In the manufacturing world, competition has steepened and consumer demands increased, due to developments such as digitalisation and globalisation. Consumers are hungry for new innovative products, but at the same time demand high quality. In response to this, a trend has emerged in the form of product variation. The ability to offer a high variation of products and solutions from lot size 1 to 1 million is the key for manufacturers to keep up with competition and participate in the industry 4.0.
Goodbye to Robots, Hello to Sales Automation
Over the last decade, the introduction of automation such as robots has been on an accelerated increase with most businesses choosing automation over manual work. However, from a manufacturing standpoint, offering a variation of products can be logistically problematic and economically unfeasible. For robots, it can be technically unachievable to perform the necessary tasks while simultaneously delivering the flexibility and diverse intelligence required. This variation and the corresponding complexity makes the ability to think critically, independently and adjust to changing circumstances a priority for manufacturing businesses, thus causing this paradigm shift towards hiring humans over robots. Robots can no longer handle the vast number of complexities and the never-ending number of customisation required of them. But whilst robots are being “fired” down the manufacturing line, automation needs to be driven further into other business processes such as sales.
Robots & Humans: Better Together Than Apart
Automotive companies such as BMW have started testing several strategies of replacing large autonomous robots with human operators working alongside smaller collaborative robots. Doing so allows humans to operate with fewer errors, less pressure, and greater protection and proficiency than ever before. As product variation increases, human error will no doubt increase as part of the manufacturing equation, but those blunders can be dramatically diminished thanks to the embracing of automation at various degrees.
Software, The Bridge Between Robots & Humans
Software is at the heart of this trend. The high degree of variation needed within manufacturing businesses forces a sizable investment into software solutions that facilitates an easier manufacturing process. Orders need to be synchronised with each production site to scheduling each unit for delivery in a marginally thin time-frame. Both production life cycle management(PLM) and Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) systems can be now integrated at a deeper level with an enterprise resource planning system (ERP). The ERP informs the PLM system whether certain product variation is profitable for the business and CPQ provides the sales team with correct arsenal to sell profitably whilst protecting the margin.
Summary: Sales Automation – Foundation Of The Manufacturing Revolution
The new manufacturing revolution will be defined by speediness, value, flexibility and variation. Giving the customers what they want is no longer a differentiator but a business pillar. But the large potential for increased profits in variation lies in acquiring technology with the ability to manufacture products the way consumers want them, while reducing the time from order to delivery.
Customer satisfaction determines customer loyalty and in turn, the business revenue. Maintaining product quality improves customer satisfaction. So, whilst businesses are looking to turn away from the automation of front line of manufacturing, it is important that automation is not forgotten in other areas of business such as sales. Doing so could potentially be detrimental to business revenues and margins. The notion that automation is more competent and effective may now be challenged with companies choosing to replace robots with humans but let’s not forget that neither robots and humans can work without each other and the optimal solution would be a world where both worked hand in hand. After all, we all strive to have our cake and eat it too.
If you would like to know more about how CPQ software can facilitate a high manufacturing variability whilst automating and streamlining the sales process, join our upcoming webinar or speak to one of our experts.