Skip to Content

New Research: How Canada’s Manufacturing Sector Can Achieve Digital Transformation

New Research: How Canada’s Manufacturing Sector Can Achieve Digital Transformation

This is more than research — it’s a way to see a community of peers who are striving for the same goals, and how they’re successfully figuring out the best ways to reach them.

It’s easy to look at black-and-white photos illustrating the workplace 100 years ago and laugh at the clothes, the furniture and some of the clunky old typewriters and adding machines you’d see in the average office.

When you compare them with the sleek, digitally-driven environments across many companies today — where everyone from the CEO to the most junior employee can manage all their critical information from a smartphone — it almost seems like things changed overnight. It didn’t, of course. There were many steps involved in transforming themselves into digital-first companies.

The same thing is now happening to Canada’s manufacturers. We just don’t have all the “after” pictures yet.

Part of the challenge in manufacturing versus industries like financial services or retail is that it’s largely a business-to-business (B2B) environment, where there is considerable complexity in connecting pieces of the supply chain that take products from a factory floor to a warehouse. It can be more difficult to visualize what some of the most promising digital opportunities might be, and what it looks like when manufacturing firms successfully implement them.

This is the knowledge gap the IT Media Group (ITMG) helps close with The Big Makeover: How Digital Transformation Is Changing Canadian Manufacturing, which was sponsored by Salesforce Canada. Based on a variety of research methods including polls, surveys, executive interviews and more, the report provides a progress check of sorts on what manufacturers are doing with digital technologies today, and where the path will take them over the course of 2019 and beyond.

Look through the report and you’ll see plenty of evidence to support the idea that digitization will fundamentally change Canadian manufacturing for the better, and that the industry is ready and willing to start the journey. It’s the act of getting started, however, that may be the hardest part.

With that in mind, consider some of the following ideas as you read through the report in its entirety:

1. Spot the manufacturing wins that aren’t sector-specific

There is lots in the report that examines the potential for using technologies like robotics in factory and warehouse settings, or the use of sensors connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) and how they could improve the process of maintaining equipment. Beyond those vertically-oriented use cases, however, are a number of areas where manufacturers could embrace digital tools that put them on the same footing as their peers in other industries.

Sales is a great example. Whether you’re a manufacturer, a bank or a small business selling services online, more deals get closed and quotas are reached when you’re armed with better data about your customers. You could argue this is even more important in manufacturing, where the objective is not always to sell to a large volume of customers but increase revenue within a handful of big clients. This is where you want to think about tools like Sales Cloud, which will get your sales team accustomed to a more consultative approach while increasing their win rates.

The same goes with areas such as marketing and customer service. Tools like Marketing Cloud and Service Cloud may seem to address more universal pain points than those exclusive to manufacturers, but that’s the point. By collecting and managing as much relevant data about customers as possible, you’ll be able to figure out how best to use technology to shape other aspects of a more specific manufacturing customer experience.

2. Build a knowledge base that eases change management

Now that you’ve gone broad, pave the way for going deeper with technology projects that get to the heart of where manufacturing processes could improve. There is where you might make a lot of assumptions — about employee attitudes, about the state of existing processes and the biggest hurdles to jump.

Don’t make those assumptions.

Instead, begin gathering intelligence about your supply chain today in parallel to learning more about the digital technologies that could improve it tomorrow. Examine a range of performance, productivity and other data. Complement it with qualitative research of your own with the people who are most likely to be affected by the changes you’re considering. Many of these will be your own employees, who may have domain-specific knowledge you’ll want to harness as part of your transformation. The earlier they feel consulted, the more likely you’ll get buy-in, and the more empowered (rather than threatened) they’ll feel.

Besides your own team members, think about how you can gather feedback from partners, suppliers and maybe even some of your customers to get a sense of their expectations, hopes and reservations about changing the way your business runs.

3. Benchmark yourself against your peers — and everyone else

Technology adoption is often driven by the need to stay competitive, and that will certainly be true within manufacturing. As more firms digitize and enhance the way they manage inventory and supply chain data, for instance, there is bound to be a “network effect” that encourages others to do the same thing.

Even outside of manufacturing, however, there are plenty of success stories available online today that showcase how firms in other kinds of industries have solved problems that only they face using technology. These stories may not involve the complexity you experience in manufacturing. So what? You can learn a lot from more simplified examples, particularly if you’re trying to make the business case to your senior leadership team to invest in digital tools, or to get the green light for a pilot project.

For more of a manufacturer-to-manufacturer kind of comparison, however, you’ll want to comb through the ITMG report, which delves into the possibilities around artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and some of the best ways to think through measuring the results of technology adoption.

This is more than research — it’s a way to see a community of peers who are striving for the same goals, and how they’re successfully figuring out the best ways to reach them.

Engage across ever channel: email, social, web and mobile. Watch demo.

Get timely updates and fresh ideas delivered to your inbox.