Manufacturing for the connected consumer: Embracing agile product innovation – Part 2

In the first of my two-part series, I explored some of the ways in which manufacturers can improve their ability to get ahead of consumers’ demands for more innovative products that are personalised to their individual needs. Here, I continue that discussion, looking at flexible manufacturing, increasing customer experience and the concept of offering Connected Products as a Service.

From production to flexible manufacturing

Most manufacturing processes incorporate levels of variation which, once identified can be standardised and automated. Once a level of standardisation and automation is in place, a degree of flexibility can be introduced to your process. Once established, a flexible manufacturing capability can be connected to the rest of your business and supply chain. Start by considering where the greatest opportunities for value-add exist in your process. Creating continual value-add to your customers and a model that’s constantly and incrementally improving as demands shifts. Universal Robots is one company leading the way here. It has developed a flexible, low-cost robot arm that can be used in almost any industry.

Increasing customer experience

Every customer has values which, once identified, can be the basis of a nurture-based relationship and you can then increase their experience of your product or brand. Once established, your customer strategy can be used to enhance focus around the areas of greatest value to them.

Once a strong communication platform is established and the needs of your customers are understood, open feedback loops can easily be introduced. In turn, this will help you to move your business to a model where your enhanced customer experience strengthens your competitive advantage.

Connected Products as a Service

The current value-add of products is based on an up-front purchase that addresses some specific needs that your customers have. But as part of the growing Internet of Things trend, devices and services are becoming increasingly connected, giving us the ability to add value and insight to our customers before they even realise there may be an issue. You can then connect the insights you gain back into the design of your products, creating a truly agile product development platform. In the B2B world for instance, ABB is connecting their robots to provide predictive maintenance services, resulting in reductions of unplanned downtime to their customers.

Truly agile product innovation needs a platform

In this increasingly cloud-based, digital age, the nature of business is changing and manufacturers who adopt some of the approaches outlined above will be best placed to take advantage of this future of making things. By breaking down the traditional silos and covering their entire product lifecycle from a single unified platform that doesn’t care what CAD system you use, or data management system you have, manufacturers will be empowered to broaden their capabilities, disrupt their traditional business models and create new revenue streams. I strongly encourage every British design and manufacturing organisation to engage in this process and start their journey into the future of making things, today.

Author profile:
Asif Moghal is the manufacturing industry manager at Autodesk