What is Manufacturing Innovation and How Do You Achieve It?

Innovation is about outcomes. What do you want to achieve through innovation?

Even though it is often seen in such a way, innovation is not itself a goal. A good way to frame what innovation is would be to see it as a transformational process with the goal of improving upon the existing status. For manufacturers, this has recently resulted in things such as connected factories and servitized business models. It comes as no surprise that organizations that actively seek out these opportunities are able to gain a distinct edge over the competition.

Even though it is often seen in such a way, innovation is not itself a goal. A good way to frame what innovation is would be to see it as a transformational process with the goal of improving upon the existing status. For manufacturers, this has recently resulted in things such as connected factories and servitized business models. It comes as no surprise that organizations that actively seek out these opportunities are able to gain a distinct edge over the competition.

It is up to each manufacturer to decide how their organization will choose to innovate. Certain companies might identify it as a priority to address tactical challenges; such as determining whether adopting new technology might substantially disrupt order fullfilment. In other cases, the goal might be of a strategic nature like finding a way to expand the company’s business model while still preserving all the things that made it successful in the first place. Whatever your situation may be, there are some components that all successful innovation strategies have in common.

First, foster a culture that is open to innovation. Second, ensure that your strategy and decision making is grounded and supported by hard data. Third, make innovation an integral part of your production process by constantly monitoring performance and searching for optimization opportunities.

What does a successful innovation strategy look like?

At the core of any transformational effort is the company culture. Enabling a culture of innovation is a necessary precursor to any improvement objectives you might have. This is not achieved by organizing more team-building events where you emphasize the importance of innovation. The best way to ensure that your people are receptive to innovation is to properly connect teams across the company and enable them to share information and resolve issues efficiently. This will ensure that disruption and delays that may arise won’t spread through the entire organization. Additionally, this will require you to view your customers as partners in your innovation, opening the door to closer relationships and better visibility.

Next, when creating your innovation strategy, you should think about the data that you can collect and the best way you can use it for improvement. Operational systems are now advanced enough to be able to manage business processes end-to-end, covering everything from sales to customer support. This has been one of the major forces pushing large scale data collection and, indirectly, process innovation. Looking at the trend of IoT investment in manufacturing, it is clear that organizations quickly realized the transformational potential of having an accurate insight into their daily operations. For manufacturers, however, the sheer amount of data that needs to be gathered, coupled with the complexity of the supply chain, requires these organizations to look for robust solutions capable of handling both the complexity and the volume of information in order to achieve the desired transformational goals.

Finally, manufacturers should keep in mind that implementing a platform that can also serve as a foundation that can be built on will greatly help their organization adjust to future disruption. IoT technology is becoming more and more accessible and, because of this, the technology has found applications virtually everywhere. This has enabled the rise of smart factories that also leverage cloud storage as well as advanced analytics to provide decision makers an unprecedented amount of meaningful insights. Enabling things like remote monitoring and predictive maintenance, innovative technologies are able to deliver immediate value while also “leaving room” for rising technologies that might become the norm in the years to come.

Achieving optimal business outcomes is increasingly revolving around incorporating the right technology into your business processes.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 can help manufacturers pinpoint relevant information in their efforts to achieve a desired transformation goal. By visualizing data across all parts of the organization, management can easily identify areas that need to be improved. Implementing a platform such as D365 enables companies to grow, while allowing for the flexibility necessary to implement innovative solutions down the road. Whether you’re just testing IoT devices by retrofitting your plant equipment or already have your operations entirely digitized, D365 can help you get the full benefits of digital transformation in order to evolve with the changing market requirements and be prepared to capture future opportunities.

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