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article imageHow emerging technologies fit into digital strategies

By Tim Sandle     Jun 13, 2018 in Business
Manufacturers should be investing in, or at least exploring, the Internet of Things and industrial automation, among other technologies, according to Microsoft partner Columbus, which sets out a ‘Manufacturing 2020’ strategy in a new report.
According to Columbus, manufacturers need to be seriously thinking about investing in the Internet of Things, industrial automation, cloud, big data, artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing and other innovative technologies. These are the types of technologies that will help to deliver Manufacturing 2020, aided by advanced connectivity and big data analytics.
These technologies also help overcome the main challenges facing manufacturing right now: market volatility, material costs, price reduction pressures. labor costs, and transportation and logistics costs.
Manufacturing 2020, which is part of the wider fourth industrial revolution paradigm, brings together two concepts. The first signals the importance of manufacturing in advanced economies, and the second is the remaining time left in this current decade. The underlying message is that not all manufacturers will survive the remainder of this decade unless they implement radical and technology-led reforms. Technology can help manufacturers to ensure there is a lean, agile manufacturing plant capable of consistently producing on cost, on plan and on specification products.
The new report is simply titled "Manufacturing in 2020". Here several digital solutions are outlined from top business leaders. We look at three examples.
Precision engineering
First, Andrew Churchill, executive chairman of the engineering firm JJ Churchill notes that data can help predict how well manufacturing equipment is working, which helps to minimize downtime. His company is also investing in a fully robotic, closed-loop manufacturing cell in 2018 which is designed to improve productivity in the supply chain. The company is additionally developing a new enterprise resource planning platform for deployment later in 2019.
Reflect, analyse and then act
Second, according to Professor Tim Baines of Aston Business School companies need to take a methodological approach to defining their digital strategy, which he summarizes as "reflect, analyse and then act". From a data driven analysis of what customers want from the business, it is important that technologies adopted are only those that reflect the competitive strategy
of the business. Linked to this is ensuing the appropriate time to invest. Professor Baines discusses a number of science-based management decision tools that can assist with this.
Customer satisfaction
Third is the view of Colin Masson, who is the global industry director of manufacturing solutions at Microsoft. Masson discusses the importance of the customer in any digital strategy, arguing that businesses need to optimize customer satisfaction and develop loyalty metrics. Examples of such metrics are Customer Satisfaction Scores (a numerical expression of measure customer satisfaction) or Net Promoter Scores (which measure the willingness of customers to recommend a company's products or services to others). These are deemed to be more improvident than confusing on production efficiency metrics.
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