Digital Transformation: Helping Manufacturers Thrive During COVID-19 & Beyond
COVID-19 turned businesses and manufacturing worlds upside-down, and digital transformation has proved to be crucial. At first, the question of survival was placed on brick-and-mortar B2C businesses. Looking back, it’s clear B2B operations were also seriously affected.
Adaptation has always been the manufacturer’s motto and, looking beyond the pandemic, smart manufacturing is the key to success. What exactly does adaptation look like for manufacturing businesses in the modern world? The answer to that question lies within the concept of ‘digital transformation’.
What is ‘digital transformation’?
Digital transformation is the digitalization of manufacturing, buying, and selling processes. This may seem like a complicated, scary idea, especially if you’re trying to sell it to upper management. The actual process can be surprisingly easy, with huge benefits to your business and, ultimately, to consumers themselves.
With the increasing popularity of online shopping, the move towards digital transformation is becoming more vital than ever for businesses to survive. Digital transformation has also provided the perfect opportunity for leading manufacturers to move from B2B or B2C operations to ‘Direct to Consumer’ methods (D2C). These are generally more streamlined and customer-friendly.
For some manufacturers, digital transformation has been in the pipeline for many years. The recent pandemic led to an acceleration of the process so businesses could adapt quickly to a fluctuating climate. The innate adaptability of digitization is not just essential within the COVID-19 climate, but also essential to thrive within a post COVID world.
What are the benefits of digital transformation?
The pandemic has shown that digital strategies are the proven future for manufacturing, providing stability and adaptability to businesses all over the world. Even in an alternate reality outside the COVID-induced instability, digital manufacturing comes with huge positives that just can’t be ignored.
Cost reduction and increased productivity
Research and Development (R&D), although a critical aspect of every business, has always been a cumbersome process. It can also incur a huge amount of time and monetary cost. For instance, some companies have spent in excess of $13.7 bn per year in this area.
Digital transformation strategies, computer algorithms, and machine learning can almost fully automate this process. You can gather information with the additional benefit of being able to autonomously make decisions based on the data gathered.
Customer satisfaction and customer relationship management (CRM) Software
This same Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a key player behind the scenes of manufacturing and on the consumer level. AI can track exact product data including the purchasing habits of current customers, as well as intent and emotional analysis of product feedback. AI uses machine learning to identify emotional responses and overall intent to the unstructured, written feedback provided by consumers.
CRM also enables you to develop rich profiles for every consumer a business interacts with. It houses lots of useful information to give Sales and Marketing a 360-degree view of the customer journey. This includes data such as previous purchases and past communications, which can be leveraged as part of a customer loyalty strategy.
This ability to collect and adapt to any customer feedback quickly and precisely hugely increases overall customer satisfaction. As a result, advanced analytics can help you increase your sales.
eCommerce and D2C Operations
Technology is all around us. On our desks, in our pockets, and even on our wrists. People are currently more connected to each other than ever before. These days, we can find products and services at the end of a simple Google search or via the opening of an app. So, how can manufacturing companies use this newfound connectivity to increase sales and reduce costs? This is where eCommerce comes in.
Digital transformation and digital manufacturing go beyond the reorganization of the production process. You can also use it to streamline the customer experience. eCommerce enables a totally new retail avenue. The connected nature of today’s society can be used to advertise and sell products and services directly to the consumer.
In other words, you can build a stronger and closer relationship with your customers. The digital transformation initiative of D2C will also enable you to reduce costs by selling directly to the consumer.
How exactly do I go about pivoting my business through digital transformation?
Digital transformation can, at times, seem like a disruptive and somewhat chaotic process. There are of course initial costs to be fronted to purchase new digital technologies. You’ll also have to ensure you have a well-staffed and competent IT desk to handle such a task. There may even be some employee reluctance to change as well as some skepticism from higher up. You can reduce all these risks by having a clear and precise digital transformation roadmap.
A digital transformation roadmap can be a key tool in the success of transitioning to digital manufacturing. The best thing about such a roadmap is that it can flex and morph depending on the needs of the individual business. To get started, look at where you want the company to go and work back from there. You should factor in things like current market status and performance. From there, it’s much easier to personalize your own unique business strategy to get to where you want to be.
Digital transformation isn’t just about adapting to the new technological world, it’s about giving your business the agility to respond to even the most radical of changes. Digitalization enables you to quickly adapt to changes in customer demand, consumer buying behavior, and shifts within specific sectors. The pandemic is the most recent example of the importance of this. There are bound to be many more that we should be preparing for in the years to come.