This article first appeared in the Autumn 2015 issue of OnWindows magazine.
Digital technologies such as cloud, mobile, social and machine-generated insights are part of our everyday lives. Digital technologies such as additive manufacturing (3D printing), robotics and the internet of things are increasing the rate at which manufacturers can introduce new products and tailor them precisely to customer needs – enabling them to reinvent manufacturing one customer at a time.
Manufacturers are focusing on three primary areas for their digital transformation. They are reimagining the customer journey by exploring opportunities to add value throughout. They are challenging their existing business models and they are redesigning operational and business processes in order to infuse digital into all parts of their operations.
What is key is to deliver both amazing digital customer experiences and digital operations excellence. Everyone in an organisation, from sales people and service representatives, to engineers, production/warehouse workers and delivery drivers, need to put the customer first in every decision. Building teams around the customer journey means breaking down the walls of the tradional workplace – helping employees to do their best work with connected technologies and empowering the front line with direct access to information and tools. Dynamic business systems must connect front-office and back-office processes, be easy and rapid to deploy, intuitive to use on any device, anywhere, and intelligently anticipate customer behaviour and needs, guiding individuals through complex tasks, to help manufacturers keep meet and exceed customer expectations.
However as Joshua Greenbaum, principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting, observes, while customer relationship management systems moved to the cloud early, and kept pace with the digital consumer to evolve into a platform for intelligent customer engagement, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems have been “stuck in older paradigms of implementation, innovation, and usability”.
Legacy ERP just cant keep pace with the new speed of business. It makes a mockery of investments in Industry 4.0, smart connected products, and new business models if you then become constrained by your enterprise softwares excessive infrastructure requirements, complexity, and cost or time to change. Manufacturers need the ability to develop, test, deploy and grow (or shut down) new business models in weeks, not years.
Whether these new businesses are the result of digital transformation, or mergers, acquisitions and divestures, manufacturers need more agile business systems. Greenbaum asserts that time-consuming and rigid processes that were the standards for the implementation of on-premise systems are “hampering the needs of businesses for rapid time to market and innovation”. However, he believes that Microsoft is changing the paradigm with Dynamics AX, Lifecycle Services and Azure.
Using these solutions, manufacturers can easily redesign, test and deploy business processes. It’s a way for manufacturers to challenge the status quo, but they need to do it quickly in a predictive way and without business disruption. With Dynamics AX, Lifecycle Services and Azure they will get faster time to value from their technology, improve business planning and execution with predictable implementations – getting them up and running faster. And when they want to customise processes, support for mainstream technologies like Visual Studio gives them a large pool of talent, resources and solutions to meet their specific business needs.
These technologies will also enable people to make smarter decisions quicker, so they are ready for anything and make customers’ dreams a reality. Critical to manufacturers facing a skill shortage, we are empowering people by delivering tools built for the modern workplace – business solutions that are mobile, familiar, easy to use and foster collaboration so people can be more productive, faster. And with real-time views into business operations they can make better data-driven decisions to have a positive impact on their business.
What’s more, manufacturers can grow their business at their own pace. With Dynamics AX, Lifecycle Services and Azure, we are giving manufacturers the ability to leverage the power of the cloud to scale their operations globally. The technologies easily integrate with their legacy systems and data so that they can continue to benefit from their existing investments and remove any barriers to growth. At the same time they can rest safe in the knowledge that their information will be secure and compliant in a trusted cloud from Microsoft.
Manufacturers can find out more about the power of these technologies at Convergence 2015 EMEA, which will take place from 30 November - 2 December 2015 in Barcelona, and at US Convergence which will take place from April 4-7, 2016 in New Orleans, LA.
Colin Masson is global industry director for manufacturing, Microsoft Business Solutions
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