Efficiency and cost-effectiveness have never been more important for manufacturing businesses. Rob Williams, CEO of the leading ecommerce company, Williams Commerce, says that revolutionary thinking and maturing technologies will be the route to a new manufacturing landscape.
“Some manufacturers have historically focused on very labour-intensive approaches to sales, innovation and production. In a fast-changing digital environment, that won’t be an option for very much longer.
“Manufacturing companies that have embraced business to business (B2B) ecommerce have already been rewarded with increased sales. They are just starting to see the real potential of integration, connectivity and scalability. At the same time, the Millennial generation of professional buyers has developed a clear preference for online self-service, anytime and anywhere.
“The key to B2B ecommerce growth is providing your customers with real value-add in terms of self-service, optimising buyer’s experiences to allow fast and efficient ordering. That’s why high quality personalization is increasingly driven by artificial intelligence (AI) and big data in the Cloud.
“Just as important are super-efficient business processes and integration that allow manufacturers to directly connect their B2B ecommerce customer portal right into the heart of their business. AI is also revolutionising the way inventories are managed and how smart factories solve production problems on the shop floor.
“Cloudfy delivers game changing capabilities on both these fronts and we’re delighted to be creating amazing value for our rapidly growing customer base.”
Efficiency and effectiveness
Inventory management can be a complicated matter for large organisations. Holding more stock than you need during any given time period takes up resources and can be costly. Not only can this prove to be ineffective, holding too much stock and not managing your inventory properly can lead to unfulfilllled or incorrect orders which can have a negative impact on your reputation and relationships with your customers.
This is why for efficiency-minded manufacturers, just-in-time (JIT) production is a key tool to avoid waste and overproduction; creating products that meet immediate demand rather than creating stock for future sales. This is a supply chain management method, originating in Japan with their car manufacturers, whereby stock levels are maintained so that they meet customer demand and no more.
JIT also supports continuous improvement by simplifying systems and reducing the time needed to move from raw materials and component parts to finished products, distribution and delivery.
Effectively managing parts and materials, as they are needed, requires accurate demand forecasting and strong relationships with suppliers, Traditionally, to make JIT work, manufacturers needed to collate and analyze historic sales trends and demand variations. Capturing and processing real-time information, enabled by Cloud-based interconnectivity, information sharing and AI will improve customer service and enable a more efficient JIT approach.
From smart ecommerce to smart factories
Cloud-based ecommerce already allows materials and components to be ordered and processed within the hour to support lean manufacturing. Once the parts and raw materials arrive, automated production will improve efficiency and minimise human errors. Real time adaptation manufacturing workflows become a reality when ‘smart’ machines routinely communicate with each other as well as with other systems and people.
As an example, Harley Davidson’s implementation of JIT reduced inventory levels by 75% and increased production. A real-time bar coding system allows parts supply to be centralised, improving logistics and making better use of factory floor space.
Robots are now an integral part of the manufacturing process.
Another example of technology enabling JIT is 3D printing. Once an effective tool to create prototypes, this technology is already in use for low-volume production. Soon some products won’t need component parts. Instead, they will be created from digital patterns, as and when needed. This technology could change the face of logistics and redefine the meaning of the production line.
Rob Williams says: “Fragmented historic data collected throughout the supply chain can only take you so far. In my opinion, the next stage of transformation will come when consistent real-time data is transparently and securely shared in the Cloud throughout sales, production and distribution processes. This level of digital collaboration will inform innovation and improve customer satisfaction.
“Even small and start-up businesses can benefit from this end-to-end approach to processes and information. It allows them to make efficient use of their capital and improve cash flow. It’s a great way to avoid tying up money in unneeded inventory and it will help them to grow.”
The ideal platform
To be on the safe side when implementing this approach for your online business, as well as taking precautions such as having multiple suppliers, you will require a B2B ecommerce platform that can not only support this, but also help make the most out of it.
With Cloudfy being a modern cloud-based ecommerce platform, you can easily integrate with major business and ERP systems to streamline your supply chain management.
Furthermore, Cloudfy’s Punchout technology allows users to access a company’s ecommerce website from their own e-procurement system, making ordering hassle-free and easier than ever before.
Get started with Cloudfy
To find out more about digitally transforming your manufacturing business and how Cloudfy can help, please give us a call.