After a strong and fruitful year, predictions of UK manufacturing industry growth for 2015 remain cautious: after an initial estimate of 3.5% growth for this year, a slowdown to 2% growth is now forecasted. How to increase manufacturing productivity is the golden question of the year. Factors such as the European economic and political uncertainty, the export decline trends, the growing competition and impeding threat of emerging markets require UK manufacturing businesses to reconsider their business. Now more than ever, businesses need to improve their productivity capabilities and optimise their production process, while matching the ever-changing customers demand and needs, to ensure that they maximise their profits.
But how can these goals be reached and what tools do businesses have at their disposal to succeed in both domestic and international markets and to increase manufacturing productivity? Customers are the answer and technology is the vehicle to reach them.
Increasing manufacturing productivity by shaping the offering to your customers
‘Listen to your customer’. If you run a business you are very likely to have come across this sentence hundreds, if not thousands, of times. What does this actually mean? And why should this be essential in manufacturing? Regardless of the industry in which you work in, you must acknowledge you are producing something for somebody. That somebody is the driving force of each of your business operations and where all your efforts should be addressed. If you’re wondering how to increase the productivity of your manufacturing company, who actually buys (or would potentially buy) your product is the first place you should start your research.
The manufacturing industry has undergone impressive changes in recent years: technology plays a major role and no business that aims at sustainable growth can ignore it. But what are the latest trends in the manufacturing industry and how can technology help companies reach customers in the right way?
First of all, a new customer-centric view and a shift from product to service have gained ground. Businesses don’t just make products anymore: rather they (should) make products that reflect what customers really want. In addition, in line with a more general trend registered in business management, the so called servitization; the offering of services that complement or support a product (e.g. maintenance/repair, customer support, consulting design etc.), is becoming a key driver in manufacturing success. Creating additional services around a product will, indeed, contribute to develop a deeper relationship (and, therefore, knowledge of the customer), deliver a superior customer experience and increase your perceived value.
Similarly, new players and hot topics (ERP, CRM, Cloud, Big Data, Predictive Analytics, Social Listening and the Internet of Things) are leading the way in the manufacturing industry. All these elements, if savvy combined together, will enable businesses to better understand the underlying needs of their customers, their perceptions and buying behaviours. Consequently, this allows them to manage operational activities in a more efficient and customer-led way, finally increasing their productivity.
Why getting closer to customers will increase productivity in manufacturing
So, if understanding customers is the mission and the driver of a business, what should companies do to comprehensively learn about them and fully exploit this information? Here is where technology comes into play: integrating a CRM solution with ERP tools, for example, will allow managers to easily deal with aspects such as quality control, production flow and supplier management on the one hand, and factors such as customer profiles, customer satisfaction marketing campaigns and social media management on the other hand.
Getting closer to customers, learning about them, listening to their feedback and needs will allow your company to go the extra mile by delivering a unique customer experience that goes beyond the mere usage of a product. With a closer customer approach, every team will enjoy valuable insights and be able to make informed decisions. Not only will NPD be more customer-focussed, but also companies will be able to improve complementary services and to better forecast demand, minimising costs and increasing productivity.
‘How to increase manufacturing productivity’ finally has an answer: get closer to your customers, listen to them and give them what they really need by shaping your products and services according to their requirements.