about cybersecurity risks but the lack of an adequate digital transformation plan. Although 62% said they have some kind of roadmap in place to reach Industry 4.0 — otherwise known as the adoption of smart manufacturing applications and the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) — there are still plenty of firms struggling to move forward.

Part of the difficulty, of course, is that Canadian manufacturers are always juggling multiple priorities at once. I’d like to suggest three ways to consider how they can allocate their time and other resources in order to achieve the maximum possible return on investment (ROI).

1. Improve Your Organizational Agility

Businesses across every imaginable industry had to move quickly when the novel Coronavirus began to spread in early 2020. Employees suddenly needed to be able to work from anywhere, and key aspects of the customer experience needed to support digitals-first processes.

Surprisingly, 79% of those surveyed in the Advanced Manufacturing Report said they were prepared when the pandemic struck. You begin to see why when you see that stat broken down into where manufacturers are in terms of adopting the IIoT.

For instance, 65% of those who were prepared described themselves as simply evaluating IIoT, which comprises technologies such as cloud computing, mobile applications and analytics tools. Among those who are applying IIoT today, however, 83% said they’re prepared for COVID.

The correlation is crystal-clear: those who move forward quickly in embracing the digital technologies available to them can pivot with the agility of a startup. Even once the pandemic is fully behind us, that capability will be critical for Canadian manufacturers to respond to unexpected events.

2. Modernize Commercial Operations

Running a successful manufacturing company obviously involves more than simply having more units come off a line. Growth comes from a greater ability to manage finances, work with channel partners and boost the accuracy of demand planning exercises. In other words, it’s all about how well you make strategic use of data.

Fortunately, 79% of those surveyed in the report said they are using cloud-based systems today, which means they have laid the foundation for data-driven decision-making. The next step will be moving away from antiquated methods of storing and managing data (such as spreadsheets) and manual processes that waste too much time.

By making use of cloud-based applications, Canadian manufacturers have an unprecedented opportunity to integrate ERP and other data sources into a single source of truth. They can also begin to make better use of unstructured or “big data” to discover more actionable insights to take the next best action in their business.

3. Add More Value Along The Entire Customer Journey

Canadian manufacturing is a highly competitive sector. That means standing out and attracting new customers will demand a highly compelling approach to sales and marketing. Processing and shipping orders on time and with quality are table stakes.

Just as important is what comes later — when customers reach out for aftermarket services such as spare parts, diagnostics, and support.

As they arm themselves with more touchpoints through the IIoT and digital applications to make sense of areas that are now visible, manufacturers will also have to think holistically about areas customers may want and need more from them.

This could explain why more than half of the manufacturers in the report, or 55%, cited sales as an area where their use of data could be improved. Fifty per cent said the same thing about customer support.

Much like manufacturing complex products, an outstanding customer experience is the sum of many parts. This not only includes the digital technologies you adopt but the way you provide training and professional development to ensure your team has the skills they need to be successful. The link between customer experience and a strong employee experience has never been more evident, and Canadian manufacturers need to keep their eye on both.

I’d highly recommend downloading the full 2022 Advanced Manufacturing Outlook report. You’ll not only see a lot more hard days about the state of the industry. You’ll also gain access to a rich conversation where your peers explore what’s ahead with both realism and pragmatism — a conversation that needs to continue as the Canadian manufacturing sector evolves.

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