We talk trends and predictions with manufacturing experts to start the decade off strong
2019 was a huge year for manufacturing tech with the launch of Salesforce’s Manufacturing Cloud, new applications for the IoT, and advanced analytics and automation moving to the forefront. And the momentum doesn’t seem to be slowing down. What’s in store for manufacturing in 2020 — and beyond?
We can’t wait to see, so we talked to 12 manufacturing experts to get their predictions for the future of the industry and some of the coolest trends they see on the horizon. Here’s what they had to say:
Data Will Distinguish Winners from Losers.
Skye Reymond | Terbium Labs
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“Analytics are really going to be the last differentiator. Analytics are going to be the big advantage that causes some companies to win over others.”
Operational Data is Table Stakes. Experience Data is a Game Changer.
Ben Cheng | Parsable
Connect with Ben on LinkedIn.
“What’s really exciting now is X data — experience-based data… Right now, in regards to experience data, we're only scratching the surface. What I’d really like to start seeing is capturing X data too. Which is really uncharted territory on the shop floor... So when we think about the personal knowledge and experiences of someone like “the gray beard” [in your shop]. He's the guy who can touch a machine and just from the vibration is able to diagnose the problem as well as repair it. So that's fantastic, but it's not scalable. Right? So how do you then capture that data and recycle it back to the new generation of workers?
[And then there’s] the company knowledge. What we always call the best practices. Shop procedures and such. And right now, that’s the last mile that’s often not digitized.”
“FrankenCloud” Must Die.
Tom Brennan | Rootstock
Connect with Tom on LinkedIn.
“People are adding more clouds, and we’re in a ‘FrankenCloud’ stage where you’ve got multiple clouds and on-premise. As a result — it’s no surprise — you go into a company and still see a lot of Excel being used as databases, not just for reporting, but for databases themselves. You try to draw inferences about that customer and it’s very difficult to do in that framework.”
Real-Time Customer Feedback Will Speed Up & Improve Product Development
James Lumb | Zenkraft
Connect with James on LinkedIn.
“An example, in e-commerce for retailers, returns count for up to 50% of orders, and this is a crippling cost to retailers. So what we're doing now is actually working with retailers to collect data about these returns before the shipping label is being generated. And they can either schedule a pickup or drop it off. One of the customers we've been working with recently was a shoe manufacturer. So instead of just accepting a return, what they do now is ask questions, such as if the shoe was too small, where on the foot is the shoe rubbing? Is it the heel? Is it the toe? Was the material not stretchy enough? So we're capturing all this data and then as soon as that data gets pushed into Salesforce, the magic really starts to happen because we can create reports and dashboards, which can then get fed back to the merchandising teams [and] the product development teams, to then improve the product in the future.”
Integration Will Be the Key to Unlocking ROI
Shekar Hariharan | Jitterbit
Connect with Shekar on LinkedIn.
“At the end of the day, if you want to get more ROI, if you want to deliver great customer experiences, digitize your processes, be agile enough to respond to changing market needs… if you want to do all of that, you have to have a strategy in place. And that strategy starts with integration.”
IoT Will Allow Manufacturers to Connect with End Customers
Mike Wertheim | Hayward Industries
Connect with Mike on LinkedIn.
“We are a big company that’s in a mature market. The swimming pool industry has been around a long time. And the way to grow in that market is through acquisition. And when you acquire a company and there’s a different set of data, there’s a lot of problems.
The other thing is we are definitely trying to compete — We have traditionally been a B2B company — and we’re trying to compete in this age of online purchasing and there are so many channels that people buy their products from. And to do that, we’ve really got to go deeper and reach out to the actual consumers when possible.
We have a chemical monitoring system, a floating connected device that monitors chemical levels, pool temperature… and reports back data. The consumers have an app where they can see what’s going on and that’s great. They can share that information with servicers and servicers can see… “oh, you’re having consistent problems. Maybe I should come out and help you out.”
Now the other thing we do with these chemical monitors is we actually sell chemicals in what you would think of as pods, like Tide pods. And they’re actually color-coded so you don’t even have to know what they are. So your connected device tells you, “oh, you’ve got an issue. Please drop in two blue, three green, and a red into your pool and that will fix your problems.” So, we’re connecting on the service side, and we’re connecting on the consumable side.”
More Than Automation: AI Will Create Safer Factories
Louis Columbus | IQMS
Connect with Louis on Twitter.
“Now what’s really fascinating [when it comes to] new smart connected machinery [is] that machinery’s got all kinds of safeguards in it to make the factory safer. Those machines have the ability to heal themselves, but also have their own innate operating systems. They will tell you if they are getting to a heat point or to a point with their own metrics of like, hey, this may get borderline unsafe in this environment, so therefore I’m gonna shut myself off. Or, I’m gonna send an alert to the quality manager. Safety is much more sophisticated than many opponents of AI and machine learning and manufacturing give it credit for, much, much more sophisticated.”
Measuring the Return on Marketing Investments Is No Longer Guesswork — and It’s Not Optional
Francois Gau | Levy Industrial
Connect with Francois on LinkedIn.
“The conversation really is [that] if you don't know the return on your marketing investment right now, it's time to find out and put systems in place to actually monitor the performance, your activities, and try and find out what works and what doesn't, and start having that conversation.”
Amazon Will Continue to Set the Bar for Even B2B Customers’ Expectations
Chris Muto | Pro-Tech
Connect with Chris on LinkedIn.
“Everyone wants an Amazon experience. They want free shipping, they want email order confirmations, they want a ship date provided right away, they want an invoice, they want tracking numbers, they want all this information thrown at them in an automated fashion. We were just unable to do that with our old systems. A lot of times, old systems are adding to an internal lead time and becoming cumbersome, so they're taking business processes too long to function.
Another thing that's really been a nice side effect [of digital transformation] is, we're adding tens of thousands of dollars of extra revenue just because now, when our product ships... our customers have to know it's coming, they have to have staff there to unload it, somebody who can do it safely, a place to store it. So they know when loads are coming, but they'll always say, hey, before you ship this, can you just add this product to this load? if you have it in stock, can you throw this on? Well it was really difficult to do that before. One, we didn't know if we had it in stock. Number two, the process of actually adding to an order, especially in the act of it being fulfilled was so cumbersome that the internal office staff didn't even want to do it, even if we had the product in stock. Now, it's so much more flexible and fluid with how we can transact that we're able to make those add-on orders as the trucks are getting loaded up that we couldn't we do before. We were literally turning down business before, and now we're saying yes, yes, yes, we can do that. That empowers our guys in our fulfillment department because they're like, yeah, we can absolutely put this on the truck. Now the paperwork side is actually able to keep up with what they're able to do, and it's empowering everyone, and it's literally adding tens of thousand dollars to our bottom line.”
If You’re Not Developing an IoT Strategy Now, You Need to Catch Up.
John Clevenger | Accession Consulting
Connect with John on LinkedIn.
“It’s really vital to understand that IoT is not a short-term “trend of the day.” It is here to stay and it’s only gonna pick up speed. In the future, entrants into your market may not come from your traditional competition. This is a hard thing for a lot of manufacturers to understand. It’s really, really vital that they get out in front of this sooner rather than later. At some point, IoT is gonna become table stakes to doing business and those who simply don’t have it are gonna end up being out of business. They’ll see their customers quickly leaving them and going to people who do have an IoT Industry 4.0 presence.”
Collaboration, Not Competition: AI & Automation Will Allow Workers to Shine
Caroline Hilla | Cisco
Connect with Caroline on LinkedIn.
I think what’s really critical is that, when we can harness that data and automate processes and have machinery automate these repetitive tasks, it actually makes manufacturing more human. We allow our employees and workers to focus on improving the processes, bringing in innovative solutions, innovating the products, customizing what the customers are asking for. So, I think it’s really critical to understand the people strategy that’s involved in this as well.
The Customer Experience Will be Crucial to Manufacturer’s Survival
Andrew Rieser | Mountain Point
Connect with Andrew on LinkedIn.
“Continuing to streamline processes and reduce unnecessary friction for customers will be a major focus for manufacturers to stay competitive. 2020 will be the year for manufacturers to prioritize initiatives that make it easier to do business with them. This ease of doing business (EODB) will be the expected lens for how success in these digital transformation efforts will be measured.
To hear more from each of these experts, check out the first season of Data In Depth, our podcast that explores the world of advanced analytics, business intelligence, and machine learning within the context of the manufacturing industry.”
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