How Can the 4IR Bring Manufacturers Closer to Customers?
Richard Mathias, Senior Technology Architect at LiveArea, discusses the global manufacturing landscape as part of Raconteur’s ‘The Future of Manufacturing’ special report, published in The Times.
New technologies are rapidly altering the global manufacturing landscape and enabling manufacturers to boost productivity and improve operational efficiency through making their supply chains more connected. Despite this, some in the manufacturing industry have been slow to embrace the 4IR. A survey published in 2018 by manufacturing organisation Make UK (formerly EEF), found that 64 per cent of UK manufacturers are aware of the 4IR, yet 57 per cent have yet to make a 4IR-related investment.
A possible reason for this disconnect is that there needs to be a strong business case for investing. Each industrial revolution that has come before has brought about exciting technological advances and a need to adapt to survive or be left behind. Today, manufacturers will be hearing terms such as artificial intelligence and automation and may be wondering what the fuss regarding the 4IR is about and what the reward for embracing this revolution will be.
The answer is digital transformation. The 4IR will help manufacturers to make the customer journey to purchase smooth and personal.
Putting customers front and centre of a manufacturing strategy is becoming increasingly imperative. With companies across Europe and in the United States facing competition from economies such as China, where high-quality goods can usually be manufactured at a fraction of the cost, businesses have to complement their manufacturing optimisation strategies with other differentiators, and leverage their closer relationship with the customers.
The 4IR presents opportunities for manufacturers to better understand and get closer to their customers, by gaining unprecedented insight into buying behaviours through intelligent data analytics. If manufacturers can learn what a particular type of customer orders and how often, then they can forecast more accurately and ensure they’re manufacturing enough of a certain product to meet demand.
With a suitable incentive, customers aren’t averse to analytics tracking their commerce journey – 87 per cent of customers say they’re willing to have their journey tracked if there are tangible rewards, according to The Loyalty Report 2018, published by customer engagement agency Bond.