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Digital-first trends put into context for leading manufacturers

Mar 9, 2021 | Admin, Latest News, Manufacturing

In 2019, analysts were estimating that 40% of manufacturers would have undergone a complete digital transformation by the year 2021—AI, blockchain, CRM, the works. But after the major disruptions of 2020 and the urgent pressure placed on manufacturers to uphold emergency supply chains, it’s safe to say that many manufacturers did not meet their original expectations for digitization. But as things start to find their way back to normal, we’re finding more and more manufacturers are ready to take the reins again and tackle digital transformation on their own terms.

On Wednesday, February 24th, Salesforce, Infosys, and Simplus’ manufacturing thought leaders hosted an executive roundtable to share some of these industry insights and hear firsthand what is top of mind for manufacturers tackling digital transformation in the current economic climate. 

Cindy Bolt, Senior Vice President, Manufacturing, Automotive, and Energy, Salesforce, kicked off the conversation by sharing some digital-first trends to opportunities that Salesforce is seeing in the industry. Let’s dive into these five overarching trends, and then we’ll take a closer look at what our manufacturing leaders shared about their firsthand experiences with these trends in the industry.


Overarching Trends


Trend 1: Frictionless Experience

There is a new business approach to digital-first, leaving companies across the board wondering “How do we do it better? How can we create a frictionless customer experience?” This holds true across industries, including manufacturing. In manufacturing particularly, it can be even more complex with many customer layers (i.e., OEMs might sell directly to distributors who in turn sell to contractors, dealers, and, finally, the end customer).

Trend 2: Dynamic Data

Data has always been around, but how much data we have access to and what we can do with it is constantly growing and changing. So now the question for manufacturers is “What do we do with it? We want to use data dynamically—we want to be in the driver’s seat with our data.” There is so much information available, and you have to be able to decipher what is valuable (and what is not) and how can you use the useful information as part of your overall digital transformation strategy. The big win available to manufacturers lies with integration; if you can integrate across lines of business, then you will be able to start creating new lines of business and new revenue opportunities. 

Trend 3: Connectivity

Again, manufacturers are asking, “How can we create more value from our businesses?” For example, a common OEM consideration is your leasing arm. Manufacturing is an industry that can and should take cues from others that have come before them—such as best practices from retail banking. So how can you take financing to an industrial-strength conversation? How can you leverage the finance arm to create/offer a different LOB within manufacturing? Just take a look at GM’s track record of expanding into banking through its financial arm. 

Trend 4: Digital Work

The workforce is only becoming more and more digital as new generations are increasingly entering the workforce. These are swaths of talent that are already digital natives, having grown up with the technology. So how can manufacturers take advantage of this? It can be both a recruiting play and also an opportunity to get fresh perspectives to help reimagine the way manufacturing businesses do things. 

Trend 5: Sustainability

Another trend that is coming up more and more is the demand to be sustainability-driven in all operations. However, manufacturers are going to need money, data, and statements to back up such goals with their stakeholders. Check out our recent blog post to learn more about the new era of data for manufacturing that an investment in sustainability data technology can open up for your organization. 


Firsthand Experiences from Large, Global Manufacturers

When we opened up the discussion to our invited global manufacturing leaders, it was interesting to see how the high-level digital-first trends impacting all industries are seen firsthand within the manufacturing sector. This also helps put into context how manufacturers, big and small, can keep up with the transformative business trends in their own personalized way. Overall, all of our manufacturers’ efforts are centered around creating greater internal efficiency to support a more cohesive customer experience. Let’s take a look: 


Salesforce Integration

“Sometimes you see manufacturers try to stand up Salesforce in its own vacuum, separate from everything else. But it just doesn’t work. You have to let Salesforce breathe and interact with your other processes to drive real revenue.” 

Lesson Learned: Integrate Salesforce with your tech stack at large!

Connected Information Flow

“Manufacturing customers are clamoring for more connected information flows. They want real-time order and delivery information, restocking information… they want the Amazon experience. But when you apply this experience to items like cars or HVAC systems, you have to…



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