Nimble manufacturers are aware that they are in the midst of a fundamental shift that creates enormous opportunities, even as they face a global market and political mood filled with uncertainty. Some of these unknowns—like Brexit, tariff wars, and the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)—are significant geopolitical events that will likely disrupt established cross-border supply chains.
The current manufacturing paradigm, Industry 4.0, focuses on the end-to-end digitization of physical assets—or information about those assets—and the integration of that data into digital ecosystems with value-chain partners. The combination of Industry 4.0 megatrends—which includes automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies and cyber-physical systems—coupled with the rapid evolution of the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI), are quickly disrupting existing business practices for industrial manufacturers.
Leading organizations are increasingly reconfiguring themselves from legacy producers of equipment and consumer products into value-added service providers. Some have even launched businesses, monetizing their production, sales, and customer usage data as licensable intellectual property to other businesses.
The next generation of leaders needs quick and easy access to trusted and relevant data to make better business decisions and accelerate digital transformation. Crucially, master data must be of high quality to provide the correct context when combining data from multiple sources to support new business processes.
In many cases, however, the business must deal with raw materials, works in progress, and finished goods for production and aftersales, as well as supplier data that is frequently spread across different siloed systems, applications, business units, and regions. These systems occupy a specific set of processes in the manufacturing and distribution value chain, from procurement and asset tracking to manufacturing execution and accounting. This can make it difficult to have a trusted, 360-degree-view of their own data.
These disparate, siloed data sources also lead to lost sales, operational waste, productivity loss, bad customer experience, and compliance issues. Poor data quality and availability hinder a company’s agility and threaten its ability to implement the new business processes required to keep pace with change.
To systematically and repeatedly unleash the power of their product, raw material, and supplier data, industrial manufacturers need to create a flexible ecosystem in which everyone along the supply chain has access to relevant information to work together collaboratively along the supply chain.
A common data platform for modular end-to-end master data management (MDM) that fuels business applications, like a product information management (PIM) solution, can enable full visibility throughout the information value chain. Such a solution can also include functionality to improve and manage data quality. A unified approach for excellence in data management supports process optimization initiatives that have a direct impact on the bottom and top line.
Here are five outcomes manufacturers can achieve by intelligently mastering the increasing complexity of data within the information value chain.
- Reduce costs and operational inefficiencies
Industrial manufacturing companies often depend on multiple siloed systems and applications. With one trusted view of all entities—which include suppliers, products, and services, and the relationships among entities—organizations have consistent information to support business processes and make well-founded decisions. It also substantially reduces duplicate tasks, allowing employees to focus their talents on higher value-added tasks, such as the creation and distribution of richer product information, digital media assets, descriptions, and classifications. Increasing operational efficiencies when managing and collaborating on business-critical product or supplier data ultimately results in multiple opportunities to achieve significant cost reductions.
- Increase agility and speed time to market
Manufacturers must be able to deal with demand volatility, quickly adapt to changing market requirements, and accelerate time to market to meet customer demands for new and updated products. An agile business can better manage the uncertainty of how customers will behave and how markets will react. Rapid time to market is a key requirement to remain competitive, especially with fickle consumer demand, complex global supply chains, increased competition, and product commoditization. Quick access to rich product and supplier data that is consistent, trusted, and relevant speeds the supply chain for manufacturers. Fast and easy access to supplier spend and supplier performance metrics helps manufacturers make the right decisions, respond quickly, and detect anomalies.
- Enable global consistency, while accommodating regional localization
Industrial manufacturers marketing products internationally or operating abroad need the ability to centrally manage all product information for efficient inter-departmental collaboration, across applications and locations. Different countries present different challenges, such as the localization of thousands or even millions of SKUs or different local offerings. Then, too, a manufacturer may not sell all the products in their product portfolio in all variants in all countries or regions, and instead depend on local demand and customer needs. PIM systems help many industrial manufacturers align regions, locations, teams, and systems providing a single, enterprise-wide, and trusted source for all product data. It preserves global processes, automates the sharing of core product data, and provides a management framework for localization activities.
- Deliver an engaging omnichannel product experience
Omnichannel is no longer only relevant for retailers. Industrial manufacturing companies need to move beyond simply selling to their customers to cultivating and owning relationships with them through compelling digital experiences driven by content. They need to provide business-focused web platforms that are much more than an online version of their product catalog. Readily available and rich product data is key to providing great product experience across channels. A scalable and flexible product information management or PIM solution serves as a central platform to publish consistent and high-quality product data and fuel a unified omnichannel product experience.
- Reduce supply chain risk while supporting compliance
Ensuring and safekeeping the quality of product data along the entire product lifecycle and information supply chain is a key requirement. Embedded data governance and rich, high-quality product information are prerequisites for providing consistent, relevant content to customers and to the partner ecosystem. Having central data quality rules in place, supporting intelligent and holistic data governance, will successfully fuel efforts such as Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ) and order management systems across channels with trusted, secure, and governed product data.
Mastering Data Complexity is Critical to Next-Gen Manufacturing
Successful industrial manufacturing leaders must build a strong ecosystem that capitalizes on the promise of analytics and connectivity to maximize efficiency. To drive digital transformation, companies need more than just the right technology; leaders also need to build a strong digital culture, based on a foundation of high-quality data, and supported with the right skills. This can involve quite a bit of organizational change and must be driven by C-suite leaders to achieve the goal of creating a robust digital and data management culture. Implementing a scalable and intelligent MDM solution is a critical step forward for any manufacturer seeking to stay competitive in their market.
To learn more, download the white paper, “How MDM and 360-Degree View Solutions Fuel Data-Driven Digital Transformation in Industrial Manufacturing.”
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