How manufacturers are achieving efficiencies and driving growth through digital transformation

How manufacturers are achieving efficiencies and driving growth through digital transformation

Jun 29, 2020
Marketing Account Manager at i3 Digital
How manufacturers are achieving efficiencies and driving growth through digital transformation

In the current climate, there is a big push for increased digitalization and teams are expected to do more with fewer resources, challenging manufacturers globally to meet business goals and customer expectations by adapting quickly to the new norm. In this article, we share with you approaches that leading manufacturers are taking to achieve operational efficiencies and drive growth. 

Digital transformation in itself can mean different things to different organizations. However, at the heart of it all, is the common adoption of hybrid systems, integration, and company-wide analytics to enable seamless customer journeys. In reality, it also means that there are business decisions to be made and processes to be examined before the technology even comes into play.

1. Defining how you want to work

With such a lot being written about agile and other project methodologies at the moment, it’s important to describe, as clearly as possible, how you want to proceed. Digital transformation can act as a catalyst for wider organizational change. If you’ve gotten the green light to introduce collaborative working but don’t know quite how to do it, tell your suppliers. Lots of digital transformation enablement partners have experience of this. It is only through asking the right questions, knowing who you need to talk to and how to provide reassurance to management at key points that the right conditions for Agile projects are created.

Similarly, if you want to award a project with a fixed scope and timeframes to a supplier just to increase your departmental output, it helps if suppliers know from the outset. This avoids suppliers trying to ask questions that demonstrate their strategic capability when all you want to know is whether they have availability.

2. Defining how you want to buy

Whether it’s an open tender or a less formal request for proposals, be clear on how you want suppliers to respond.

We’ve lost count of the number of potential clients who want to have open tenders and have initial compatibility sessions… until 30 suppliers want to speak to them within a two week period. If you do want to have exploratory conversations but have to use a tender process, consider engaging before you are constrained by fair and proper procurement processes.

Similarly, if it is a two-part buying process, telling suppliers will mean you don’t get lots of 100-page documents that try to include everything you could ever want to know at the first stage.

3. Don’t overscope

Normally, digital transformation involves software products or agency services that you don’t know that well. It’s important to know when to stop your own scoping. Our experience has been that customers who try to define too much, struggle to achieve anything at all. One project we were involved with a few years ago had been restarted twice because of over-scoping. The client had nine definition documents, written over an 18 month period, covering seven business systems, all spread over 400 pages of A4 (written in size 10 font with not enough pictures). Even a team of geniuses would struggle to work in this way.

A better approach is to make the main requirements as clear as possible. Communicating software versions and what they do will also give experienced transformation partners enough to understand broadly what is needed.

4. Identifying what success looks like

Whether it’s leads, sales, operational efficiencies or simply adapting user experience to support a new brand roll-out, make it clear. This can be very complex or really simple. We’ve had clients in the past who have specified targets for ‘channel shift’, where they move sales from telephone supported enquiries to pure commerce. We’ve also had big clients who have simple targets, such as increasing market share by five percent. It always helps if goals come with measurable targets.

Some of the time, achieving big results such as improvements to market share, requires lots of partners working together. If suppliers know this early, it makes a big difference in how they suggest engaging with your organization and supplier network.

5. Be prepared to communicate a budgetary range

Whilst it isn’t always advisable to publish your budgets, it is a good idea to know the ballpark you are in. The alternative might mean that you need to renegotiate budgets after appointing suppliers and potentially having to choose cheaper suppliers previously disregarded on quality grounds.

We always try to make sure there is a shared understanding of what the budget is as part of the buying process. There are lots of ways of controlling costs if budgets are tight, such as agreeing on what work can be done by the client-side team, phased deliveries, or removing nice to have functionality. This normally forms the basis of a more constructive conversation based on getting optimum value for money. Top Tip: this gets better value than just asking suppliers to knock 10% off the bill.

Digital transformation success story

Recently, Smiths Interconnect, a global leader that specializes in manufacturing technically differentiated electronic components, subsystems, microwave, and radio frequency products instruments, embarked on a project to transform their business globally. Smiths Interconnect required the combining of seven different business units into one coherent user-focused commerce website that could scale and evolve as its business grew. Its management was looking to use this opportunity to introduce a more sophisticated digital marketing approach, leveraging a combination of web personalization, marketing automation, and commerce for the first time.

It was also crucial that the chosen platform could allow for the migration of content from the incumbent CMS platforms and integrate seamlessly with Smiths Interconnect’s CRM and a bespoke ERP system at a later date. As with most global manufacturing organizations that have multiple business divisions, a common key challenge is working with teams and stakeholders who are based in different countries and time zones.

The project needed to provide a substantial product catalog that met all of Smiths Interconnect divisional business needs. Products were configured using multiple page types to enable different custom fields per product group. Smart Search functionality was utilized to display products and filter products using several dropdown options including brand, technologies, and product line to reflect the different business units. Functionalities, such as Custom Tables and Brands Applications were used to populate filter options, with an overarching Product Search page created to enable users to search across all product lines.

Smiths Interconnect’s new commerce platform has been architected so that it serves as a scalable, central information and product repository for their global businesses. The new site now serves as the central hub for the company’s critical product lines and brands. The new structure presents Smiths Interconnect as the umbrella brand in association with its ten primary product brands. Since launch, the new platform has seen a 75% increase in overall traffic, a 78% increase in new visitors, and a 30% increase in returning visitors.

In summary

What makes digital transformation projects different from your average digital projects is the number of internal and external stakeholders who are involved in the project process. The reality is that most of the time departments outside of IT and Marketing such as Customer Services, Finance, and even Senior Management Teams are either kept at arm’s length or consulted and informed. Manufacturers should always look to take a holistic strategic approach to digital transformation, one that involves all internal and external stakeholders, as those without a clear strategy and road map will find it difficult to successfully implement and quickly adapt to the changing consumer landscape.

Interested in learning more? Then why not join us on our upcoming webinar on July 8, 2020 for more insights and great tips: Top digital transformation trends helping manufacturers get to market faster

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