Three Technologies Redefining Services in Manufacturing

Manufacturing is in transition. Given the current geopolitical events surrounding the UK economy – it’s an uncertain time, not least within the UK manufacturing sector which is under immense pressure, having recently fallen in the global ranks when it comes to total output.

Beyond the need to adapt to the changing economic climate, there is also a growing demand to keep pace with the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) which is transforming the sector, as well as adapting to ever changing customer demands. Within this changing landscape, manufacturers are up against it to meet and exceed these expectations.

To succeed, manufacturers are increasingly focused on enabling their service teams to drive increased productivity and capabilities to deliver a differentiated customer experience. Our research found that manufacturing firms are pulling on the three technological areas of Mobile, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) to maximise their service offering:

Mobile: the manufacturing ‘app economy’

The app economy has been talked about since applications were initially launched in 2008. Now the industry is worth upwards of £8.8bn in the UK. While the concept is by no means new, it has become an integral part of our day-to-day lives, both working and social. Hence why manufacturers must ensure they have adapted their business cultures to embrace a mobile-first approach that industries such as retail and entertainment have adopted for several years now.

This shift underpins a change in the times. Mobile apps in the workplace are no longer a luxury, they are a necessity. Employees need access to comprehensive data, that is up-to-date and easily visible. It is essential that service teams have access to high quality mobile customer service apps that provide the insight they need, in real-time. The use of applications ultimately makes it easier and quicker for technicians to retrieve their work schedules, log activity or product information in real time, which can make a big difference to the quality of service offered. Today, it’s not acceptable for a technician to turn up on site without access to the relevant data or product information, especially when face-to-face with customers.

AI: proactive, predictive service

AI is one of the most talked about and transformational technologies disrupting multiple industries. From case classification and intelligent routing to forecasting resolution time and service capacity, it can bring game-changing opportunities for the manufacturing sector and its service models.

More than 53% of companies are using predictive analytics. By pulling on AI, manufacturers are able to offer a proactive, not reactive, service. The technology can anticipate faults before they even happen, flag issues to customer service teams or agents and resolve the issue before it evolves. For example, Salesforce’s Einstein AI layer can analyse an impending technical fault and compares it with previous work orders. The insight is used to recommend tools, parts and techniques to solve the problem based on past experiences.

These steps are being replicated across the industry. Once a customer experiences this level of predictive service, they will no longer accept anything less, emphasising the importance of keeping pace.

IoT: helping manufacturers address issues before they arise

In the UK, 68% of manufacturers expect companies to start providing internet-connected products and services by 2020, according to our State of Service report. The expectation is there, but manufacturers are moving with caution. Understandably so given the current macro-environment.

Yet, McKinsey predicts the IoT market to be worth upwards of $517bn by 2020, with industries such as manufacturing, transportation and utilities set to spend $40bn on IoT platforms in that period. This is a clear indication of the steady, but growing, influence IoT is having on manufacturers and their service offering.

IoT brings operational efficiency. For example, imagine your washing machine breaks down, connected sensors can determine where the issue is occurring and trigger a request to an engineer. In a similar fashion to AI, it can initiate a request to an engineer on their mobile device to respond to the repair or assign someone else to the job. It's about taking a preventative maintenance approach instead of putting the manufacturer or the customer at an expense to deal with unexpected repairs or replacements.

Modern technologies, like AI and IoT, are introducing new services to customers with ease and speed that wasn’t possible before. There is a direct correlation between the adoption of these technologies and customer expectations, and customers will no longer accept anything less.

Time is now

Connected technologies bring the service offering together. With pressure mounting and digital disruption a constant challenge (and opportunity) manufacturers must invest in their service offering to bring a personalised experience to meet customer expectations.

It's certainly a time of significant pressure and economic challenges. Industry boundaries are being redefined. For those who fail to adopt such models risk falling behind, and ultimately being disrupted. However, manufacturers who recognise these opportunities and adapt accordingly to change, will thrive in this new era.

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