Manufacturing and technology are merging like never before. We’ve all read about how manufacturing will transform through concepts that include Industry 4.0, the Factory of the Future, Smart Manufacturing and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) – all of which are enabled through technology. These concepts are big. They’re exciting. And they offer great opportunities for manufacturers to differentiate in the service realm.
When it comes down to it, the concepts of IIoT and the like are all about connecting your enterprise and communicating meaningful information. When machines and systems talk to each other, manufacturers are more informed and work smarter. Production flows, downtime is reduced and on-time delivery rates increase. It may also translate into the ability to greatly differentiate by offering customers more options for customization (and thereby enabling customers to differentiate). The World Economic Forum, in collaboration with Accenture, produced the Industrial Internet of Things: Unleashing the Potential of Connected Products and Services earlier this year. The report contains a lot of interesting information – along with several examples of how transformative the IIoT can be to different industries and to specific manufacturing environments. One example is how ThyssenKrupp AG, who manufactures and maintains elevators, has incorporated networked sensors for predictive maintenance. These sensors transmit data to the Cloud where analytics software looks for issues that require immediate service versus those that can wait for regularly scheduled maintenance. In doing so, the company is better able to prioritize and dispatch service personnel for elevator repair and reduce customer downtime – a service differentiator I’m sure many clients appreciate.
In marketing, we’re always looking for those points of differentiation – the capabilities that make our company and/or product unique in the competitive field. Today and in the future, manufacturers will find those points of differentiation through technology. In another example, a Synchrono customer attributed their competitive advantage to the planning, scheduling and execution system they implemented. As a result of this software technology, the client was able to greatly improve their lead times – to the extent that their competitors couldn’t even come close to achieving. (The sorry thing for me in this story is that the customer saw this as such an advantage they didn’t want me to do a case study for fear of tipping off competitors to their secret weapon.)
What distinct value will your factory of the future deliver? Real-time quality data for your customers? Same day turnaround on orders? Or maybe you’ll gain the data and capacity to innovate so that you’ll be able to offer customers the ability to differentiate through unique solutions.
In any case, I welcome the digitally connected age – and your thoughts on how manufacturers (and their marketers) will translate technology-enabled information into a distinct competitive advantage.