Three technologies redefining services in manufacturing
Manufacturing is in transition. Given the current geopolitical events surrounding the UK economy – it’s an uncertain time, not least within the UK manufacturing sector which is under immense pressure, having recently fallen in the global ranks when it comes to total output.
Beyond the need to adapt to the changing economic climate, there is also a growing demand to keep pace with the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) which is transforming the sector, as well as adapting to ever changing customer demands. Within this changing landscape, manufacturers are up against it to meet and exceed these expectations.
To succeed, manufacturers are increasingly focussed on enabling their service teams to drive increased productivity and capabilities to deliver a differentiated customer experience. Our research found that manufacturing firms are pulling on the three technological areas of Mobile, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) to maximise their service offering:
Mobile: the manufacturing ‘app economy’
The app economy has been talked about since applications were initially launched in 2008. Now the industry is worth upwards of £8.8bn in the UK. While the concept is by no means new, it has become an integral part of our day-to-day lives, both working and social. Hence why manufacturers must ensure they have adapted their business cultures to embrace a mobile-first approach that industries such as retail and entertainment have adopted for several years now.
This shift underpins a change in the times. Mobile apps in the workplace are no longer a luxury, they are a necessity. Employees need access to comprehensive data, that is up-to-date and easily visible. It is essential that service teams have access to high quality mobile customer service apps that provide the insight they need, in real-time. The use of applications ultimately makes it easier and quicker for technicians to retrieve their work schedules, log activity or product information in real time, which can make a big difference to the quality of service offered. Today, it’s not acceptable for a technician to turn up on site without access to the relevant data or product information, especially when face-to-face with customers.
AI: proactive, predictive service
AI is one of the most talked about and transformational technologies disrupting multiple industries. From case classification and intelligent routing to forecasting resolution time and service capacity, it can bring game-changing opportunities for the manufacturing sector and its service models.
More than 53% of companies are using predictive analytics. By pulling on AI, manufacturers are able to offer a proactive, not reactive, service. The technology can anticipate faults before they even happen, flag issues to customer service teams or agents and resolve the issue before it evolves. For example, Salesforce’s Einstein AI layer can analyse an impending technical fault and compares it with previous work orders. The insight is used to recommend tools, parts and techniques to solve the problem based on past experiences.
- Vivo aims to invest Rs 4,000 crore in a new manufacturing plant in India
- Tesla reveals its plans to explore the use of augmented reality within its production lines
- Daimler is set to acquire $23bn in battery cells, accelerating its electrification strategy
These steps are being replicated across the industry. Once a customer experiences this level of predictive service, they will no longer accept anything less, emphasising the importance of keeping pace.
IoT: helping manufacturers address issues before they arise
In the UK, 68% of manufacturers expect companies to start providing internet-connected products and services by 2020, according to our State of Service report. The expectation is there, but manufacturers are moving with caution. Understandably so given the current macro-environment.
Yet, McKinsey predicts the IoT market to be worth upwards of $517bn by 2020, with industries such as manufacturing, transportation and utilities set to spend $40bn on IoT platforms in that period. This is a clear indication of the steady, but growing, influence IoT is having on manufacturers and their service offering.
IoT brings operational efficiency. For example, imagine your washing machine breaks down, connected sensors can determine where the issue is occurring and trigger a request to an engineer. In a similar fashion to AI, it can initiate a request to an engineer on their mobile device to respond to the repair or assign someone else to the job. It's about taking a preventative maintenance approach instead of putting the manufacturer or the customer at an expense to deal with unexpected repairs or replacements.
Modern technologies, like AI and IoT, are introducing new services to customers with ease and speed that wasn’t possible before. There is a direct correlation between the adoption of these technologies and customer expectations, and customers will no longer accept anything less.
Time is now
Connected technologies bring the service offering together. With pressure mounting and digital disruption a constant challenge (and opportunity) manufacturers must invest in their service offering to bring a personalised experience to meet customer expectations.
It's certainly a time of significant pressure and economic challenges. Industry boundaries are being redefined. For those who fail to adopt such models risk falling behind, and ultimately being disrupted. However, manufacturers who recognise these opportunities and adapt accordingly to change, will thrive in this new era.
Gartner: Leaders Lack Skilled Smart Manufacturing Workers
With organisations rapidly adopting industry 4.0 capabilities to increase productivity, efficiency, transparency, and quality as well as reduce cost, manufacturers “are under pressure to bring their workforce into the 21st century,” says Gartner.
While more connected factory workers are leveraging digital tools and data management techniques to improve decision accuracy, increase knowledge and lessen variability, 57% of manufacturing leaders feel that their organisations lack the skilled workers needed to support their smart manufacturing digitalisation plans.
“Our survey revealed that manufacturers are currently going through a difficult phase in their digitisation journey toward smart manufacturing,” said Simon Jacobson, Vice President analyst, Gartner Supply Chain practice.
“They accept that changing from a break-fix mentality and culture to a data-driven workforce is a must. However, intuition, efficiency and engagement cannot be sacrificed. New workers might be tech-savvy but lack access to best practices and know-how — and tenured workers might have the knowledge, but not the digital skills. A truly connected factory worker in a smart manufacturing environment needs both.”
Surveying 439 respondents from North America, Western Europe and APAC, Gartner found that “organisational complexity, integration and process reengineering are the most prevalent challenges for executing smart manufacturing initiatives.” Combined they represent “the largest change management obstacle [for manufacturers],” adds Gartner.
“It’s interesting to see that leadership commitment is frequently cited as not being a challenge. Across all respondents, 83% agree that their leadership understands and accepts the need to invest in smart manufacturing. However, it does not reflect whether or not the majority of leaders understand the magnitude of change in front of them – regarding technology, as well as talent,” added Jacobson.
Technology and People
While the value and opportunities smart manufacturing can provide an organisation is being recognised, introducing technology alone isn’t enough. Gartner emphasises the importance of evolving factory workers alongside the technology, ensuring that they are on board in order for the change to be successful.
“The most immediate action is for organisations to realize that this is more than digitisation. It requires synchronising activities for capability building, capability enablement and empowering people. Taking a ‘how to improve a day in the life’ approach will increase engagement, continuous learning and ultimately foster a pull-based approach that will attract tenured workers. They are the best points of contact to identify the best starting points for automation and the required data and digital tools for better decision-making,” said Jacobson.
Long term, “it is important to establish a data-driven culture in manufacturing operations that is rooted in governance and training - without stifling employee creativity and ingenuity,” concluded Gartner.