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Are industrial manufacturers seizing all the opportunities of a more digital world?

Possibly not.

A recent article suggests that, by 2018, only 30 percent of manufacturers investing in digital transformation will be able to maximize the outcome. The remaining 70 percent are hindered by outdated business models and technology.

This is concerning. The speed of business is fast and companies that aren’t successful in adopting, implementing, and optimizing new technologies run the risk of being left behind.

However, the key – and challenge – with digital transformation is it involves more than an investment in a new technology, that investment must be part of an overall cultural shift within a company.

The good news is executives are aware of the importance of digital transformation. A GT Nexus study found 75 percent of respondents describe digital transformation of the supply chain as “important.”

While important, it takes more than executive buy-in to enable digital transformation. That same study found only 5 percent of those surveyed were very satisfied with their digital progress so far.

Let’s take a look at four reasons why digital transformation is an imperative in 2017 for industrial manufacturers:

1. Changing Consumer Expectations

Today’s customers have different expectations than they did even a few years ago. Customer experience and immediacy is prized. This is a universal shift that affects businesses up and down the supply chain, even manufacturers that don’t produce consumer goods.

Manufacturers need to rise to meet these new expectations – and one of the keys is through digital transformation. With smarter technology, greater visibility, and digital practices, there can be an increased focus on improvement and efficiency within manufacturers and throughout the supply chain. 

2. Harnessing Big Data

Technology has created an extraordinary amount of data; within this data there is great opportunity, but it also can be overwhelming. The industrial internet of things (IIoT) has exponentially increased the amount of data produced. It provides visibility into business practices and can help pinpoint bottlenecks and find efficiencies. However, this data can fall flat if a company’s systems and employees are not prepared to leverage it.

Part of a digital transformation needs to be creating processes and empowering employees to transform the data coming from various sources into actionable insights.

3. Drive for Efficiency

Those actionable insights provided by big data can put a manufacturer on the right path to greater efficiency. Digital transformation leverages tools to help manage a business better. Cost savings, improved customer experience, and decreased time to market are all potential benefits of a digital transformation strategy.

4. Continuous Demand for Innovation

Digital transformation lays the groundwork for innovative ideas. It provides a new framework for a business, it enables employees to do their jobs better, and, when successful, it frees up time and space for higher level work that can lead to business innovation and opportunities. This is vital because today’s industrial manufacturers are competing on a global scale and companies that maintain the status quo will be left behind.

Final Thoughts

As technology has advanced and become embedded in plants, warehouses, and throughout the supply chain, businesses have needed to adapt. Many already have, but the path toward digital transformation is different for every company – and it’s a process that’s never complete.

With a digital transformation strategy in place, industrial manufacturers can begin meet the demands and expectations of their customers and realize the benefits of a more efficient, responsive, and agile organization.