Much has been said about Industry 4.0, and how it has revolutionized the manufacturing world by providing manufacturers with opportunities to utilize advanced tools and technologies throughout the product lifecycle. There’s no doubt that Industry 4.0 has enabled manufacturers to increase operational visibility, reduce costs, expedite production times, and deliver exceptional customer support.
However, as 2021 rapidly approaches, it’s time to turn our attention away from Industry 4.0 and toward Industry 5.0. Where the fourth industrial revolution focused on using technology to optimize the means of production, the fifth is all about connecting man and machine — that is, a collaboration between humans and smart systems. Depending on who you ask, Industry 5.0 is either on the immediate horizon, or it’s already here, its arrival accelerated by the onset of the pandemic.
There can be no doubt that manufacturers must continue to embrace change in order to stay ahead of competitors and win market share in an ever-evolving industry. Those who wish to not just survive, but thrive, must leverage the latest technologies and trends.
From B2B to B2C
In recent years, many manufacturers have opted to transition from a traditional business-to-business (B2B) model to a business-to-consumer (B2C) model. The B2C model boasts a number of appealing benefits, including:
- Increased Profits: Companies can get full manufacturers to suggest retail price (MSRP) rather than wholesale prices for their products.
- Faster Time to Market: Rather than contend with the lengthy traditional retail sales cycle that requires them to lock-in product development far ahead of order and delivery, manufacturers can rapidly prototype, test, and push products to market, giving them a distinct competitive advantage.
- Brand Control: B2C eliminates the risk of a manufacturer’s brand being diluted or misrepresented by third parties.
- Price Control: Manufacturers have the opportunity to reinforce their MSRP.
- Better Customer Data: Selling directly to consumers enables manufacturers to collect customer data that can ultimately result in better products, stronger relationships, and increased sales.
To effectively sell directly to consumers you’ll need to select a platform for your eCommerce operations that supports both your B2B and B2C sales platforms. It will have to deliver on order fulfillment and tracking, secure payments, customer service management, and sales and marketing activity tracking while providing a 360° view of all your B2B and B2C customer interactions.
Investing in Knowledge Workers
Artificial intelligence and automation will continue to play a key part in the manufacturing world, Forrester said, which means knowledge workers with tech skills will be in high demand.
Forrester predicts that In 2021, leading manufacturers will define a clear manufacturing process data strategy and aggressively invest in technologies such as unstructured content analytics, digital worker analytics, knowledge management solutions, industrial knowledge graphs, and reinforcement learning to enhance skills and encourage continuous learning, scaling industrial good practice, and fostering more innovation.
To make matters better (for those looking for those jobs), there’s a global shortage of the workers needed to make those new technologies a reality for manufacturing companies.
Manufacturers Gain Greater Visibility into Big Data
Renewed interest in IoT and increased emphasis on predictive maintenance means big data is an even bigger trend than ever before; we can likely expect almost every surface to be transformed into a sensor for data collection in order to generate real-time insights for manufacturers. The ability to collect data from a multiplicity of sources, combined with increasingly powerful cloud computing capabilities, make it possible for manufacturers to slice and dice data in ways that provide them with a comprehensive understanding of their business — an absolute essential as they work to reevaluate their forecasting and planning models and develop a successful COVID exit strategy.
Evolve Direct and Indirect Channel Strategies
As face-to-face customer contact diminishes, manufacturers are rethinking their channel strategies. Approximately 20% of manufacturers have their own eCommerce channels, while others are prioritizing distributors with full online capabilities. With direct channels, manufacturers are expanding enterprise programs and increasing efficiency with sales specialists and hybrid insides sales roles. As digital roles and business development representatives expand, so does the breadth of inside sales roles.
Despite the rise of digital channels, manufacturers are not moving en masse to purely direct selling models. Approximately 60% of manufacturers surveyed rely fully on channel partners or use a mix of direct and indirect selling channels. However, manufacturers are demanding more from their indirect channel partners, and only 10% feel that they are well-aligned strategically.
Looking ahead, engineering businesses and manufacturers will likely continue to reevaluate their workforce based on shifts in demand. Those companies that find themselves in a position to hire will likely have their sights set on highly data-focused employees. Though this type of employee is likely to be a rare find due to the ongoing shortage of tech-savvy talent, companies like Hitachi Solutions are producing easy-to-use technology that will create new opportunities for employees of all backgrounds.