The digital industry: GCC manufacturers must evolve or perish

Keith Fenner, Dynamics 365 group business director, Microsoft MEA argues that the right commerce platform makes all the difference in the new digital era

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The digital industry: GCC manufacturers must evolve or perish As costs rise, doing more with less will be the difference between survival and extinction, Fenner asserts.
By  Keith Fenner Published  April 5, 2018

Manufacturers in the Gulf region fall into one of two categories. First there are those who are sticking with the old ways; they have been around for years and see no reason to change. Then there are the agile, wily, versatile players. They have spotted that change has been thrust upon them, in the form of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) and, taking no chances, they have evolved.

Which are you? The 4IR meteor has already made planetfall. Are you standing agape in the dust, or has your digital-transformation journey taken you skyward, to the intelligent cloud?

If you are a GCC-based manufacturing company, then you face a jungle of challenges, despite the positive forecasts for your sector. Yes, as part of Dubai Plan 2021, the emirate's government has initiated Industrial Strategy 2030, which intends to make Dubai “an international hub for knowledge-based, innovation and sustainable industrial activities". And yes, the industrial sector is now Dubai’s third largest, and the government forecasts around US$190 million to be spent on R&D by manufacturing companies as the sector expands to a value of nearly US$16 billion by 2030, creating more than 27,000 specialised jobs.

Fly or fall?

But will your organisation play a part in this promising future, or be consigned to the scrapheap? The GCC’s introduction of VAT means rising costs in raw materials. Digital transformation not only helps with compliance, but it allows manufacturers to engage customers, empower employees, optimise operations and reinvent business models. As costs rise, doing more with less will be the difference between survival and extinction.

Complete commerce platforms like Dynamics 365 offer the kind of agility necessary to fight through the upheaval and emerge victorious. Such platforms are a gateway to new worlds of intelligence and hitherto unthinkable economies. They combine ERP and CRM and offer compatibility with the Internet of Things, so you can build smart-sensor solutions that monitor your production process from beginning to end. They offer cloud-based predictive analytics, so you can consolidate and streamline that process, and keep costs under control. The right commerce platform dispels the archaic separation of front and back office, unifying service delivery, sales and production management.

Some cling to the old; others embrace the new. Some rely on tweaking what they have, leading to patchwork solutions that barely tackle age-old problems, never mind confronting emerging ones. Others dare to dismantle and start anew – not in the physical sense, but by a change in philosophy. IoT solutions that consume cloud-based predictive analytics allow innovators to minimise stoppages, eliminate wasteful techniques, purge profit drains and retrofit old facilities more effectively.

Let me count the ways…

If you connect factories and deliver predictive analytics and logistics capabilities to all your partners and employees, you can eliminate weakness from the supply chain. A consolidated platform can respond automatically to field conditions, organising more responsive maintenance and more efficient service, thereby deepening customer relationships.

The consolidation and visualisation of real-time asset-performance data, measured against sales and supply chain data, can reveal more efficient sourcing for parts or help to eliminate costly, unnecessary sub-processes. The intelligent cloud can also identify opportunities for value-added services or the impact of an underperforming or overperforming asset.

IoT, combined with predictive analytics, can identify behavioural patterns across in-service products. An agile company can use this information to detect, troubleshoot, and resolve issues remotely, as well as gaining detailed insights that can improve production processes.

With the right commerce platform, the possibilities for evolution are endless, and your customers will notice. Your newfound agility means being able to alert a customer to a delay in delivery or suboptimal performance in an installed product. You can empower employees on site visits to identify fresh leads or recommend a new product to an existing customer. You can build elaborate and visual customer-engagement histories allowing you to elevate service levels. And your enhanced visibility and collaboration allows senior executives and field technicians alike to gain a holistic view of your business, so everyone can contribute to innovation.

So, manufacturers, ask yourself: are you sticking with the old or embracing the new? Are you flying high or lumbering around in the dust? I hope you react to 4IR aptly, so that you experience the right kind of deep impact – one that propels you to the top of the food chain, rather than consigning you to the scrapyard of history.

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