Digitization is changing the face of manufacturing; though it’s been met with mixed feelings by manufacturers themselves. Despite its significant and well-publicized benefits, many businesses remain skeptical and view it as a thorn in their side and even a disruption to everyday operations.

Industry 4.0 brings macro challenges such as enhancing cyber-security, bridging a skills gap, automating processes and resolving conflicting data formats. However, one of the biggest barriers to overcome is the supply chain. Because for Industry 4.0 to realize its potential, the entire supply chain must be digitally enabled and connected.

A 2017 survey report from MHI, a leading logistics and supply chain association, suggests that 80% of companies believe a digital supply chain will be the predominate model by 2023. Yet, only 16% of  surveyed companies employ a digital supply chain.

Customers’ attitudes have changed with the rise of the digital revolution. They now expect goods to be manufactured on time and delivered within a timescale that suits their needs – as opposed to simply choosing a product from the selection that’s available. If you can’t cater for their needs, your competitors will.

Instead of fearing or avoiding digital technology, we must embrace it. As a manufacturer, technology holds the key to greater productivity, increased operational efficiency, reduced costs, simpler processes and higher customer satisfaction.

The secret lies in the strategy: knowing how to apply technology effectively in your business.

This blog post looks more closely at how to make digitization work.


Traditional manufacturing operations were easy to understand, with a linear structure. A customer processed their order, then the company in question worked out the most efficient, cost effective way to plan, make and deliver it within the required timescale, while also benefiting their own bottom line.

This same thought process went on internally all the way down the supply chain. This system is simple enough, but it doesn’t provide any added value.

There is no insight regarding individual customer preferences, purchasing, or the company’s customer demographics.

In truth, we don’t know exactly what that customer is thinking or how they’re behaving, we only know what they’ve asked for on that occasion.

Traditional methods don’t make this added value easy to obtain. Information is stored in a raft of different, disparate sources: logbooks, performance sheets, scheduling tools and so on. Individual systems for individual processes, and nothing consolidated in a single location.

However, this added value and insight is like gold dust for businesses. By knowing more about their customers, they can serve them better, faster and for less cost. Digitization enables all this, and if you don’t integrate it into your operations, you’ll lose out in all sorts of ways.

Information has the power to transform your entire manufacturing operation. Automation, insights and predictive analytics can improve efficiency and performance, reduce waste, enhance customer service, inform future planning and resource requirements, make budgeting and forecasting more accurate, reduce business risk, and give you the tools you need to make better commercial decisions.

Central to this is the intelligent use of the intellectual property you have recorded for your customers: their raw data. In the digital age, it’s the most valuable commodity you own.

Assess buying habits, purchase history, reasons for choosing a particular product, when they really need it by and where, the implications if they don’t receive it on time, what contracts and support they have in place regarding added value services… and so on.

The issue, then, is not whether digitization benefits manufacturing. It’s how to ensure you deploy the best solution to bring maximum benefit to your specific manufacturing business. However, what seems like a stumbling block doesn’t have to be.

Read our blog post on HSO’s client case studies for Rolls Royce, Priva and Kohler. 


Microsoft Dynamics 365 for manufacturing opens the door to a data-driven manufacturing business. As an advanced enterprise resource planning (ERP) & Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution, it creates an environment where you can derive greater value from the information you hold, to create tangible and long-term benefits across your footprint.

By deploying cloud-based services and using customized apps for specific scenarios and devices, Microsoft Dynamics 365 connects you more closely with your customers, employees and infrastructure.

  • Automate warehouse processes to reduce operational costs.
  • Plan transportation commitments accurately.
  • Optimize investment commitments.
  • Check inventory levels in real-time, and restock accordingly.
  • Forecast more precisely, to ensure consistent product availability.

Meanwhile, this data can also give you unprecedented insight into your own factory, regarding time management, quality control and task completion, employee productivity, stock control, cost analysis, adherence to governance, and more.

Any issues along the way are flagged in real-time, identified immediately, so you’re able to address and resolve them swiftly. Data is the new gold dust of your business. With Microsoft Dynamics 365 (which includes ERP & CRM), it becomes priceless.

For more information on how HSO can help implement a seamless Microsoft ERP for your company, click to read here.

Source: The 2017 MHI Annual Industry Report.