You can describe the evolution of high-tech manufacturing as a story of changing relationships. When you refocus the business on creating customer value and eliminate any activity that does not directly contribute to it, customer engagements gain a partnership quality. The culture of doing business with customers changes. When customer stakeholders realize that more is at stake than facilitating transactions, they will likely take a deep breath of relief, and quickly look for more immediate and strategic ways to work together and exchange information. That probably begins with your most forward-looking customers—the companies that are ready to join you in innovating and delivering competitive products to your shared end customers.
Although this is a welcome development, you still need to keep it secure and productive, and you need to incorporate all compliance, reporting, and sustainability requirements into your interactions and processes. When people feel that organizational boundaries may get in the way of productive collaboration, you might face risks to the integrity of your intellectual property and the company’s brand as they look for informal workarounds. Because you don’t want to squash value-driven customer engagements with heavy-handed and unproductive restrictions, you need to furnish a collaboration platform that keeps sensitive data and communications secure and that is always available and policy-compliant. In the modern cloud
, you can provision that kind of shared environment, and you can give the collaborators controlled, secure access to information and files from your engineering, business, and content management systems.
Continuous improvement requires more value from key relationships
For some high-tech manufacturers
, making customer value creation front and center of the business means pursuing continuous improvement. Even if you do an excellent job of serving your customers, you can’t allow them or yourself to remain stagnant, or the competition will pass you by. High-tech companies create metrics and KPIs to measure ongoing improvements in product quality, process efficiency, cost reduction, regulatory and corporate-standards compliance, customer satisfaction, project margins, and more. Some take this to another level and introduce agile practices originally spearheaded by software developers into business operations, driving for faster momentum and higher quality achieved in manageable time segments.
When you evolve your high-tech business to become more agile and customer-centric, the supporting relationships with suppliers, contract manufacturers, dealers, resellers, OEMs, logistics companies, and others also need to acquire a new, lean dynamic. You need to find the most efficient, secure, and productive ways to engage with these parties. Some of your long-standing suppliers may not be able to follow you as you realize your own flavor of Industry 4.0, and there may be others who might be a better fit. Just like any new competitor could arise from almost anywhere in the world, you might also find valuable supply-chain partners in industrializing regions that may not have been in the forefront of your attention.
The supply-chain capabilities of your business management platform need to help you recruit and manage these contributors within your projects and processes. As with any business-critical element, you need to remain in control of their performance in terms of quality, cost, compliance, intellectual property (IP) and data security, and timeliness, and you need alternatives in case a supplier fails or is acquired by one of your competitors. Today’s standardized business solutions can greatly simplify the management of these relationships and easily deliver the intelligence to measure their value for the business.
Sunset for traditional workforce management
The high-tech manufacturing workforce have traditionally comprised relatively small groups of highly educated engineers and highly qualified executives together with teams of production and distribution workers, who had more basic skills. That arrangement of accountabilities and qualifications will no longer be effective when you transform the company to perform customer-focused innovation and production. Greater organizational nimbleness requires employees at all levels to become more autonomous and be responsible for making sound decisions. That means they need to have the decision-enabling intelligence and well usable tools to do so without incurring compliance risks or exposing your IP and sensitive data to inappropriate access.
Talented new graduates and early-career professionals are currently not rushing to join high-tech manufacturing companies that may be valuable and healthy, but can’t boast glamorous, high-visibility brands and empowering, innovative technologies. Analysts predict dramatic shortfalls in companies’ ability to keep their workforces replenished through generational change. You also need to prepare for new roles that may be essential in your customer-focused business, such as data scientists or business analysts, who can translate a wealth of customer, operational, and third-party data into effective planning and decision-making. These roles may be relatively new outside of large enterprises, but they are becoming more and more critical.
Attract and empower talent, or face obsolescence
Many high-tech manufacturers deliver excellent products by means of production and business operations that rely on legacy tools that become continuously less reliable and more cumbersome to maintain. Attracting and retaining talented, motivated people to join a company is just one of many reasons to modernize these technologies. Today’s cloud-based ERP
, industry, and analytics software can help you develop and empower a workforce of people who understand how technology can help them perform outstanding work and meet their professional goals. They also appreciate being able to do their jobs without unproductive restrictions, and the more you can give them secure, mobile access to data and software capabilities, the better the outcomes they can deliver for the business.
According to many recent surveys, technological enablement in immersive, value-driven work environments is important to today’s young professionals and therefore business-critical for high-tech companies. If you can’t manage a strong showing in this area, you won’t attract the committed contributors who can take the company into the future.
Sikich has built its business one relationship at a time. We appreciate the value and potential of high-tech manufacturers’ relationships with customers, supply-chain partners, and employees. Technology can enable these relationships to return value to the business, and we can help you plan, deploy, and evolve it.