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Getting Closer to Customers: Catching up with the Evolving Manufacturing Value Chain

 
June 1, 2016

 

Traditionally, the manufacturing industry followed a sequential value chain structure. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) delivered on customer requests through an intricate network of partnerssuppliers, third-party logistics service providers, parts and component manufacturers, dealers, and distributors. The model worked for both businesses and customers as it focused on specialization and division of labor as the primary drivers. Each member of the chain added value to the product before passing it to the next in the chain, regardless of context or application.
However, these systems had complex architectures, reducing the speed of data flow from products to third-party information collectors to firms that depended on them for analysis. Relevant stakeholders spent months waiting for data for analysis, affecting troubleshooting timelines and escalating expenses with a higher probability of error-prone reporting.

Bridging Gaps with the Internet of Things

The industry is now transforming, and manufacturers need to simplify complex after-production and after-market networks with a homogenous, hyper-connected delivery and service mechanism. Hence, the Digital Reimagination of business models, channels, and customer segments has taken center-stage. This new business model is triangularconnecting products, processes, and customers. It delivers a wealth of insights on product usage patterns, the behavior of items under different usage conditions, along with data on users. Real-time insights have narrowed the demandsupply gap, helping businesses acquire in-depth customer understanding.
The Internet of Things (IoT) has created a huge opportunity for manufacturers by ensuring that the focus on leading by network performance was shifted to a direct understanding of end customers. IoT helps bring manufacturers closer to their customers by helping identify when a product needs maintenance, how it can be improved or used more efficiently. TCS recent trend study highlights how manufacturers are leveraging IoT to monitor areas such as supply chains, premises, customers, and their products and services. The focus is clearly on business operations excellence and better customer serviceenabled by connected products, sensors, mobile apps, and embedded technologies among others.

Connecting with Customers like Never Before

Backed by state-of-the-art technology and intelligent analysis, the manufacturing industry is now headed towards a more connected, and intimate framework for deeper customer connectivity. While one can intellectually appreciate the simplified smoothness of this endeavor, it is, without a doubt, difficult to put into action. Manufacturers must tweak systems, re-craft existing organizational boundaries, and dramatically upgrade the process landscape to enable this change. Original channels of communication will also need to be reshaped, with the extension of self-service opportunities and growth in ecommerce. Channels need to synergize with the new digital approach to derive value out of it.
Stores must aim to convert themselves into ‘experience centers’ and services must ascend to a sharper, predictive mode of execution. Manufacturers could use Augmented Reality (AR) to help customers visualize their product-usage fitment even before purchase, reducing dissonance, improving experience, and building a world of convenience and simplicity. Eventually, this connected ecosystem will help customers exercise choice based on their requirements and needs, supported by pay-per-use models.

Unleashing the Power of Virtual

The message is clear and unequivocalthe physical value chain must be replaced by a virtual analytical one, with older systems reimagined and relevant stakeholders included at every step of the way. A wave of complete synchronicity should emanate from this structure, complemented by revenue-sharing possibilities, forward-integration with channels, and hyper-active pipelines serving as the medium for constant exchange with customers. Contextual intelligence-driven value-added services are, therefore, the harbingers of a connected tomorrow, helping businesses come virtually close to customers.

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Sreenivasa Chakravarti leads TCS Innovation and Transformation Group within the Manufacturing business unit. He has played a key role in driving thought leadership for TCS engagements in the areas of consulting, innovative solutions, and service transformation. Sreenivasa has over 24 years of experience across consulting, IT, and manufacturing. He brings a unique 360-degree view of the IT industry, and has significant contributions in the areas of strategy, program management, businessIT alignment, global relationship, alliances and product management. He has authored several white papers in related areas. Sreenivasa has a bachelors degree in electronics, and an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Lucknow, India.