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Manufacturing and technology - Are they speaking the same language?

As the manufacturing world continues to evolve to meet new challenges, there's a step-change in innovation for the products and services that are delivered and supported. Many industry insiders are expressing the need for a focus on driving sustainable (and profitable) business growth. Deloitte suggests digital investment and supply chain resilience as the key pillars.
Phil Lewis
Phil Lewis

“Partnerships are also increasingly important to achieving sustainable business growth, whether that’s upstream or downstream within the supply chain or enabling partners such as application and technology providers,” believes Phil Lewis, Infor’s VP of Solution Consulting EMEA.

In all of those partnering scenarios, it’s important to have a common understanding of the desired outcomes, to ensure everyone is speaking the same language. This dramatically shortens the time to value. Manufacturing is shifting towards industry-specific applications, now nearly always delivered in the cloud to maximise adoption, flexibility, availability, and security, while reducing through-life cost of ownership. In fact, Gartner forecasts end-user public cloud spending to grow by 18% through 2021.

If the organisation is a well contained, low risk, low complexity business with customers who will continue to remain happy with the status quo and there’s no real threat of disruption, a horizontal, one-size fits all approach to enterprise resource planning (ERP) may still suffice. “However, most companies need to simplify the management of their complex business and are looking to differentiate through the application of technology,” believes Lewis.

Horizontal applications can manage a particular business function: typically finance and procurement, with everything else just bolted-on. Yet many of today’s organisations are coming to the realisation that industry-specific capabilities and new technology are needed. Old methods are no longer fit for purpose. “Industry-specific cloud ERP offers capabilities that match the way business should be done. This drives efficiencies, empowering businesses to operate in real time and unlock true potential. It’s also faster to implement, offering success more rapidly.”

An industry-centric, single view or digital twin of the business helps decision makers to identify variations to expected operational performance early. With this in hand, variations can be analysed and managed long before finance teams would typically become aware of them. The finance role can then transition to focus on strategic operational and financial improvement, fostering a continuous improvement mentality.

“As Jim Collins talks about when referring to the ‘flywheel effect’, good-to-great transformations are unlikely to occur in a single step. A clearly articulated and communicated strategy that results in measurable, incremental improvements is key to successful, long-term transformation,” advises Lewis.

Unsurprisingly, when it comes to triggering organisational change, the business drivers are often a complex mix of customer expectations and demands for a better experience, a focus on operational effectiveness, and the need to meet stricter industry regulations and operating conditions. That’s why it’s important that applications software technology vendors speak the same language as the business. “As an example, optimising the order to delivery process in an engineer-to-order or configure-to-order environment demands a single view of the product from concept through quote to build, delivery, and then on through life support. Anything less adds risk to the whole process,” he adds.

As the old saying goes: ‘The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.’ Organisations that have traditionally been slow to move still have time to catch up. The challenge is often creating the internal momentum - the first push on the flywheel. In true partnerships, when everyone speaks the same language, multiple stakeholders come together to create a more powerful outcome.

“Don’t wait too long,” warns Lewis as he concludes. “Early adopters are now more agile, flexible, and efficient - and they could already be making inroads into their competitors’ share of the market. The right partner, with the right industry experience and knowledge, will understand the value to be gained by overcoming challenges, defining a true roadmap to success.”

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