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Welcome to your future…success at your fingertips

Mary Hunter, managing director, Columbus UK

Manufacturers are beginning to embrace technologies and innovation, but many are missing the mark.

What does this mean? When it comes to innovation, many people find inspiration in a remark often attributed to Henry Ford: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Your customer does not know what possibilities are out there, but you do.

It is one thing for manufacturers to explore technologies and follow ‘the right trends’, it is another to put those innovations into practice and to evolve fast enough to meet the demands of the end consumer. Your customer needs you to come up with the right solution, and they don’t just want answers to today’s problems, they need you to predict the problems of tomorrow and solve them before they arise. Yet companies continue to fall from grace, failing to see the importance of addressing the future customer and instead focusing on business as usual.

This is not an effective strategy. What got you here, will not take you there. You must be able to look to 2020 – and beyond – to deliver an effective and future-proofed business.

Consumer demands are pushing towards higher productivity, efficiency and flexibility, placing immense pressure on manufacturing as an industry. The only path to survival is through a difficult journey of adaptation, differentiation and digitalisation.

Everyone has heard of digital transformation but many are still unsure of its meaning and the benefits it brings. Think of it this way: while predicting the future isn’t possible, we can get close and embracing digital is how you can get there.

Enhance your understanding of your customers’ future goals, analyse the changing context and trends around you and ask yourself what capabilities, skills or technologies do you need and where can you acquire them? You must learn how to anticipate future requirements and be agile while taking the actions needed to put your business firmly ahead of the competition.

As technology continues to advance at an alarming rate, leaving many businesses behind, remaining aware of your changing surroundings has never been more valuable. By keeping ahead of the trends transforming manufacturing you will not only realise more potential business opportunities, but you will get advance warning of incoming threats. Preparation is the key to success.

Future-proofing your business isn’t something that can be achieved after your next board meeting, it’s a
never-ending process of analysis, development and continuous improvement, fuelled by an appetite for innovation and learning.

This might mean adopting new and improved technologies such as the internet of things, data analytics and machine-learning. It may also mean shifting your business model to
‘product-as-a-service’, and it could mean you need to increase investment in training. The result should be a manufacturing organisation that can stand the test of time. Welcome to the manufacturers of 2020, 2030 and beyond.

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