Increasing competition in the manufacturing industry and an evolving digital economy puts pressure on organizations to reduce costs, improve customer experience and increase profitability making it challenging to scale business through technology. To gain a competitive edge in manufacturing it is important to look at ways to transform your organization to better integrate technologies that will help you adapt to the evolving workforce. Advanced manufacturing companies are implementing new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) to help drive profitability, but a true digital transformation isn’t about the newest technologies but rather selecting the right technologies to create future-ready strategies that manage change and capitalize on opportunities.
A research paper called The IT Value Hierarchy: Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a Metaphor for Gauging the Maturity Level of Information Technology Use within Competitive Organizations, written by Robert Urwiler and Mark N. Frolick from Vail Resorts, Inc. outlines Urwiler and Frolick re-imagined Maslow’s hierarchy of needs into a technological “hierarchy of needs” to give us an understanding of the basics needs that must be met, and when digital transformation has the opportunity to present itself.
IT Fundamentals in Your Infrastructure
In figure 2 listed in the paper, Frolick and Urwiler explain that IT fundamentals and infrastructure need to be in place as the foundation for a technologically sound company.
Ensuring you have IT fundamentals throughout your organization is about having software up to date and on a version that is supported, proper hardware, and other basic infrastructure needs such as WiFi, company e-mail enabled, software update and patches. Being on an unsupported version of your software will leave you vulnerable as well as having you create work-arounds. Not only does technology sourced business disruptions like this cost money but takes time, effort, and company productivity. For the majority of the companies that we speak with, this part or phase of the pyramid is already established. However, for those looking to start-up a new company, this is the beginning of their technology planning.
Establishing a Stable & Secure Technology Foundation
Having a stable and secure environment means that you have the lower layer of infrastructure working in sync with policies, processes, and procedures. One of the first areas to address and stabilize the technology foundation is with companies who have many different types of software solutions piecemealed together. With siloed information and systems, creates a challenge when looking to make an educated, data-driven decision. Simple tasks and process that can be automated remain extremely time consuming and difficult, requiring multiple reports from multiple systems. Ensuring the up-to-date and the right software is in place and integrates throughout the organization helps bring business enablement to the next level.
Things like change management, production control and dedicated IT resources to help with infrastructure organization and enablement are key. When the 3 P’s, policies, process and procedure, are in place, standardization becomes possible. This, in turn, helps in the decrease in possible manual errors, duplicate entry errors, and other visibility issues. The focus of technology is on ensuring that the infrastructure and operational processes are enabling the organization to streamline.
Integrated Information to Begin Planning a Digital Transformation
With disparate systems and siloed information, companies struggle to run an effective and efficient business. IT becomes the facilitation point for cross-functional technology solutions and a catalyst for business process improvements within the company at large. This is where Integrated information comes in and typically where our digital transformation journey conversation begins.
When considering bringing all functionalities and aspects of operations under one umbrella, such as an ERP, many companies turn to an RFP or RFQ to help guide them in this process. Being able to clearly articulate your current, future and desired state play a huge role in selecting a solution for your entire company and will help unify your business goals.
Making the choice to purchase a fully embedded solution to enhance visibility and cross-departmental communication is the beginning of the digital transformation as it not only encourages but empowers historical data to work collaboratively in the company’s best interest. You aren’t simply implementing technology, but rather transforming the way you do business and the way decisions are made by incorporating all departments into your workflows. Processes will evolve to become all encompassing. During this phase of digital transformation, the working ensemble of people, process and technology truly serve at a platform for innovation and growth.
Creating Competitive Differentiation
Incorporating technology, a completely embedded ERP solution allows your business processes to evolve, allowing you to make fully informed, data-driven business decisions, creating a unified front on business enhancement. Organizations are able to begin leveraging their technology for innovation and competitive differentiation.
At this phase of the transformation, IT takes center-stage, and is truly able to be used as the powerful tool that it is to address the ever-changing market demands. Mobile applications, Internet of Things, and machine learning are a few functionalities that become available once your information is integrated and available on a safe and updated ERP software. Fully embed technology, like Epicor ERP, enables their customers access to the next level of technology.
A Shift in the Paradigm with Technology
For those who are truly looking to change the way business works, and ultimately shift the paradigm, technology needs to be at the front lines of innovation. Frolick and Urwiler offer examples such as Amazon’s impact on book sales or Netflix’s impact on our local blockbusters and DVD sales. Modern technology will forever be the most powerful arrow in any company’s quiver, and when paired with innovative thinking, can change business models entirely.
The economy and the evolution of the way we currently do business is driving manufacturing organizations to leverage technology to becoming integrated, innovative, and fit for business continuity. Digital transformation is a common topic for some but not for those who are still sorting data through excel, working is disparate systems and have a dying need for update software that will help them automate their operations. Once your IT fundamentals are in place is it important to being looking at ways to create your own digital transformation will help you gain a competitive edge in manufacturing.
Manufacturers that are serious about growth are getting their businesses future-fit by investing in an ERP solution for greater visibility and insight to plan and support their next steps. Email us to learn more or to set up a free consultation with our tech experts to see how you can leverage ERP software to scale your business.