Respond to Your Customer’s Customer, Gain a Customer for Life

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Mechanic with Happy Customer

As manufacturing becomes more real-time-driven, determining how your client helps their own customers on the fly becomes critical.

We’re no longer designing and running solutions for customers inside the business, or customers outside the business. We’re supporting customers’ customers as well.

This calls for real-time visibility. By being responsive to “our customer’s customer, our customer will trust us for life,” says Tom Leeson, industry and marketing value strategist for manufacturing at OpenText. I sat down with Leeson at OpenText’s recent customer conference, in which he described how manufacturing is reinventing itself to a real-time, service-driven industry.  “Digital transformation and digital disruption just two sides of the same coin,” said Leeson. “If people don’t adopt disruption then for sure they will be disrupted.”

Today’s organizations now have to be “always on,” he said. “Equipment is now covered in sensors, originally monitored for the benefit of suppliers, is now being monitored for the sake of the customers’ customer.” For example, he illustrated, Jaguar has adopted the approach of serving its customers’ customers. “They didn’t want a supplier-customer relationship — they wanted to be in the shoes of their customer. Their philosophy is, “if we can help our customer’s customer, then our customer will trust us for life.”

See also: Cloud computing is driving uptake in manufacturing IoT

The ability to see through the value chain to a customer’s customer is made possible by the Internet of Things (IoT), in which original manufacturers can connect, in real time, to the ultimate end users of their products, be it car drivers or building owners. Leeson indicates he and his team are focusing on the automobile industry over the coming year, as it is ripe for this kind of disruption — soon to be “entirely built on IoT networks, software, data and contract manufacturing.”

Increasingly, “the product is only 50% of the deal,” Leeson adds. Information streaming from sensors within products and facilities means opportunities to expand into new lines of service-oriented businesses. The manufacturing industry is ground zero for this disruption, he points out. In Europe, there has been a movement toward Industry 4.0, or what Leeson defines as the “digitization of industry.” What’s driving Industry 4.0 and change across manufacturing is the arrival of “data in unprecedented volumes, Manufacturers have no choice but to be digital. Manufacturing is the industry that collects the greatest amounts of data on a daily basis.” At this point, he adds, 80% of that information collected is never used – manufacturers are “maintaining large data lakes of. unexplored information.”

This information can be accessed in many ways as the service side of manufacturing grows. A system that detects an impending failure with an elevator, for example, can automatically dispatch a service engineer “with the right part, the part to be replaced there and then to the location,” Leeson says. In addition, the service engineer may be wearing a body camera that accesses back-officedatabases, with access to all relevant documentation, service manuals, and experts that can help guide the repair. The system can instruct the service technician to “check these three problems first, make a repair decision, and use the body camera to record the repair.” Digitally enhanced services provide value-add for manufacturers to gain competitive advantage.

“It’s an exciting time to be in the business,” Leeson says, adding that manufacturing will never be replaced, but is evolving as the world evolves to digital. “You can never kill manufacturing because manufacturing is the science of making stuff.”

About Joe McKendrick

Joe McKendrick is RTInsights' Industry Insights Editor in charge of contributed case studies. He is a regular contributor to Forbes on digital, cloud and Big Data topics. He served on the organizing committee for the recent IEEE International Conference on Edge Computing (full bio). Follow him on Twitter @joemckendrick.

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