8 steps to spur investment in industrial machinery
By Khaled AlShami, vice president solution consulting, MEA, Infor
Trends including rising energy costs and the need for organizations to be more sustainable are expected to drive demand for new industrial machinery and equipment (IM&E). From wind-powered generators to electric forklifts in the warehouse, and motion-controlled lighting, plants and facilities will be redesigning systems from the ground up.
Manufacturers can help instigate forward-movement by turning to customer-centric technology to help their customers re-engage in the buying cycle, feel comfortable with the investment, and be inspired by new product offerings and the promise of greater value. Attentive care and guidance may be just what customers need to move past nervous hesitations about the global economy and, instead, focus on growth potential.
Here are eight ways IM&E players can help spur investment and encourage customers to move ahead with projects.
1 Attentive care. The procurement agents for heavy machinery and equipment are not so different from packaged goods consumers. Their purchases may have 6-figure price points, but the driving considerations are similar. Buyers of forklifts, generators, cranes, and road equipment worry about safety, availability, ethical sourcing, product reliability, and if their selection will cast them in a favourable light to their peers. IM&E customers are ready to issue purchase orders, but they want reassurances, reinforcement and added value from suppliers. They expect a red-carpet buyer’s journey where all of their questions are answered quickly.
2 Collaboration. IM&E manufacturers can better align with customers by offering portals and tools for communicating about product details, specifications, delivery, and status of service. As many IM&E purchases are make-to-order or engineer-to-order, manufacturers need to open doors of communication, while still protecting proprietary data and system security.
3 Connected supply chain. Like most manufacturing verticals, the IM&E industry has experienced bottlenecks in the supply chain that have slowed the ability to fulfill orders. While the current disruption will likely find a balance in 2022, the experience has also taught manufacturers the value of full visibility in the supply chain and not being caught with a single supplier. With real-time views in the extended supply chain several layers deep, manufacturers can better make strategic plans for delivery of parts and components.
4 Complexity. Many unique features of industrial machinery and equipment make manufacturing operations complex. For example, the size of the equipment, high value of parts, specialty materials, high tech elements, and compliance mandates all add complexity to the shop floor processes. Steps need to be synchronized to avoid delays. Quality must be monitored to reduce waste, and shop floor teams need easy access to order information so they can be sure of the exact specifications. Glitches in the process can lead to highly expensive waste.
5 Configuration. Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) solutions play a valuable role in helping customers select product details, creating a memorable customer experience—and a highly personalized product. CPQ solutions step the customer through selection options, recommending logical combinations, and make sure the selections are within compliance mandates. These solutions provide a quote, visual rendering, and generate a Bill of Materials so the order can proceed to production. The technology transforms the buying process, helping buyers get the exact combination of features they want, while preserving productivity and efficiency for the manufacturer.
6 Innovation. One of the most effective ways to reengage with potential customers is to demonstrate the innovative new product features developed. Product innovations tend to generate excitement and help the customer see potential return on invest and value. Using a Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solution will help speed product launches, streamlining steps, and documenting stages, including testing and any industry compliance needed.
7 After-market service. Large pieces of equipment frequently need service contracts. The manufacturer/supplier will offer contracts for maintenance and repairs. Field service is an ideal way to be closely aligned with customers, building the relationship and laying the groundwork for upsell and repeat sales. But, from dispatching field technicians to inventorying replacement parts, field service requires management of many moving parts. It requires a purpose-built solution to ensure efficiency. As an added bonus, service contracts and tiered warranty agreements can generate revenue.
8 Servitisation. The concept of servitisation is not new, but it is obtaining renewed interest as a strategy to help potential customers overcome cash flow issues. Rather than buying the piece of equipment, the customer contracts with the supplier for the result. So, instead of buying paving equipment, the customer might buy x miles of paved road for $X. The customer is assured of getting the final result. The supplier uses equipment sensors and internet of things (IoT) technology to track performance of the machinery on the job site.
The data generated from the piece of equipment helps the supplier monitor work accomplished, if maintenance is needed, or if the machinery is being operated correctly—the types of things that will lead to cost efficiency, a predicable margin, and the ability to make a profit on the pay-for-what-you-use model. Servitisation can be a winning model for everyone—as long as sensor data can be collected, analyzed, and consumed quickly and easily. The quality of the data—with context—is the key to achieving operational performance with room for supplier profit.
Challenges abound for manufacturers as post-COVID economic recovery limps along. For IM&E manufacturers, though, some opportunities on the horizon are reasons for optimism. A focus on infrastructure, sustainability, and innovation will trigger IM&E customers to rekindle stalled projects.
Armed with cloud-based modern software solutions, IM&E manufacturers can seize stirrings of opportunities and fan them into greater impact. Cloud-based ERP solutions, purpose-built for IM&E, offer important features. Advanced analytics, internet of things (IoT) capabilities, and Configure Price Quote solutions will give IM&E manufacturers the necessary tools to step up response time and confidently promise prospects they will get the job done – on time and as specified.