No one feels the weight of changing customer expectations more deeply than the manufacturing industry. As the beating heart of the supply chain, manufacturers must find ways to keep up with a world that seems determined to change every second.
Luckily, manufacturing companies don’t have to navigate this landscape with only hope and guesswork to guide their way. There’s a much better path through the modern world: digital transformation.
Digital transformation and the manufacturing industry are well-suited for one another. Because so much of their work relies on big data, analytics, and digital technology, manufacturers naturally need a way to bring all these tools together; meanwhile, digital transformation takes on new shape and meaning when informed by unique manufacturing challenges.
Here are a few real-world examples of digital transformation in the manufacturing industry.
Digital Transformation in Modern Manufacturing
Transforming the manufacturing industry isn’t just a best practice — it’s a necessity.
That’s because manufacturers, in many ways, play a vital role in shaping the future — not just via the supply chain, but also through:
- Meeting consumer expectations concerning industrial products.
- Using new technology or pioneering novel applications of smart technology, including artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, and 3D printing.
- Finding better ways to use big data.
- Spearheading evolutions in the customer experience space through self-service and more.
Simply put, manufacturing and production are the framework for much of what happens in our world; it makes sense that digitization is especially important in this sector.
While manufacturing companies no doubt appreciate the significance of their role in global commerce, helping shape the future is often incidental. Far more important is any digital transformation initiative impacting day-to-day production and factory floor operations, which include:
- Capturing data: Machines and plant workers create data every minute of every day. Manufacturers must be able to capture this data accurately, efficiently, and in real time to inform their choice of digital technology, production changes, and other digital transformation elements.
- Managing data: The manufacturing industry is perhaps one of the most significant creators of big data, leaving manufacturers and their customers scrambling to perform data analytics and extract necessary insights. As such, any digital transformation strategy in this space must include substantial solutions to manage big data.
- Preventing downtime: When machines break down, workflows are interrupted and the entire supply chain can suffer. Manufacturers need digital technology and data analytics tools that enable predictive maintenance, helping foresee and address issues that could cause breakdowns.
- Navigating the supply chain: Supply chain interruptions often fall outside a manufacturing company’s control. However, when planned appropriately, digital transformation can help manufacturers navigate these uncertainties. It can also act as a cushion or safety net, creating solutions that pick up the slack or otherwise soften the blow of supply chain interruptions.
- Offering self-service options: In the interest of saving time, streamlining the production process, and avoiding supply chain disruption, manufacturing companies often need software that enables self-service capabilities for users. Self-service options help simplify the ordering process, streamline production, make big data more accessible, and create value for stakeholders at all levels.
In short, manufacturers have needs that are uniquely addressed by digital transformation — and that’s why digital experiences are the future of manufacturing. It’s the next industrial revolution, and it’s all about digitized manufacturing operations.
MacDon: A Digital Transformation with Legacy Solutions
To fully understand the value of digital transformation in manufacturing, it’s often necessary to see these changes in real-world scenarios. One such example comes from MacDon.
To see a manufacturing company shaping the future of our world, look no further than MacDon, a world leader in the production of agricultural and harvesting equipment. For over 70 years, MacDon has supported farmers in the cultivation of crops necessary to feed, clothe, and support the global community. As consumer needs grow, MacDon has adapted with impressive flexibility — but they eventually hit a wall with their legacy technology.
MacDon offered a self-service dealer portal utilizing legacy Liferay software. While the platform was once robust enough to address the manufacturing company’s needs, new supply chain challenges and mounting customer expectations led MacDon to recognize significant pain points.
For example, MacDon’s high standards for user experience weren’t being met with their existing technology. The look and feel of the site were noticeably outdated, while mobile users routinely encountered issues when accessing the platform. Further, the impressive amount of data created by the company wasn’t being managed in an efficient manner, leaving platform users to waste time and effort on document management tasks.
MacDon knew it was time to begin their digital transformation journey. However, their legacy system required careful navigation and adaptation — a frequent need in the manufacturing space.
With help from a Liferay partner, MacDon was able to upgrade their platform without having to start from scratch. By migrating big data from legacy systems and taking advantage of the existing framework, this digital transformation journey addressed significant challenges while creating new functionality for users.
On the upgraded MacDon dealer portal, users can retrieve invoice information, check production inventory, create shopping lists, submit warranty claims, and perform key self-service tasks. Equally as important, the manufacturer’s big data is now much easier to navigate and control, enabling the efficient completion of document management operations.
The new MacDon portal is a true testament to the power of digital transformation. It’s not just sleek, modern, and easy to use; it also delivers significant results:
- Overall sales increased by 20%.
- eCommerce transactions have increased by 50%.
- Site visitor numbers have doubled.
- Call, fax, and in-person orders have decreased thanks to easier self-service and online options.
Mueller, Inc.: A Digital Transformation with Self-Service Functionality
Another example of digital transformation in the manufacturing industry comes from Mueller, Inc.
Mueller, Inc. has an impressive reputation as a producer and supplier of steel buildings, metal roofing, and other construction components. For more than 85 years, the company has provided the products, services, and materials necessary to work and live in the American Southwest.
As they navigated changing needs right alongside their customers, Mueller quickly came to realize their existing digital approach was no longer viable. They knew their users deserved better — and so did their internal stakeholders.
Before their digital transformation, Mueller relied on an open-source content management system. Unfortunately, this system didn’t support their custom-developed web applications, offered very little in the way of self-service options, and severely limited the purchase experience.
For example, the outdated platform offered what was essentially a static digital clone of their print product catalog, providing no personalization to attract customers with specific needs. The system also failed to provide clarity into a user’s position in the buyer journey, limiting Mueller’s options for supporting and structuring the buying process. Perhaps most importantly, the platform didn’t have full capabilities, forcing customers to visit a local sales branch to complete their purchases.
Mueller knew there had to be a better way to do things — and digital transformation was the key.
They began by working with a Liferay partner to integrate or migrate custom Mueller web applications into a Liferay portal. The result was a single, powerful platform housing all their development tools, big data, analytics, and more.
Today, customers can complete every step of the purchase process from inside the portal. To help focus and visualize their ideas, users can bring visions to life with Mueller’s 3D model builder — which also creates an automatic quote. Specific requests can be routed directly to the relevant Mueller team while other steps can be completed with self-service solutions, vastly improving the digital buying experience for customers.
Thanks to their new portal, Mueller now has the technology necessary to continue shaping the future of builders, workers, and companies in the American Southwest. They’ve seen measurable changes, including:
- Quotes increased 73% per month, with some months as high as 163%.
- Website traffic increased 250%.
- The sales process is shorter and simpler thanks to self-service tools.
- User engagement is easily tracked via shopping lists, digital catalog requests, and more.
Airbus: A Digital Transformation with a Knowledge Base
One final example of digital transformation in manufacturing can be found in Airbus.
Airbus is exactly what the name suggests: the world leader in aeronautics and aerospace products and services. Like agriculture and construction, this industry represents a significant opportunity for manufacturers like Airbus to shape the future, creating a perfect position to support the vast possibilities associated with aerospace travel.
However, the industry also moves especially quickly and has demands, challenges, and expectations unrivaled by other business types. That means Airbus must consistently improve their offerings to stay competitive. To navigate all the digital technology, data analytics, and machine learning tools involved in their work, Airbus needed a digital transformation solution that could keep up with them.
While Airbus knew what it needed, finding a solution that fit their unique manufacturing needs was more of a challenge.
They felt their current approach wasn’t user-centric, sacrificing the digital experience in ways that simply didn’t provide return on investment (ROI). They also had approximately 15 IT Service Management (ITSM) tools spread across various systems, limiting their ability to manage big data, perform data analytics, and confidently address their IT needs. One of the biggest pain points, however, was the fact that the Service Desk had to be constantly available for troubleshooting and incident management because the system wasn’t easy to navigate, creating frustration for users and wasting time for IT experts.
Because Airbus had decided to put users at the heart of their digital transformation, the natural next step was to leverage Open Source technology. This allowed the manufacturing company to consolidate its 15 ITSM tools into a single, user-friendly platform, allowing inspiration and innovation to happen at every level. Although one priority was to make users less dependent on the Service Desk, Airbus was most interested in creating a shared digital experience where self-service options simplified every step.
This vision was brought to life in the form of multiple new features, all custom-built to leverage Airbus’ unique position in the manufacturing industry. One such feature is the robust knowledge base, which allows users to perform keyword searches across a vast library of Airbus content; thanks to this knowledge base, users can often find answers to their own questions, thereby streamlining their digital experience.
The new Airbus platform boasts plenty of results. Here are just a few:
- 10 months saw 290,000 visits and 2,200,000 page views.
- Results peaked at 18,000 page views per day.
- The Service Desk now manages 30% fewer incidents because the portal helps mitigate and manage issues.
- Incidents are resolved more quickly.
- Costs are easier to control.
- The portal inspired the development of a mobile app, which offers the same features and personalized services has been developed.
Begin Your Digital Transformation with Liferay
Digital transformation may be an important topic in organizations of all kinds, but it’s especially important — and particularly well-utilized — in the manufacturing industry. Manufacturing companies like MacDon, Mueller, and Airbus prove that a huge variety of pain points and challenges can be overcome with the right combination of digital technology.
Perhaps more importantly, these manufacturers act as a shining example of how digital transformation can be adapted to fit any company’s needs, goals, and unique priorities. As leaders in production and important actors in shaping the future of the world, these organizations prove that, while there’s no “right way” to begin your digital transformation journey, you’ll only see results if you take the first step.
At Liferay, we know that first step can be intimidating. We also know manufacturers have especially complicated requirements, from predictive maintenance and data analytics to preventing machine downtime and navigating the supply chain. Increasingly, challenges like automating complex business processes and personalizing the customer experience are becoming important factors of success. That’s why our portal is highly customizable, allowing manufacturing companies to build their digital transformation around concrete goals and accessible metrics.
Are you ready to begin your digital transformation? Explore our Digital Experience Platform to see what’s in store for manufacturers (and all other movers, innovators, and creators of the future).