Over the last couple of years, the manufacturing industry has had to face a myriad of challenges and disruptions, from Brexit to a global pandemic, supply chain issues and now inflation. These periods of volatility have triggered a substantial investment in digital transformation within the sector, in order for manufacturers to remain agile and survive.
Manufacturing is data-rich, it is more and more critical to use this data as an intelligent resource to guide decision-making in order to optimise cost, revenue and margin. Which is where artificial intelligence (AI) steps in. Profound and far-reaching digital transformation can only occur when manufacturers embrace the power of AI to drive decision-making. Without this, the effectiveness, profitability, and long-term success of digital transformation is compromised.
Benefits of AI in manufacturing
AI can utilise real-time data points from every department and touchpoint of a manufacturing business. By intelligently analysing these data sources in conjunction with each other, AI enables manufacturers to make more effective decisions around operations, supply and demand, pricing, and product offerings. AI can respond more quickly and accurately to disruptions than a human can, adjusting pricing immediately, across a portfolio of products, to account for supply chain issues, inflation and other external factors. It can also predict how demand will respond to price changes in these volatile times, helping manufacturers to ensure price moves do not result in demand that ultimately cannot be satisfied.
A key benefit of AI for manufacturing is the technology’s ability to help manufacturers offer more personalised buying experiences for customers, in which companies are proactive to customer needs, agile to changing market conditions and one step ahead of competitors due to real-time analytics. For example, AI can offer:
- Optimised recommendations around pricing
- Provide specialised, tailored and consistent offers for buyers, in which the right price point is identified at the right time.
Wacker Chemie leverages PROS Platform technology within their pricing and quotation process, leveraging AI-powered tools to optimise every shopping and selling experience. Dirk Ramhorst, Wacker Chemie’s CIO (Chief Information Officer) and CDO (Chief Data Officer) has said: “Whatever we can learn from other quotes and what’s happening in the market is automatically generated into a better price that we give to our customers.” The buying experience is also enhanced by AI streamlining selling and ordering processes to make them more efficient and immediate for the customer.
The profitable AI-enabled shift in manufacturing
AI-enabled flexibility in turn enables manufacturers to adopt new, modern business models which optimise revenue streams. For example, data-driven insights from AI have already encouraged some manufacturers to lease out, rather than sell, heavy machinery, and source incremental revenues from subscriptions and add-ons. This is part of an AI-enabled shift from manufacturing as a traditional industry toward a service industry, where products-as-a-service are more lucrative and profitable. AI has thus facilitated the emergence of new business models for the manufacturing industry.
It’s no secret that manufacturers are operating in a much more challenging environment than ever before. They have to cope with:
- Volatile input costs
- Supply issues
- Fluctuating demand
- Moving from making one price change a year, to many per year.
At the same time, their customers are wanting to deal with them through a variety of channels at a time of high price transparency. With huge expectations for personalisation, speed and consistency from all channels, AI enables manufacturers to step up to this task.
Nick Boyer is Director of Strategic Consulting at PROS.
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