Whatever you think about new technology, there’s no denying that it’s disrupting SMEs across all sectors, from manufacturing to distribution, logistics to production.
Implementing these technologies can have a positive impact on your business, boosting profit, improving efficiency and increasing margins. In fact, according to a report by Grand View Research, new technology is one of the reasons why SMEs are expected to grow at the highest Compact Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 23% between now and 2027*.
The difficult part is knowing when and how to introduce new tech to get the biggest return on investment. That’s where we come in.
At First Digital, we specialise in digital transformation for SMEs. We understand that you’re operating with tight margins and costs, so we build on your existing set-up and integrate technologies that’ll genuinely make a difference to you and your business.
The technologies and strategies we use with our clients change depending on the sector. So let’s take a look at some of the key challenges and solutions in manufacturing, distribution, logistics and production.
Manufacturing sector: why investing in digitalisation is paying off
Increasing competition in the manufacturing industry means many SMEs are under pressure to cut costs, whilst improving customer experience and boosting profitability. Pioneering manufacturing companies are therefore investing in new technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and data analytics to help them.
Over the last year, we’ve seen that investing in new technology is definitely paying off in the manufacturing sector. In fact, Gartner recently reported that 36% of manufacturing companies see above-average value from IT spending in digitalisation when compared to their peers**.
How we’re helping manufacturers with digital transformation
In our experience, a big part of digital transformation in this sector is about optimising the use of data. We’re using Microsoft Power BI tools to help our manufacturing clients visualise data from a range of sources across their business.
With your data all in one place, it’s then easy to get real-time insights and start finding the blockers that are holding you back.
For example, you can now monitor, resolve and even predict machine usage which helps you extend the life of your machines and keep your operations running with fewer errors and less disruption. All of which boosts your bottom line.
Of course, making better use of your data will have positive ripple effects across your business, especially when it comes to customisation and efficiency. But the landscape is forever changing and new opportunities will constantly arise. That’s why we tend to suggest an ongoing process of evolution that doesn’t just focus on one area.
We believe in laying strong foundations, taking small incremental steps and remaining flexible, enabling you to create and maintain a competitive advantage.
To see how we can help your manufacturing business with digital transformation, why not book a free consultation call with our digital lead? We’re always happy to help.
Logistics sector: Possibilities for costs savings
If you’re in the logistics sector, you don’t need us to tell you that your industry is in the middle of a major transition. Innovative businesses are looking to automation, sensors, robotics, IoT and data analytics to make themselves leaner and faster.
And we mustn’t forget self-driving technologies will start making an impact here too. According to a report by the European Business Review, self-driving technologies are now being adopted by the trucking sector due to an ongoing shortage of drivers. So keeping an eye on this trend will be important going forward.
You might be thinking: “this technology is too cutting-edge for us right now”. And that could be the case. A lot of emerging technology might only be accessible to the big corporates at the moment, but that’s not to say you can’t start dipping your toe in the water.
That’s why we stay on top of the trends and ensure our clients can implement what’s right for them when it matters. For example, you don’t have to be using AI across your whole business, but implementing automation or machine learning in certain processes can have its benefits now.
How technologies can help logistics businesses today
Traditionally, getting goods from A to B involved long-term contracts, fixed assets and mountains of paperwork. Which made it hard to be agile. And even harder to gather useful insights from your data.
The good news is, new technology is paving the way for a much more efficient way of working – and it doesn’t require a huge upfront investment either.
One of the biggest areas of change we’ve seen is in retail. With customers now buying online or clicking and collecting, the supply chain has got a lot more complex.
If you’re in this sector, you’ll probably be facing other challenges too. Maybe disconnected systems, or a siloed approach to data. Throw Brexit into the mix and things get even more tricky.
With this in mind, we believe technology-based supply chain solutions are an absolute must. From what we’re seeing, in-demand supply requirements, machine learning, connective technologies and algorithms are the way to go if you want to simplify and optimise your processes.
We’re working with clients to support inventory management and creating more accurate demand forecasts. We’re connecting distribution centres to haulage drivers via automation and workflows. Plus, we’re helping SMEs use real-time data so they can anticipate demands and meet customer expectations. The opportunities are varied and exciting.
If the idea of automation and machine learning sounds useful for your business, why not take our free Automation-Ready Assessment. It’s a quick and easy way to find out how ready you are for automation. It also offers you handy tips and next steps too. Take the assessment today.
Taking a low-risk high returns approach to digital transformation
We’ve talked a bit about warehousing, but this is just one part of the supply chain story. Creating a faster, more efficient supply chain is another way to make a real impact across your business’ logistics.
This might sound complex and expensive, but believe us, it doesn’t have to be. As we said earlier, our approach is all about building on your existing set-up, so you can introduce the right digital solutions, and create the visibility and control you need to step-up your operations.
To see how you can make small changes and drive bigger returns, we’re currently offering a free consultation call with our digital lead. You can ask questions, share your challenges, or even ask for advice and we’ll do what we can to help you.
Warehousing and distribution sector: overcoming the biggest challenges
We must admit, there are many challenges in warehousing and distribution right now. In particular, we’re seeing a lot of pressure on warehouse managers. The demand for faster responses, effective predicting, and the need to manage more SKUs with less errors – it’s tough.
In our view, technological advancements and changing customer needs means warehouses need to be more intelligent, efficient and automated if they’re to work well.
A big part of achieving this, as with the other sectors, is managing and maximising your data. For example, we’ve noticed that downtime and inefficiencies are often caused by poor visibility across the business. So seeing the bigger picture can make all the difference.
How First Digital is helping the warehouse and distribution sector
If these challenges sound familiar, you may be interested in Microsoft Power BI. This is a cost efficient way to visualise your data and help you view corrections or spot trends. With a bird’s eye view, it’s much easier to make predictions and decide on the right inventory leads.
As well as data solutions, Microsoft Power Apps is another effective platform for this sector. You can quickly create joined-up, customised apps that can be used on mobile devices, helping you to improve connectivity and allowing teams to access and input data wherever they are.
You can find out more about the Microsoft Power Platform and its benefits in our recent blog.
More technology opportunities in the distribution sector
To be honest, the opportunities in this sector are certainly rich. We’re helping clients with robotics, video, process tracking, cloud integration – and more. All of which is opening up new opportunities and making operations smoother and more cost-efficient.
At the end of the day, on-demand, smart warehouses aren’t something that might happen in the future. They’re very much here now. And many of the processes are achievable for SMEs. It’s just taking the right steps at the right time.
If you want to stay one step ahead in your sector, you can book a free consultation call with our digital lead. Or to see if you’re ready for automation, why not take our Automation Ready Assessment? In just a few minutes you’ll get a bespoke report as well as next steps.
Production sector: how you can overcome common challenges
With growing competition and customers demanding more personalised products, production companies are under pressure to produce more with less. This means many business owners are now turning to technology to help them.
When it comes to supporting growth in the production sector, we specialise in combining business processes and data. This can be something as simple as switching from a paper-based to a data-based approach, giving you business more visibility.
How investment in technology can pay for itself – and more.
By drawing on data from different departments, it’s easy to identify areas of the business that aren’t functioning on all cylinders. You can even see where collaboration across teams could help reduce costs, errors and delays.
It might not sound like much, but when you consider the cost of errors or downtime on a production line that runs over 200 units a minute, it can add up to thousands of pounds a year.
So preventing some of these errors, automating processes and adding a predictive maintenance model could reduce up to 40% of your unplanned downtime.
Alongside this, smart workflows and connected machines can also have a big impact in a production-based business. For example, it’s now relatively straightforward to automate some manual jobs, and train machines to manage processes independently.
The result? You can use computer power to generate orders, understand quality issues and even assign tasks, while you concentrate on growing your business.
Sound good? See if you’re ready for automation by taking our free Automation Ready Assessment today.
Start benefiting from the latest technology today
From the examples above there’s no denying that technology is transforming pretty much every sector. While there are some SMEs who are seeing this as disruptive, innovative businesses are already embracing the change, implementing new technology – and experiencing the benefits.
If you’re keen to take the next step forward, we’re here to help. Together we can integrate new technologies seamlessly with your existing set-up, so you can boost efficiency, reduce risks, and create better relationships with all stakeholders.
We’ll also make the process as simple and cost-effective as possible. You see, we believe you can enjoy the highest returns with only a small investment. We’ve helped many clients in this way – and we’d love to help you do the same.
Why not book a free consultation call with our digital lead today and let us explain how?
About First Solution Group
The First Solution Group is made up of three businesses. First Solution, an award-winning IT management service and technology strategy company. First Digital, which supports business transformation through the delivery of low investment, high return technology. Plus, First People, a resources company, providing the right leadership, operational and technical skills to support business transformation.
Book a call with our Digital Transformation lead to see how we can help you.