Five Market Forces that are Driving Manufacturing’s Future:
Content Management Will Play a Key Role

In the last few years, manufacturers and industrial organizations around the world have started to invest in digital programs and initiatives to help accelerate IT-optimized smart manufacturing. As digitization provides a framework to define and create Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) strategies, many organizations have started to look at what is possible in the age of Industry 4.0—the current trend of bringing automation and data exchange into manufacturing technologies—by embracing smart manufacturing. In the United States, the number of industrial device-to-device connections is expected to rise to nearly 180 million in 2020, from approximately 50 million in 2014. In China, the rise in machine digitization is projected to be double that of the United States in 2020.

However, despite global businesses’ rapidly increasing ability to unlock value from information, most companies are still nowhere near capable of dealing with the flow of information across the extended enterprise. Manufacturers, in particular, face intense pressure to improve the way they manage product and engineering information.

Digital transformation revolutionizes the way manufacturers share and manage information. The first-generation processes and systems, built on 20-year-old technologies for 20-year-old computing environments, can’t meet new demands. They’re being left behind as new needs emerge for content management, process management and information collaboration. Ad hoc workarounds often leave content insecure, out of compliance or out of date.

Here are the five biggest forces intensifying manufacturers’ interest in new technologies and digital transformation:

Mobile and social—The rise of mobile and social technologies has changed not only where we work, but also how we work. IDC forecasts that the U.S. mobile worker population will surpass 105 million by 2020. Manufacturing organizations are under tremendous pressure to support connected, tech-savvy employees whose expectations have been shaped by consumer web services. Today’s employees expect to find and share business and product-related information as easily as they can browse and buy a book online. They also expect their company systems to support remote and collaborative working styles. Millennials are highly mobile and always connected, and they demand IT solutions that allow them to get their work done independently of location, network and device. Their expectations for ease of content access intensify the pressure on IT organizations to modernize their enterprise content management (ECM) strategy.

Evolving customer expectations—With customers able to connect 24/7, the expectations for a quick response to their questions have grown, and responses are not only expected on their chosen platforms but also around the clock too. Emerging digital expectations are changing customer loyalty to traditional products and brands, as well as opening up new threats for manufacturers. To meet these new expectations, manufacturers are under pressure across the product lifecycle. Not only must they innovate faster, but also create products that are software-enabled and connected (e.g., cars and even tractors). These next-generation products require that diverse engineering teams, who previously may have created unrelated products, will collaborate as part of an interdisciplinary team. Changes in the product lifecycle must be supported with new forms of information that can be readily shared across the enterprise—and with partners and customers outside the firewall. Disseminating product-related information across divisions, geographies, expertise and roles in the product lifecycle is a more complicated challenge than ever before.

Value of the extended enterprise—Exponential growth in connected activity and information flow is reshaping the modern manufacturing firm. Today, businesses are often a web of companies, contractors, suppliers, resellers, employees and customers. The ability to share content and process effectively across this “extended enterprise” is a must for modern manufacturers. Manufacturing firms are extending their value chains. They use external collaborators for everything from product design and development, to marketing, sales and service. Partner and supplier input is crucial for optimized sourcing strategies and getting products to market. Manufacturers are investing in technologies that will optimize processes, increase transparency and facilitate collaboration throughout all levels of the value chain.

Big data, the Internet of Things and the era of context—According to IDC, the market for big data technology and services will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23 percent through 2019. IDC also says that 90 percent of newly created data will take the form of unstructured information such as e-mails, documents and video. Big data adds to the content management challenge, making it bigger and more complex. Big data analysis must anticipate trends in product direction and customer usage and expectations as part of product development. Furthermore, as these pressures converge with new Internet of Things capabilities, offline products are turned into products that can always be tapped to provide data. The digitized manufacturer now has a slew of new sources of product information that must be managed, updated, analyzed and somehow combined with similar data produced from within.

Manufacturers report that workers in multiple, and often divergent, roles spend up to 30 percent of their time searching for information they need. Today, the contextual richness around content includes not just title and author, but also comments, preferences, location and unique attributes such as supplier name or purchase order number. Successful manufacturers use contextual data to drive business processes that move product information to the right person at the right time, within the right business application.

Hybrid cloud IT infrastructure—Manufacturers aren’t known for going overboard investing in advanced IT, so it’s interesting that leading-edge cloud computing technology seems tailor-made for them. That’s essentially because the realities of today’s enterprise architecture demand a new approach to content security and compliance in sync with IT support for the modern business. To support mobile users and external partners/suppliers, many manufacturing companies are moving business content to the cloud. Leading analysts such as IDC and Forrester predict a major shift to hybrid enterprise content management. This next-generation approach involves storing content both on-premises and in the cloud, with seamless syncing between the two locations. Hybrid ECM meets IT’s need for control and compliance, while freeing business users and external collaborators to be more productive.


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