September 21, 2018 By Dave Borrelli
September 21, 2018 – There are moments throughout history that change the way societies work and function on a daily basis. In the 18th to 19th centuries, rural societies became urban, iron and textile industries grew, and the steam engine made its mark on history. Fast forward to a paradigm shift that began in 1870: the world saw its first light bulb, as well as the invention of the telephone and electricity for mass production. More recently, digital technology has put a mobile computer in our pockets to communicate in ways once only imagined in science fiction films.
Referred to as industrial revolutions, these major development eras have progressed industries into a period where information and knowledge are easily and instantly shared. Currently, we are in the midst of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” – characterized by a fusion of technologies that blur the lines between physical and digital. We live in a world of “smart-enabled” products that use sensors and internet software, which allow manufacturers to deliver value-added services to customers based on real-time data and insights.
In the past, manufacturers stayed ahead of the curve by adopting new capabilities, such as mechanization, mass production and automation to suit previous industry revolutions. These changes improved businesses’ abilities to manufacture a better product – faster and cheaper. Once the product was done, it was “finished.” Now, disruptive technologies have customers demanding smarter, faster, and more personalized service experiences as a new measure of excellence. Manufacturers need to understand and anticipate customer needs beyond the product. In other words, the customer experience is the new product today.
According to the Canadian government, manufacturers export more than $354 billion each year, representing 68 per cent of all Canada’s merchandise exports. As the sector continues to modernize, manufacturers are becoming more innovative – with 48 per cent of manufacturing businesses expecting to increase innovation investments over the next five years, and only three per cent expecting to decrease innovation investments over the same time period.
Globally, top manufacturers are relying on highly skilled workforces made up of designers, researchers, programmers, engineers, technicians and tradespeople. For Canadian manufacturing to remain competitive, products need to be built differently, with innovations driving productivity improvements. That’s why 74 per cent of manufacturers in this country expect to purchase or develop new technologies that make tasks more effective and increase productivity over the next five years, according to PLANT Magazine’s 2017 annual Manufacturers’ Outlook report.
This movement “beyond the product” is essential to a manufacturer’s success. For instance, Ontario’s Brampton Brick centralizes data using an online community built on the Salesforce Community Cloud, ensuring that sales and service teams can work collaboratively. By giving everyone access to the same data, they are empowered to better track a customer’s service history, while proactively connecting with customers to tend to their individual needs.
Other manufacturers that consider this investment in tech and abandon paper-based processes will succeed through their ability to improve customer engagement and loyalty. The 2016 Connected Manufacturing Service Report by Salesforce Research supports this, as 55 per cent of manufacturers recognize that they will need new technology and updated machinery and equipment by 2020 to remain ahead of the curve.
Now is the time for the manufacturing industry to shed the old adage of “if we build it, they will come.” The digital era is creating an unprecedented opportunity for companies to leverage technology and data through the new world of cloud, social, mobile and data analytics. Every single customer touch point, whether a sensor or a shipment of a spare part, is an opportunity to move beyond the product and develop deeper relationships that will allow manufacturers to succeed in the future.
Dave Borrelli is the area vice-president of Salesforce Canada, a customer relationship management platform.