By: Vincent Tang, regional vice president, Asia, Epicor
Voice-driven machinery, robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), and cloud-powered sharing tools are among the new business technologies under development, and technology firms are starting up in their thousands, hoping to impress the B2B market with their innovations. This is a worldwide phenomenon, with Quora estimating that there are around 100,000 tech start-ups a year. Singapore alone has more than 2,000 tech start-ups enjoying significant Government subsidies.
Since the country unveiled its Smart Nation initiative, Singapore has rolled out a range of public policies and funding support initiatives that have helped the tech start-up ecosystem to flourish in the country. Thus, there are countless innovative solutions for businesses to choose from, and business decision-makers are constantly being told to buy, implement, or migrate to these technologies or risk being left behind.
In fact, according to a report by The Economist Intelligence Unit, out of the 82 countries surveyed, Singapore ranked as one of the best place to invest in the next five years, when considering technological readiness as an important measure. Suffice to say that both public and private sectors in Singapore are progressively embracing and adopting new technologies to better serve customers and community.
The question for businesses is how to justify the investment. There are now statistics available to prove that those businesses which invest in new technology are able to set themselves apart from everyone else. The key is selecting technology that is right for your business, and that can help it get fit for growth.
Our latest research—which explored the influences and impacts of business growth according to 2,450 business decision makers around the globe—has shown a telling discrepancy between the businesses that invest in technology and those that don’t.[i] Of those that reported strong business growth in the past 12 months, 57 per cent prioritised IT investment, suggesting technology has played a key role in their success. Among companies with weak growth however, just a fifth (20 per cent) had prioritised IT investment. In Singapore, 69 per cent of businesses surveyed reported growth in turnover, and 71 per cent an increase in profits.
These are some of the key findings from our Global Growth Index, which has been designed to monitor trends in how manufacturing businesses are growing around the globe. Although we have seen impressive overall rates of growth this year—up 3.7 per cent compared to last year—there’s an underlying consensus among the businesses we surveyed, that growth hasn’t been easy.
Applied in the right way however, innovations can help make the path to growth smoother. This is a reality in the manufacturing sector, for example, where our research shows that AI, robots, and highly automated machinery are now a common feature in a third of workplaces.
The following five key reasons demonstrate in more detail how technology is helping manufacturing businesses to grow.
1. Technology automates otherwise manual tasks
In today’s fast-paced manufacturing environment, technology can help free up valuable employee time by generating efficiencies. To this end, over half of business decision makers agree that robotics—for example on the production line—have the ability to automate repetitive or mundane tasks that might otherwise take up a lot of employee time.
Technology also comes with the added benefit of freeing up people to work on more creative tasks (40 percent of businesses agree). This means that employees can concentrate on getting a business ready for growth, or developing strategies for growth, rather than spending too much time on day-to-day processes.
2. Technology helps manufacturers plug a burgeoning skills gap
According to our research, the majority of manufacturers (78 per cent) admit that attracting top talent with the right skillsets is no easy ride, suggesting that the industry might soon suffer from a lack of skills and internal knowledge.
To address this predicted shortfall in workforce talent, many businesses agree that technology—such as robotics on the factory floor—can save valuable time and resources. Furthermore, investing in new technologies also helps to boost the profile of organisations looking to recruit millennial talent—research shows that 41 per cent of young people want the opportunity to work with the latest innovations.
3. Technology provides crucial data
With the growth of the smart factory and all of its associated Internet of Things (IoT)-connected devices, we are witnessing a huge growth in the amount of data generated along the production line. According to research, the performance logs from a single works machine can generate around 5 gigabytes (GB) of data per week, and a single smart factory can produce around 5 million GB a week—the equivalent of more than 300,000 16 GB iPhones.
This presents businesses with an opportunity, as long as they have access to intuitive and intelligent systems. Those that can interpret data, and spot patterns and trends, will be able to gain insights and make informed business decisions. But this is no mean feat, and around a fifth (19 per cent) of businesses in our research rely on a single core business system, such as an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution, in order to make good use of the data available to them.
4. Technology makes it possible to quickly expand overseas or to new locations
Overseas expansion can be difficult to navigate, with one-in-ten businesses admitting that working with overseas customers and suppliers represented a significant challenge—particularly for businesses with large supply chains, or those that need to address tax obligations across multiple regions. Similarly, a third of the businesses with operations in multiple territories reported that cooperation across different parts of the business represented a major difficulty.
Having a flexible ERP solution in place is the key to managing global processes effectively. Meanwhile, closing the communication gap to conduct global business can be achieved by taking advantage of multilanguage ERP systems that make it easier to interact with international colleagues, suppliers, and customers
For businesses that are established in multiple territories, a third say that cooperation with different parts of the business is a challenge. In all instances, having a solution in place that can adapt, is key to managing processes effectively, accounting for international languages, and regional compliance requirements.
5. Technology allows businesses to adapt
Deploying the right tools, whether that is cognitive technology or software, can bring major improvements in business performance—making it possible to undertake forecasting, scheduling and stock replenishment dynamically in response to customer demands. This ability to respond in real-time enables companies to accurately control their manufacturing and sales order processes, and drive up return-on-investment.
In an environment where global giants like Amazon continue to disrupt markets and supply chains, new technologies are proving crucial for getting businesses fit to compete, adapt, and grow. However, for any new technology implementation to deliver positive business outcomes, the platform selected must be flexible—connecting management with the factory floor and enabling project teams to collaborate across borders—and capable of scaling and adapting fast to support evolving business practices. All requirements that are fuelling the adoption of cloud-based ERP solutions by businesses of all sizes seeking to keep pace with new technologies and rising customer expectations.
From driving production efficiencies to
improving information-sharing across the business, forward-thinking
manufacturing businesses are already starting to take advantage of industry-transforming
technologies such as the IoT, big data and AI. Linking these systems to a
next-generation ERP solution can help improve profit margins, open new revenue
streams, and improve brand reputations. Making it possible to build new
capabilities that fuel future growth.
[i] The research for the Global Growth Index was conducted by Morar Consulting on behalf of Epicor in December 2017. The research questioned 2,450 business decision makers and employees in businesses in 14 countries across the globe, about their growth performance in the last 12 months.