By connecting people, enabling cross-industry collaboration and bringing holistic, end-to-end value to product and service innovation, entire business models are being transformed to serve evolved global needs and shifting demands. Within the manufacturing industry, the name of this wave of massive technological proliferation has been coined the Fourth Industrial Revolution. With a new connected customer, changing demographics and complex regulations, manufacturing refers to more than a production line, but an intricate organizational hierarchy that is based on services and an elevated state of responsiveness—all centering around what the customer wants and needs.
Connected product research and development
For research and development teams, the road to creating a successful product means communication with both ends of the supply chain—from raw material vendors to customers purchasing the finished product. Insightful ideation begins with in-depth consumer knowledge, but to enable at-scale product creation, manufacturers must open communication channels with their global supplier teams and engineers. With enhanced collaborative tools and real-time communication softwares, development teams have the ability to collaborate on product designs while reducing time to market and improving product longevity through actionable insights. For brands and manufacturers, this means reduced product development costs and creations that are assuredly robust.
As a result, business decision makers are able to identify time consuming or inefficient communication methods and replace them with real-time knowledge sharing platforms. They are ready for the development of products or services based on market insights or innovative thinking. Businesses start to redesign product development processes based on collaboration and agility.
Agile production with smart equipment
Rigid production lines excel at crafting uniform, standardized products—but more often than not, customers are expecting to have the option to customize their products or request something different than what is offered to them. As a result, manufacturers are needing to develop one-off, tailored creations for their consumers. To effectively accomplish
this without disrupting mass production, suppliers need to leverage cloud-based tools that allow them to seamlessly create personalized products at scale. Emerging Industry 4.0 technologies, such as intelligent robotics applications or product neutral equipment, can connect to a cloud server that directs them to actions dependent on specific bespoke production actions. By implementing versatility into the production line, manufacturers can eliminate the limitations typically associated with mass production lines.
With that, business decision makers are ready to identify where it is appropriate to invite the consumer into the creation process, also real-time customer insights are leveraged to predict demand within the marketplace, ensuring necessary materials are stocked and available for production needs. Businesses are transparent with customers about where their products are in the manufacturing process and provide them with accurate delivery times.
From Internet of Things sensors to cloud infrastructures, it’s easier than ever for manufacturers to gather information about their daily operations. With this knowledge at hand, production managers can obtain ongoing analyses to identify bottlenecks in their factories or inform them of inefficient operations. Over time, this data collection can help manufacturers accelerate output by allowing them to introduce real-time adjustments to their production lines.
As an impact business decision makers weigh sales data from the marketplace alongside consumer sentiment and contextual factors like weather, media response etc. to better plan for demand. They also leverage data-driven insights to identify operational inefficiencies as they occur, enabling continual optimization without disrupting production and other essential processes. Infrastructure and technology investments are made with flexibility in mind, ensuring operations can quickly scale up or down based on market demand.
Transparent Manufacturing Journey
The manufacturing journey is comprised of a breadth of locales and requires communication between multiple suppliers and partners. With higher expectations to meet market demands with faster delivery times, manufacturers need to identify opportunities to implement agile supply chain practices without sacrificing the quality of their products. By leveraging technologies that provide them with real-time insights to logistics, delivery or fulfilment systems, manufacturing coordinators can monitor their inventory flow and respond to any hazardous disruptions in real time.
Thanks to that business decision makers outfit products and shipments with RFID or other low-cost sensors to track location, condition and quality as they move through the supply chain. They diversify supply chain partners to enable greater flexibility and minimize interruptions in production should issues occur during sourcing or shipping, also utilize virtual prototypes and simulations wherever possible in the development and build stages to eliminate the time and costs of associated with physical mock-ups, enabling teams to create multiple iterations at speed.
Uninterrupted Operations Through Responsive Maintenance
When large-scale manufacturers take a reactive approach to maintenance—only servicing equipment after a breakdown— it leads to increased operational costs and raised cost of lost opportunity. By leveraging big data analytics from their equipment and using global management dashboards, manufacturers will be able to not only respond to emerging situations, but eventually lead repairs that occur before systems malfunction.
As a result, business decision makers are able to identify how customers are using key product or system features to identify patterns and pinpoint potential impacts on performance or operations. They will consider areas where maintenance would be more effective by introducing a centralized, remote approach to servicing multiple pieces of equipment or assets. Nevertheless, they access service trends and operational behavior to better predict where and how maintenance employees should be deployed and scheduled and what tools and parts might be necessary for troubleshooting and repair.
Manufacturers are turning to implement end-to-end digitization within their own supply chains to ensure agility and faster processes. Leading technologies that help guide manufacturers into digital supply chain transformation, essential in optimizing efficiency, agile operations and increasing total production output:
Cloud connectivity and IOT technologies
Big data analytics
Real-time communication platforms
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Manufacturers globally are being disrupted and moving from making products to delivering products-as-a-service. To compete and grow, manufacturing companies need to shift their focus from engineering and production to customer outcomes. In this article we summarize those four key transformation topics that can help manufacturers stay competitive while meeting changing customer needs based on Microsoft’s ebook.
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