10 Strategies Manufacturers Can Use For Delivering An Excellent Customer Experience – Part 1

Bottom line: Customers’ experiences and their active voice in product development are the much-needed oxygen manufacturers need to fuel new product generations and stay relevant.

Industry 4.0 And The Customer-Driven Revolution In Manufacturing

Bosch, BMW, and other leading global manufacturers realize that the only way to continue growing and expanding their product strategies is to streamline how quickly they respond to customers’ rapidly changing needs. Industry4.0, a global initiative that seeks to enable and integrate greater levels of manufacturing intelligence, streamlined workflows and the development of smart factories, is the foundation all major global manufacturers are relying on to revolutionize how they operate and become more efficient and customer-centric. One of the most powerful aspects of Industry 4.0 is how technologies are being integrated together at the shop floor to provide customers real-time updates and visibility throughout the production process. In short, Industry 4.0 is becoming a catalyst for greater customer-driven efficiency and quality enabled with advanced technologies and processes.

The widespread adoption of Industry 4.0 globally is leading to an influx of new surveys and studies.  One of the more noteworthy ones is the Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) study Industry 4.0: Building The Digital Enterprise (PDF, no opt-in, 36 pp.).  PwC has also provided an online summary of their study here. The study’s results underscore how rapidly customers’ expectations are redefining the global manufacturing landscape. One of the most valuable takeaways from the study is how inward-centric measures of manufacturing performance need to be replaced with customer-centric analytics fueled by more efficient means of capturing quantifiable insights.

Making Customers Collaborators in Creation

For Bosch, BMW, General Electric, and many manufacturers, the journey to becoming more customer-centric and excelling at delivering customer experiences needs to begin by focusing on analytics that brings the voice of the customer into every aspect of their business. Enabling customers to become collaborators in creation is essential for excellent experiences to be created daily. The PwC study provides insights into how industrial companies including manufacturers are planning to use analytics and Industry 4.0 technologies to connect with customers and gain valuable insights into how to deliver excellent experiences. The following graphic from the study illustrates the strategies manufacturers most mentioned:




Part 1 – The first five strategies to move manufacturers beyond producing products into delivering excellent customer experiences:


1.Drive product development based on in-depth buyer personas and needs-based innovation first instead of feature parity with competitors. BMW’s subsidiary, Mini Cooper, relies extensively on personas and needs-based innovation to define the over 800 varieties of their vehicles that can be configured and ordered online. BMW’s leadership in adopting Industry 4.0 has enabled the manufacturing centers to be quickly configurable enough to support a wide variety of possible configurations. Mini-Cooper persona-based research concentrates on the in-car experience and how all aspects of production are unified to delivering an excellent experience every time one of their vehicles is driven. The focus needs to shift away from cramming the next generation of products with features competitors have to a more focused approach to competing on how well manufacturing serves customers’ expectations of quality. Advanced analytics provide the technology platform for enabling more effective customer listening, yet manufacturers must be willing to change how they define, develop and build products. Buyer personas are essential if any manufacturer is going to be able to make the transition from selling products to delivering excellent experiences. Knowing who the customers are, in detail to the persona and role level is a must-do for any manufacturer today.

2. Redefine the Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) workflows to provide customer advisory councils and the opportunity to contribute to product roadmaps, future product direction and every phase of product development. Aerospace manufacturing is one of the most capital-intensive forms of production there is. Ensuring the final delivered jet is exactly what a customer expects takes the thorough integration of customer feedback, advisory council information, and PLM integration. Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier, Northrup Grumman and all other major aircraft manufacturers rely on Industry 4.0 to provide the frameworks and structure to accelerate the voice of the customer into product design accurately. Also, B2B customers’ requirements are becoming exponentially more complex and are changing rapidly. Instead of keeping them excluded from key steps in your PLM strategies, invite them and include them. Their expertise shared and unfiltered is what many manufacturers need to face the difficult tradeoffs and make the best possible decisions for product and platform time-to-market decisions.

3. Create an analytics strategy that measures the gap between customers’ expectations and experiences, and then communicate the gaps across the entire company. Turn the focus of analytics away from being 100% inward focused on production to putting customers first. The greater the gap between expectations and experiences, the more likely customers will churn and leave for a company likely to better deliver an excellent experience.

4. Creating quotes for new products using 3D modeling combined with product configuration technologies reduces errors and contributes to an excellent customer experience. Lufthansa has one of the most advanced Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) operations globally. The suppliers who provide the global air carrier with parts rely on 3D modeling to provide prototypes of assemblies, subassemblies and complete top assemblies they need to service the wide breadth of aircraft their MRO service scales to support. During the configure, price, quote (CPQ) process, suppliers will create several prototypes based on solid modeling parameters provided by the MRO organization. This approach drastically reduces time taken for prototyping, and the digital definitions of the product can be used to drive production quickly. All this is made possible with Industry 4.—based integration and information sharing throughout a production center.  Forward-thinking manufacturers is creating 3D models of their standard, off-the-shelf and customizable products so their customers can selectively design what they need. Being able to design a complex product or assembly using 3D modeling and then immediately obtain an accurate quote complete with delivery date and the price is achievable today.

5. Making order workflows and production scheduling transparent increases customer trust and contributes to an excellent customer experience. Providing customers with the opportunity to track where their orders with intuitive, easily navigated application that is accessible on any device, from smartphone to laptop or desktop.

Louis Columbus

Director, Global Cloud Product Management at Ingram Cloud
Louis Columbus is currently serving as Director, Global Cloud Product Management at Ingram Cloud, is a frequent contributor to Forbes.com, and teaches graduate-level marketing and international business courses at a variety of universities. Previous positions include product marketing at iBASEt, Plex Systems, senior analyst at AMR Research (now Gartner), marketing and business development at Cincom Systems, Ingram Micro, a SaaS start-up and at hardware companies. Mr. Columbus’ background includes marketing, product management, sales and industry analyst roles in the enterprise software and IT industries. Louis has an MBA from Pepperdine University and completion of the Strategic Marketing Management Program at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He has taught at California State University, Fullerton: University of California, Irvine; Marymount University, and Webster University.