Over the past two decades I have had the opportunity to work with many great people at many great manufacturing companies. As we collect the knowledge that spans our careers, patterns start to become clear. Certain beliefs and philosophies emerge that separate those with greater success than the rest. To start, great companies are driven by great people. Those individuals that have a clear vision of where their industry is going will always have a huge advantage. But, more importantly, these individuals tend to have higher expectations with regards to their suppliers and partners, who must also meet that vision as part of achieving greater success. This pattern repeats itself over and over again. And, it is definitely the case today, just as it was over a decade ago when I first observed this pattern.
Today, I see considerable evidence that companies are now taking a closer look at their manufacturing software, and demanding more from their vendors. “Good enough” from big box vendors or niche players is no longer sufficient. Those companies seeking to change their market or transform their industry have even greater expectations and want to use manufacturing operations as a key competitive advantage. They have to. The challenge of being first and changing an industry is very difficult. It can’t be done alone.
Here are three examples of how today’s innovative companies are now demanding more from their software partners and vendors, as part of their recognition of the strategic importance of manufacturing as a competitive differentiator:
- Less reliance on outsourcing – over the past couple of years we have observed greater use of “in-sourcing” or the transferal of manufacturing activities back to a manufacturer’s own shop particularly among the innovators in the industry. Part of this reason has been increasing transportation costs, greater concern over quality issues, less variability in schedule as well as reduced labor costs in local markets. But, there is another bigger trend that is also present. Those manufacturers that are launching significant new products now realize that the actual making of their products is critical so as to ensure that quality levels are achieved to preserve the brand and keep their customers highly satisfied. Part of this focus has translated into greater scrutiny in what manufacturing systems are being deployed, the footprint or reach of the manufacturing solution, and the selection of next-generation software solutions has become paramount as part of this strategic decision. After all, if you outsource your production, you are probably not going to be as concerned with what software is being chosen – the key outsourcing measurement metric tends to be restricted to acceptable output.
- New advances in manufacturing software – the manufacturing execution systems market has been around for several decades. Over this time it has gone through several evolutions. Today, a transformation is underway demanding a more global perspective on how operations are managed and continuously improved. Those companies that are innovating faster than the competition recognize this trend, and are consequently investing more in their IT infrastructure. I can personally attest to this trend, given my recent move from HMS Software/Visiprise/SAP (via 2 acquisitions) to Apriso, which offers one of these most advanced and innovative global manufacturing software platforms in the industry. As a result, I now am getting the opportunity to talk to some of the most interesting and revolutionary manufacturing companies in the world, which for a manufacturing guy like me, is pretty cool.
- More “bet the company” new product introduction – in a global economy with greater competition, it is harder to become a leader. As a result, companies seem to be engaging in more “bet the company” types of product launches. There is no room to just “kind of” go after a market, as there seems to always be another company that is willing to go “all in.” I have seen evidence of this trend with the aerospace industry’s transformation into composite materials. This is not a minor endeavor and requires flawless execution and control. It changes everything, and will sink those companies that don’t have the capabilities to adapt quickly and keep up as new processes are identified and new best practices adopted. Those that are going “all in” with this type of product innovation realize that their partners must also deliver if they are to be successful. These partners must include their manufacturing software providers who need to be “all in” with manufacturing, as they are enabling the entire infrastructure of production processes to come together, synchronizing with enterprise resource planning and engineering and ensuring operational excellence to deliver quality product on time.
Being innovative takes courage. You must have a vision for where the industry is going, and you must have the ability to stay the course. Most importantly, you can’t do it alone. Innovation requires teamwork and a network of partners and supporters to make your vision a reality. Your choice of manufacturing software provider is part of that strategy. “Good enough” won’t cut it if your new product innovation changes the industry – your needs will quickly expand the previous scope of work. There are simply too many variables and unanticipated changes in your future, necessitating the most advanced innovation and agility from your partners to enable your success. Your choice of software provider must be a company that shares that vision, such that they too are investing in their respective products and markets so as to ensure your success. Interested to speak further? Let me know by responding to my post.