Midsize Discrete Manufacturers Raise The Stakes On Industry Evolution

Judy Cubiss

Discrete manufacturers are no strangers to change. But lately, even “change” is beginning to feel different. Customers are constantly raising the bar beyond the historical level of “good enough.” Smaller players are expected to deliver quality products and services on the same global scale as their larger competitors. Meanwhile, new competitors – from garage startups to nontraditional incumbents – are fueling disruption faster as demand for digital tools and experiences continues to grow.

For midsize manufacturing brands, fantastic products that address consumer needs perfectly are not enough of a differentiator – and neither is competing on superior customer experience alone. According to the IDC InfoBrief “Becoming a Best-Run Midsize Discrete Manufacturing Company,” the best strategy is to marry product excellence and the customer experience by fostering a culture of innovation and agile operation that pivots and responds to the speed and direction of market dynamics.

Finding an edge with experiences that matter

During a recent meeting with a growing pump manufacturer, an executive made an offhand comment that was tremendously profound in its honesty: “we need to know what bothers our customers and fix it now.” However, this time, he wasn’t just talking about their product line of industrial pumps. He was also alluding to adjacent events that happen after pump installation – such as system errors that strain pump operation.

Like this executive, thousands of best-run midsize manufacturers, as indicated by the IDC InfoBrief, are beginning to think outside of their product’s box by focusing on three fundamental business priorities:

  • Business agility and responsiveness: Investments in digital supply chain platforms and smart factory environments are generating the visibility and insights needed to react faster and more flexibly to evolving customer preferences and market changes.
  • Customer experience: Seamless, personalized, and multichannel – the convenience of this experience is highly valued by customers worldwide. The key to delivering on this promise requires insights from bringing together transaction, sentiment, and behavior data to innovate products, services, and strategies that provide business benefits anywhere along the value chain.
  • New business models: Best-run midsize manufacturers are building a differentiator by moving from selling products to selling services and experiences. Such an outcome-based service model includes proactive diagnostics of asset uptime.

The red thread running across these priorities is clear: customers are challenging discrete manufacturers to extend the value their products and services bring. The onus starts with manufacturers as they collect data points from sensors embedded in products and extrapolate them to communicate opportunistic results and improvements while delivering updated, new, or extended services.

Engineering a new era with digitalization

For most midsize manufacturers, the movement toward demonstrated, proven, and documented value across all product, service, and experiential offerings is a competitive opportunity. They possess an inherent ability to resolve issues swiftly, spot problem areas proactively, and engage with customers personally. Now, these attributes are at the center of their value proposition – bringing clarity that is nearly impossible for larger competitors to replicate.

The prospect of exploiting this advantage is inspiring growing brands to personalize, configure, standardize, or customize products and services – even when massive quantities are produced and sold. Whether delivered through predictive analytics, the Internet of Things, or artificial intelligence, the outcomes of such creative innovation include:

  • Tracking and tracing device location and performance
  • Extending services and applications to operations that go beyond the customer’s factory floor
  • Supporting the customer’s initiatives by delivering data that can be used in a nonproductive prototype or IT environment

As you can see, the discrete manufacturing industry is on the cusp of a new era that certainly favors best-run midsize players. The opportunities are vast in variety and remarkable in revenue potential. More importantly, growing brands can innovate a product and service mix that delivers valued experiences that sustain customer relationships for years to come.

Discover how best-run midsize manufacturers are driving more revenue, empowering employees, and responding to customer needs with groundbreaking, more-efficient strategies. Check out the SAP-sponsored IDC InfoBrief “Becoming a Best-Run Midsize Discrete Manufacturing Company.”

This article originally appeared on Forbes SAP BrandVoice.

Judy Cubiss

About Judy Cubiss

Judy Cubiss is Global Marketing Lead for Industrial Machinery and Components and Automotive at SAP. She has worked in the software industry for over 20 years in a variety of roles, including consulting, product management, solution management, and content marketing in both Europe and the United States.