In today’s digital era it is hard to remain competitive if the pace of the technological improvements you implement in your manufacturing business is falling behind the latest trends.
Manufacturers are now facing the challenge of not only focusing on how to keep bringing products that are relevant to their particular audience but also, in sustaining a strong-enough IT infrastructure that engrains the back-end business processes that make a difference for your customers.
IT investments are particularly significant not only for e-commerce businesses but also to companies that serve clients through more traditional channels, as is the case of many manufacturing companies since new technologies can enhance the way you communicate with them and how you remain well-positioned as a top competitor in your field.
On the other hand, IT investments can also improve your internal processes, by helping you track the return on investment (ROI) of specific activities, which will give you helpful insights to make informed decisions about resource allocation and to-do lists.
For this reason, we decided to do a little research for you on which are the top 3 IT investments a manufacturing business should consider to boost performance.
1. CRM Software.
Your customers are the ones who bring blood to the articulatory system of your business. Without them, all your projects, ideas and ventures will fall apart. A manufacturing company cannot survive without customers, and also, it cannot survive with the same customer base for a long time.
Attracting new customers to your company is as important as keeping the ones you’ve already gotten. A client that is not nurtured correctly is easy prey for competitors who may find your lack of care as an opportunity to steal them from you.
According to Salesforce, a well-known CRM provider, “3 out of 4 consumers say they spent more money with a company because of a positive customer experience”.
That means that 75% will spend more money on your products if you take good care of them. That’s a tremendous opportunity and a key reason why manufacturing companies are investing heavily in CRM software, as part of their IT investment program.
Nevertheless, this is not just about sending birthday cards or wedding anniversary congratulations emails. CRM is a robust market research platform that will allow you to gain valuable insights on your customer’s behaviours, preferences and decisions. This information has universal value when it comes to R&D, as it will enhance the results of your future product launches.
2. Warehouse Automation.
Imagine you have a great CRM system, but your customers keep complaining about wrong orders or damaged items which cause your return rate to skyrocket. This is a typical situation that takes place when manufacturing businesses take off, and you start to experience an increasing complexity of your warehousing processes.Even though running a warehouse can seem easy on the surface, it will become significantly more complicated when the size of your business starts to expand.
This is the moment where you should consider warehouse automation as your next IT investment, to solve issues related to picking, fulfilling, tracking and delivering your orders. A typical warehouse automation system includes tons of laser scanners, cameras, sensors, robots and a physical infrastructure that routes everything to where it should be.
For smaller businesses, these types of projects may not be an option due to the prohibitive costs of implementation. However, if you’re experiencing a marked increase in warehousing activity, you should consider investing in a partial warehouse automation project that helps you to reduce the number of errors on your orders and boost operational and financial performance.
Some of the main benefits of warehouse automation are:
- A dramatic increase in the speed of your fulfilment process.
- A reduction of warehouse space usage, mostly when employing robots, as they don’t need that much space to work with, which means reduced aisles and structures that can go as high as they can reach, which is something you can easily customise.
- A reduction in labour costs and management overhead
3. Team (Project) Management Software.
The freelancing and remote-working movements continue to gain traction and social acceptance within the commercial and industrial sectors. This includes manufacturing businesses who have outsourced HR, Finance, Product Design and even Production Planning activities to freelancers all around the world.
Managing remote workers is a new skill, and it demands particular leadership and organisational traits, but the challenges of this unique style of working can be reduced by implementing team management software that allows you collaborate, management, and monitor seamlessly with offsite workers.
Manufacturing businesses have created flexible organisational structures through this new job system as it allows them to hire and retire personnel on an as-needed basis depending on the volume of sales and production they are experiencing at any given point. This is particularly beneficial for highly seasonal companies that have a very particular demand distribution.
A few things to keep in mind before committing yourself to include a team or project management solution to your IT investment budget are:
- Cost. For the more budget-conscious this is an important element to consider. Depending on how dependent you will be of the proper functioning of such platform, a high cost would often be something you can live with. Johan Lieu from Wufoo, an online form builder, encourages those seeking to pick the right team management app to ask the following question: “Is this something that is going to automate a part of my workflow or make my life easier? If so, I’ll use it”.
- User-friendly. This is another important element of a team management app. If this app is going to be a significant part of you and your team’s life, you should make sure it’s comfortable enough. This includes that you can learn how to use it in less than a day (at least the basic features) and that it actually saves you time instead of just adding another step to the reporting system you already have.
- Mobile-friendly. Anything that is not mobile-friendly right now should be considered obsolete. Our mobile devices have almost become a detachable part of our body. That means everything we do can be optimized if we can do it on our smartphones. Perhaps you’re not going to write a 2,000 words article on it, but you will answer chats, emails and even complete quick tasks. A mobile-friendly app is therefore a must.
Keep in mind that IT investments are not a one-time thing. You can’t just pour money into it once and leave it like that for years. Developing a robust IT infrastructure nowadays demands that you consistently monitor the development of new technologies that have the potential to shape the way you run your manufacturing business.
Reducing your IT budget can severely impact your competitiveness, as well as your ability to adapt quickly in this ever-changing digital era.
A growing business is a whole new world, and you need the right tools to handle all the unique issues that are now coming your way. For this reason, you should take a hard look at these three promising IT investments.
The way you organise your growing business will undoubtedly determine the time it’s going to take you to move forward to the next level!
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