When you take your Industry 4.0 initiative to customer relationships and the product portfolio that you offer, you benefit from your sharpened focus on customer value and the insights gleaned in your proof-of-concept project. Until Industry 4.0 becomes the de facto standard in the specialty chemicals industry, you can enjoy the distinction of digital leadership. That gives you a unique position to launch product and service innovations that rely on the strategic, connected use of digital technology.
Own digital leadership
The transition from an internal focus of Industry 4.0 to turning the spotlight to customer relationships can be gradual. The operations of many production companies in the specialty chemicals industry are similar to their customers’, and there will often be significant commonalities in the challenges businesses need to address. If, for instance, you successfully use live data from the internet of things (IoT) to enable condition monitoring and drive better outcomes from your machinery, facilities, and logistics systems, your customer might be very interested to learn about this.
Providing data-enabled services
Maintenance and asset and facilities management are areas where many customers of specialty manufacturers – especially pharmaceuticals companies, but also automotive and construction enterprises – welcome outsourcing. Services that focus on improving such standard industry metrics as Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) or Overall Facilities Effectiveness (OFE) have the advantage of being both valuable and clearly measurable.
You would manage customers’ IoT data similar to your own, storing and processing them in the cloud and connecting them with your cloud-based ERP and analytics systems to assess the performance of industrial assets and ensure that your services are profitable and sustainable. In Microsoft Dynamics 365, which brings advanced ERP as well as customer relationship management (CRM) capabilities to the Azure cloud, you can also record and manage your customer interactions, commitments, and account histories.
Translating IoT into intelligence
Many companies still struggle with how to make sense of the IoT and turn the masses of data generated in their operation into strategic intelligence. Some of the earlier Industry 4.0 adopters launch digital analytics and insight services that help their customers gain that intelligence, for example, through market trend analysis or predictive analytics that helps them improve their demand planning and forecasting.
Of course, if your organization itself sets an outstanding example for meeting fluctuating customer demand by means of predictive demand planning based on data pattern recognition and smart capacity planning and forecasting – you’ve demonstrated that you can deliver the value of digital insight services.
Creating closer customer relationships
With an Industry 4.0 strategy that uses digital tools to create value for your customers and accomplish unique, valuable outcomes, organizational boundaries can become in a controlled way transparent when it serves the companies concerned.
In the modern cloud, you can easily establish collaborative workspaces where you can securely share data and intellectual property with clients. That capability can be invaluable if you transform part of your product portfolio to be specific to customers and your work with them involves formulations, series of tests and their results, pricing models, delivery schedules, and parts of your procurement and supply chain management.
Greater responsiveness and a departure from commoditization
Adjusting standardized products to individual customers’ requirements can help overcome commoditization and disruptive competition in the specialty chemicals industry. By using your digital resources to gain the necessary intelligence, enable customer collaborations, plan production, and access the global supply chain, accomplishing can become a closely targeted, results-driven effort.
Specialty chemicals companies are also taking advantage of their data assets and analytics prowess to increase the flexibility of their planning and production. That enables them to be more responsive to customer urgencies in demand-driven manufacturing or at short notice convert certain production lines for rush orders without disrupting other operations.
Including competitors in your transformative strategy without putting the business at risk
Using digital tools, you can increase your organization’s reach into markets and supply chains without compromising transparency or quality control. You can source from a broader spectrum of qualified vendors and access a larger, global market of prospects and customers.
In some instances, it may also make sense to move away from the traditional ways of addressing competitive challenges. Manufacturers typically try a variety of approaches to beat their competitors, such as aggressively pursue their customers in sales and marketing campaigns, cut costs, innovate products and services, imitate and re-create products and services, negotiate exclusive supply-chain relationships, and more. Most of these tactics are not long-term sustainable, and, instead of benefiting customers, they can also result in much waste of resources and budgets.
What’s more, while common wisdom holds that competition is good for innovation and results in lower costs for customers, the opposite can also be true. Valuable, innovative ideas may not always be able to withstand a competitive onslaught, and the inefficiencies associated with multiple companies competing for the same customers’ business are likely to increase, not lower, expenses.
Some Industry 4.0 adopters are already exploring the use of digital technologies to transform their relationships with competitors. Instead of manufacturing redundant products or alienating customers with their sales practices, they concentrate on their unique value propositions and engage in targeted, limited collaborations to meet customers’ needs. Cloud-based ERP and collaboration tools can facilitate the secure, confidential communications and engagements to help specialty manufacturing companies avoid the detrimental aspects of competition.
At Sikich, we have the industry and technology insight and solutions to help you shape your Industry 4.0 strategy and use the best current software solutions to get it underway. Sikich provides several free resources to help you move into your Industry 4.0 initiative. You can now download our whitepaper, Getting past Industry 4.0 hype to take advantage of transformative opportunities for creating value.