Insider Secrets: When Manufacturers Go Digital

Astute manufacturers use digital technologies to achieve better business results and outpace their competition. Research shows these companies begin with an overarching digital strategy that integrates all channels to serve business goals as opposed to individual projects. These firms also leverage unified communications (UC) to improve teamwork both internally and with external partners, thus enabling easier and faster sharing of information.

Those in the early stages of digital transformation should look to these leaders for lessons on how to develop their own strategy. Their insider secrets offer a smart framework on which to build initiatives.

Insider secret #1: Think strategically and long-term

New technology and productivity are top priorities for the next three years, but the focus is narrow, according to a recent survey of 65 UK manufacturers. Many are primarily concerned with connecting machines to plant and, in turn, plant to the back office. Connecting field service management teams and customers to either machines or back office functions is less of a priority.

Since 2015, Deloitte and MIT Sloan Management Review have conducted an annual study of how digitally mature organizations differ from businesses in the early stages of transformation. An organization where digital technology has “transformed processes, talent engagement and business models” is considered mature.

One consistent finding: These businesses are guided by an overall strategy, one which takes an integrative approach to technology and communications. In the 2015 study, more than 80 percent of digitally mature organizations reported having a clear strategy. That compares to only 15 percent of other companies, who took a scattered approach to using technologies like the cloud, UC, IoT and mobile devices.

The 2017 study found that digitally mature businesses have “consistently longer strategic planning horizons … with nearly 30 percent looking out five years or more versus only 13 percent for the least digitally mature organizations,” the report said.

Better communications help manufacturers produce more. Check out our infographic to learn why. >

Insider secret #2: Digital serves the business, not the other way around

The Deloitte/Sloan report also observed that digitally mature organizations integrate all technology – be it mobile, cloud, social or analytics – in order to accomplish larger business goals. By contrast, less mature organizations are “focused on solving discrete business problems with individual digital technologies.” 

That’s why ownership of technology needs to be part of any larger plan. Too often it’s fragmented within the organization. A Deloitte poll of over 1,500 finance professionals discovered that “the responsibility of owning and governing digital technologies, such as robotics process automation, is localized within information technology (IT) departments (38.9 percent) or fragmented across each department that utilized the digital technology (15 percent).”

“It is really looking at our business through a digital lens to find where technology could really change our dynamics,” David Cotteleer, vice president and chief information officer at Harley-Davidson, told Deloitte. 

In other words, it’s not just about “going digital.” It’s about using technology to achieve great business results.

Insider secret #3: Connect people

That same 2017 poll found that digitally mature organizations tend to work more in cross-functional teams (71 percent) as compared to less digitally mature companies (28 percent). In an increasingly interconnected world, they know tackling problems in silos just won’t work. As more businesses recognize this, the need for communications solutions that support teamwork across physical, temporal and organizational boundaries becomes essential. Teams must be able to easily communicate no matter what device they use – desktop, mobile, phone, laptop, tablet – and be able to share files and data, conduct conference calls and manage projects. 

Unified communications helps manufacturers improve internal workflows throughout the organization—and even beyond. And it’s not just machine-to-plant-to-back office. UC connects all this data and more to internal cross-functional teams and across boundaries to suppliers and customers. The result is faster delivery of better products to market.

Insider secret #4: Use UC to digitally transform your organization

Successful companies know that robust communications systems are essential to their ability to compete. Knowledge is power, and moving knowledge easily and efficiently is key. 

“Most manufacturers have failed to invest in communications technology for many years because they’ve not seen it as a strategic asset,” said manufacturing specialist Steve Powell. “Now they’re starting to appreciate that without real-time communications and collaboration, they’re never going to see the full benefits that digital transformation promises.” 

The secret to going digital? Build a clear organization-wide strategy, one that serves the entire business holistically, not in discrete parts. Then strengthen your communications system so it will support the easy flow of information across the organization to achieve those business goals.

What is digital transformation exactly? 12 industry experts weigh in. >

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