Keeping Up with a Smarter Customer

Evolution or revolution? It’s hard to say with certainty that the tidal wave of technological change sweeping through manufacturing is an extension of what has come before or is something so new that it truly can be called a digital revolution.

The reality is that Industry 4.0 exists and it is causing massive change on factory floors; manufacturers are experiencing the benefits flowing from smart factories. Individual machines are computer controlled and capable of making independent decisions during manufacturing. At the same time, they are generating vast amounts of valuable data which is easily accessible from the internet by designated users and C-Suite management.

A Step by Step Approach to a Smarter Factory

The net result is faster, more efficient production with less waste and few, if any, defects.

However, getting there is not as simple as merely computerizing machinery. Chaitanya Sonarikar, VP of Manufacturing Practice at Gerent LLC, says that it’s imperative that any changes be done in a methodical and structured manner.

“While going through this digital transformation”, he explains, “it’s vital that production must continue without interruption. There is always risk with change. So, the human factor must be considered in terms of training, the type of technology to be implemented and what the roadmap of that implementation looks like.”

Smart factories will generate a 7-fold increase in productivity by 2022, adding as much as 1.5 trillion dollars in value to the global economy.

Smart manufacturers expect on-time delivery  of finished products to accelerate by 13 times with product quality improving 12 times the improvement rate since 1990. — Smart Factories and the Modern Manufacturer, Capgemini Research

The Customer Is Transformed As Well

No one would argue that the beneficiary of this digital transformation is the customer.

Unfortunately, while factories have been transforming to reap the rewards of Industry 4.0, so has the customer – and this is putting new demands on manufacturers throughout their business operations.

“There is a process change that needs to be tackled”, Sonarikar continues, “New challenges and expectations are being driven by the customer and every manufacturer must recognize this clearly.”

Blame It On the Internet

Today’s customer is savvy in ways directly linked to the internet. “Customers are far better educated, thanks to information accessible from the web. Mobile devices have become the means to obtain this information which, in turn, means the customer experience is influenced by social media. A customer can order directly from the internet via a mobile device or seek immediate service help through a simple email”, says Sonarikar.

A 2018 PwC customer survey indicates that social media sites are the number one choice in online media for customers looking for information and advice before making a buying decision. The amount of information available from the internet relating to a company can be vital to that company’s ongoing ability to attract – and keep – customers.

A Planning Review is Critical

Over and above sufficient online product information, to secure and retain customers in this Fourth Industrial Revolution, a manufacturer must also review the planning process in the organization which could involve the following four areas:

  • Strategic planning which might deal with product design and rebranding.
  • Enterprise planning to determine how much product must be sold and in what combinations, especially critical in this era of customization.
  • Operational planning to enable a factory to respond to actual orders received and adjust as necessary.
  • Execution planning which involves manpower, tools and raw materials to do the job.

According to Chaitanya Sonarikar, these are all processes that can be digitized through automation systems which are more and more internet-based and controlled remotely.

“To get the customer experience just right”, he says, “ you must improve your processes to ensure quality is at an optimal level. Ultimately, this brings sustainability to a business.”

These processes are inter-related. A good customer experience is the result of not just cost but product service, quality, ease of internet ordering through distributors and, yes, those online product reviews.

Your Factory Is Smart. But Is Your CRM?

So, while a manufacturer may be keen to use digital transformation on the operational side of the business, it’s critical that a strong platform be in place to capitalize on the interconnectivity of three key processes -manufacturing, business, and customer relationship management -  as they relate to customer fulfillment and satisfaction.

Many manufacturers are overwhelmed by the assumption that they have to abandon any legacy applications they might be running before they can convert to a CRM platform like Salesforce and see real benefit.

However, this doesn’t have to be the case.

Integrating Salesforce with Existing Technology

Gerent is a Salesforce partner company which specializes in the critical integration and implementation of Salesforce CRM with existing technologies.

Gerent can tap into Salesforce’s Lightning platform, which consists of apps and APIs (application programmable interfaces) that communicate with existing technology in a factory to create a seamless operation.

When necessary, Gerent can develop custom applications to port legacy technology that might be old and failing to perform and, in the case of applications that are not “network ready”, the company will create custom interfaces to allow data to be available over the internet – a boon to sales and service personnel in the field.

Employing Gerent’s customization strengths and solution architecture means that a manufacturer doesn’t have to face a “this or that” situation but is able to continue with existing technology and benefit from its integration within the Salesforce CRM.

If you would like to learn more about Gerent’s capabilities and talents and how we can help your organization, please contact us and we’ll be happy to discuss ideas with you.

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