Chapter 2


Manufacturing Agility: Innovation

A connected network reduces supply friction and brings you closer to suppliers and customers. This in turn makes it easier to sell, sell more often, and in greater quantity. However managing a supply chain is difficult, as noted by logistics and supply chain theorist Martin Christopher, who wrote: “Individual businesses no longer compete as standalone entities, but rather as supply chains.” He concluded that today’s supply chain had become a complex, and super competitive network of businesses and relationships.

Connecting that network is key for longterm success. Linked systems connect data, providing supplier and asset tracking signals from exceptional demand. With this you can be more responsive, control costs and remain competitive.

Operational efficiency improvements also come as a result. In fact, 74% of manufacturing CEO’s are looking to increase growth in the next 12 months by improving operational efficiency alone.

But having a single connected platform is only the start

Innovating across the supply-chain

Platforms such as Microsoft Dynamic 365 provide real-time planning and integrated warehouse management. This allows you to integrate processes from the sourcing of raw materials through to delivering finished goods, in one platform. Yet this is just a foundation for the innovation to come.

You sell coffee machines. A customer places an order, you manufacture, ship, deliver and install. It’s a transactional relationship. But what if the coffee machine was able to send telemetry data telling you what’s used? Cups, milk, coffee, sugar etc … Information you can use to replenish supplies, so they never run out. This would change the relationship. It’s no longer a product you’re providing, but rather a service. Connecting products to the network has opened a new market.

Similarly, innovations in products such as HoloLens have created more collaborative relationships. For example, assisting the design and construction of products such as kitchens. HoloLens makes it easy to measure a customer’s kitchen, with the AI-based application designing to suit, before integrating with the manufacturing plant to engage with suppliers on the build.

Innovation allows you to go after (and open) new markets and develop connected networks of hundreds, rather than transactional relationships of a few. But innovation also creates value internally.

Innovating across the business

New technology makes doing business easier and more predictable, but this still relies on the support of your staff. And so, helping them perform their roles more efficiently also plays an important part of your innovation approach. So what tools are at your disposal?

Low-Code No-Code innovations such as Power Automate provide templates which help automate necessarily repetitive tasks. Time is then freed up for workers to add value in ways more fitting of their skills.

Similarly, apps and services such as Power Apps give manufacturers quick access to innovation without the cost. For example, apps which improve the speed of communication with customers and suppliers. Documents such as bills of lading and certificates of conformance come into Outlook, they’re posted into SharePoint automatically, picked up by Microsoft Dynamics 365 and sent to a supplier. With a connected network, and a platform everyone can use, speed of collaboration between workers, suppliers and customers becomes easier and faster.

Innovation helps you improve customer interactions, get more from your suppliers, and work your internal processes better. But it comes with a word of caution: change only at a rate staff will support and use a provider with proven experience to get the most value from your investments.