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  • Writer's pictureMike Shields

The Time is Now – From Watching to Action on Digital Transformation in Manufacturing

Insights into intelligence, acceleration, and accessibility of digital superiority for manufacturers

I’m flying back from Microsoft’s 2018 Executive Industry Summit (EIS), and I need to capture my excitement about what has happened – and continues to happen – as the power of a massive suite of cloud-based technologies converges on an industry that can now realize tremendous gains in customer engagement and service modernization through tech innovation. The momentum to digitally transform has shifted from a latent potential to an energized buzz as real game-changers are now proving their impact. The “hype” about Digital Transformation is no longer ahead of the proven solutions. As a result, many of the business leaders I interacted with have moved from the sidelines onto the playing field…many of last year’s watchers are now performers. This new era of cloud-based technologies is massively advancing manufacturing – and that is what we’ve needed to precipitate the digital transformation in our industry.

Emerging Trends Become Fast Change – The Digital Transformation Tipping Point

“We don’t move when we see the light, we move when we feel the heat”. This one of my explanations for not driving some of the bleeding-edge investments as a former CIO in manufacturing. It was true. Unless we knew we had a pretty well-proven opportunity to drive results, as a publicly traded company we had to maximize ROI on investments without placing an overly risky bet. It remains true.

And so, I always look to the business leaders in our customer markets to see what is likely to fit that model – where they feel the heat of the need to change to stay on top, coupled with the ability to realize a sound return on investment. At EIS this year, I saw that many of these manufacturing leaders were there to listen and learn how to accelerate their own digital transformations – evaluating progress and looking for new ideas to implement, instead of watching to make sure they weren’t falling behind. We heard from some of the leaders and saw the new business models that are transforming their markets.

Case Study – Why We Need Digital Transformation

Before founding eLogic, my last job in industry was VP/GM of Aftermarket Services for a large global industrial manufacturer. I was frustrated every day by our inability to apply the full power of our core competencies in equipment design and maintenance to remove every inefficiency and maximize every customer engagement. And we were already known as the best in the business, with a superb quality image and leading market shares! We had terrific products, a great field service team, an excellent parts organization, passionate customer service people and all the ingredients for success. Nonetheless, I knew we were leaving a lot on the table. Although we had massive amounts of data from decades of design, testing and customers, we couldn’t predict failures, optimize every maintenance cycle, cross-sell and upsell every new advancement. Why not? It was simple. We literally couldn’t process data to gain actionable insights and turn around decisions fast enough – at every point where it mattered.

We simply couldn’t collect, reduce, analyze, and take action on every one of these opportunities for higher performance. This led to many missed customer and market opportunities that can now be fully and easily addressed through these digital transformation technologies in market today.

No More Excuses – Move from Data Collecting to Actionable Insights!

Just as examples of how big this change is becoming, at EIS I saw a true game-changer set of predictive analytics from a truck manufacturer, who demonstrated a case study that enabled a shift from a product-centric to a full-service subscription model. I heard a similar story from another customer, who is rapidly moving to a service model for clean water that optimizes customer value at lower costs. These are only a couple of the many proof-points that were not there last year.

These are not necessarily new ideas, but they are now in range for most manufacturers. Looking back to my Aftermarket days, my main obstacle to achieving that next-generation level of performance wasn’t a lack of vision or desire…It was affordability. We simply couldn’t afford to hire, train, and deploy the army of data collectors, analyzers, and publishers to get at those actionable insights. Our IT organization didn’t have the tools and resources to get it done; and the business teams were similarly frustrated with the inability to quickly and easily get at insights.

So, when I say that there are “no more excuses”, I’m referring to a seismic change in the accessibility and affordability of a whole new array of technologies that remove those historical barriers. They are massively more scalable, powerful and intelligent at providing insights across every business function. But even that wouldn’t be enough – they also need to be embedded into the business systems and tools that organizations use every day to operate. And that is what we saw at EIS this year. Microsoft is leading in the investment, product development and cloud platform innovations to provide this full set of intelligent capabilities that enable the digital revolution. Today we can literally unlock the data, embedded within our Sales and Service platforms, across our customers and our internal operations to turn that into customer value and organizational performance. And it’s all available without investments in infrastructure and massive IT projects.

Microsoft is the Best Bet – Empowering Digital Transformation in Manufacturing

Looking back about six years ago, we formed a partnership with Microsoft’s Dynamics business applications in hopes that we’d find faster, more efficient, and less costly solutions for our industrial manufacturing customers. Leaving EIS 2018, it is clear that we aligned with the right platform. We can see that Microsoft will be the dominant force in the intelligent enterprise – bringing together more of the cloud based digital transformation technologies than any competitor. We’ve raised our expectations and standards for what is a good investment for manufacturers… cloud platforms will win, and Microsoft is winning the battle to bring a massive array of intelligent, integrated cloud solutions to every enterprise. The time is now.

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