Notes from the Field: Digital Transformation in Manufacturing

Our Notes from the Field series looks at digital transformation in the manufacturing industry and the challenges of wide-scale industrial change.

Many view the manufacturing industry as slow to adapt to change when compared to other industries like consumer tech. However, manufacturers are actually embracing digital transformation on a massive scale. Just as they did during the first major industrial revolution, manufacturers are using new technology to keep pace with changing customer expectations, while vastly improving their day-to-day operations.

Those new operational technologies can replace ancient, locked-down “green screen” applications that have typically been in place for 50 years or more. Implementation adds substantial boosts in agility and efficiency across the enterprise.

Manufacturers at all levels are recognizing the value of establishing open connections to an ever-increasing number of external systems, including partner, reseller and supplier sites. The availability of automated support functionality can free up resources to be utilized elsewhere, while also streamlining the support delivery process and improving customer experiences and satisfaction.

Speed bumps in the transformation process

While individual manufacturers can benefit greatly from the implementation of new technologies, time to market of new processes is often slower than desired. One major obstacle faced by these organizations is how to connect new technology to legacy systems - and then continue to support those connections without investing millions.

Rising to the challenge

The more sophisticated and technologically savvy manufacturers surmount these issues by breaking free from legacy systems completely. They’re moving to open systems and seeking to partner with others in the market ecosystem that are doing the same.

Setting digital priorities

The priorities set by individual manufacturers vary based on their current position in their transition journey and their level of available resources. Some manufacturers see digital transformation as essential to their survival. Others are seeking to reinvent their model, transitioning to greater efficiency and a more streamlined operation.

The tools and technologies that interest manufacturers provide a clear illustration of where their priorities currently lie. We consistently see the most investment in:

  • Supplier portals
  • Self-use portals
  • Employee training systems
  • for lead gen
  • Mobile field applications

Each of these serve to address the challenges manufacturers face across the production and distribution life cycle.

Addressing the challenge of legacy technology

While many industries face the puzzle of dealing with entrenched legacy technology, the issue may be most problematic in the manufacturing world. Many simply have no alternative but to find a way to maintain old systems, while implementing new technologies that can work alongside them. Additionally, manufacturers share the obstacle of bridging the gaps that exist between their current processes and the potential offered by the Internet of Things (IOT) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system architecture.

The potential is nearly unlimited

A technological revolution in manufacturing offers an amazing opportunity to transform processes and tools - some of which may be nearly 100 years old - into vastly superior digital versions. At the same time, new technology gives manufacturers the potential to completely reimagine the way they interface with customers and suppliers.

Utilizing technology to transform the depth and reach of what manufacturers can offer means optimizing every phase in the product lifecycle and serving customers faster and smarter.

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