By many analysts’ measures of digital technology transformation progress by industry, manufacturing, including equipment manufacturers, generally lags. A large number of manufacturers are at the low end of investing in digital initiatives, whereas companies considered digital leaders spend more than 10 percent of their budgets on digitalization. In equipment manufacturing specifically, recent findings show that many companies aiming to advance their digital maturity commit roughly five percent of their revenues to digital initiatives.
In 2021, regardless of whether your manufacturing organization has undergone a digital transformation, you should ask the following questions in regards to your key business applications.
Have you established a strong digital foundation?
What is the state of your current digital foundation? Ask if your main system of record has the potential to become a “system of experience” that will benefit employees, customers, suppliers, and vendors. Do your ERP and CRM solutions fit the way your company runs, or do your employees have to find workarounds? Do they connect to all parts of your business operations, such as manufacturing, finance, sales, and distribution?
Your digital foundation should answer all of this in the affirmative. Without this strong base, your organization will have to rebuild your system year after year as you grow.
How well can you scale?
If your business had a sudden spike in growth, would your ERP and CRM be able to handle it? Look into how your solutions can accommodate dramatic increases in the number and complexity of products, more customers in regions where you have not had a presence, production outsourcing to a partner on another continent, or steadily streaming data masses from the IoT that powers your proactive maintenance services?
The last thing you want is for your business applications to not be able to instantly accommodate your business’s changing needs. You need a system that can build with you, not that you have to build each time operations shift.
Is your system cloud-ready or not?
Do you have a strategy or a schedule for adopting cloud technology? Have you taken advantage of modern cloud technology to increase the usability, scalability, and performance of your business systems? If cloud security is your hang-up, have you performed a security audit of your on-premises infrastructure to see how it might compare to cloud security?
It can be hard to let go of the legacy, on-premise solutions, especially since you can control the security at your fingertips. However, do you know how well your on-premises stacks up against the latest security technology in the cloud? It could surprise you, not to mention, there’s no harm in just looking into it.
Does your system encourage collaboration with customers?
Are you able to invite customers and other partners to collaborate with your engineers, production planners, and business managers? Can you use a digital collaboration platform to get everyone to approve of design changes and then move these changes into production? Are project and production managers able to engage with product engineers, designers, suppliers, and trading partners regarding milestone progress?
The best way to keep customers happy is to keep them informed and part of the production process. Your engineers will not be pleased if sales promises features that are impossible to create. A system that includes seamless collaboration across all channels—instead of siloed information—will make the entire production process painless overall.
What is your system’s user experience?
Check in with your engineers, production planners, field service managers, procurement teams, project managers, finance managers, etc. to see how they feel about your current technology system. Find out if they find it easy to locate data and use it in their planning. Ask if they can work anytime, anywhere both securely and productively. Learn what tech hurdles they have blocking their way to efficiency.
Do you have a data-driven company?
Does your organization operate in a culture of data-enabled decision-making, performance management, and strategizing? Can your contributors access all the data that matters, including real-time performance and workload data from production machinery and equipment in use at customer sites, fleet and facilities data, or supply chain data? Are they able to see what the data really means?
Most importantly, ask when was the last time you learned something new about your business from a review of your data. If your business solution isn’t compiling useful data for your employees that they can analyze and turn around for the benefit of the organization, you’re missing valuable ways on how to improve your business for your customers as well as employees.
How strapped is your IT department?
Do they have time for innovative efforts and the resourcefulness to research and apply technologies in more creative ways? Or are they buried in the day-to-day management of software tools, upgrades, and user needs? Are you receiving automatic updates through your cloud platform, or are system updates always a major chore for IT? What would it take to free IT resources and talent to help drive your digital innovation?
Are you outperforming the competition?
If your digital investments lag behind those of your competitors, you could be at a disadvantage. What have you heard from customers, partners, and employees about the competition’s use of technology? Are there any experiences you should definitely avoid, or any obvious opportunities where you could take smart, efficient steps to use technology in sharpening your competitive edge? Do you need to address challenges from nimble, fast-moving competitors in emerging regions or from outside of the industry? Do you know how technology and data could help you gain the advantage in terms of customer focus, efficiency, or
This can be a lot to sort out at once, but it’s crucial that you ask your manufacturing business these questions. Industrial manufacturers who invest only 22% of their R&D budgets in software can achieve as much as 25% revenue growth. Make 2021 the year that your business achieves this kind of revenue growth. This is the year you will leap ahead of the competition in all of these key areas.