Leveraging Digital Technologies for Resilience in the Industrial Sector

Sam Naji, Joseph Tekriti
July 6, 2023
4 minute read
Table of Contents

Across the industrial sector, firms are navigating a chaotic operating environment determined by ever-changing customer behaviours, labour force dynamics and global supply chain network changes. And industrial firms increasingly turn to solutions offered by digital technologies to overcome such emerging challenges and achieve long-term resilience. Implementing such technologies can accelerate cross-functional efforts and position firms for long-term success. This article shows the critical priorities for building such resilience and outlines plans that industrial firms can adopt to integrate such digital technologies aptly.  


Navigating Rising Costs and Inflationary Pressure

Recently, inflation reached a 40-year high. With this uncertain outlook, industrial firms are lowering expected profits. Specifically, when there are economic instabilities such as GDP or inflationary fluctuations, industrial firms face challenges forecasting future demand and revenues. An example would be a manufacturing company that may lower its expected profits, anticipating a slowdown of consumer spending due to a recession. The recent geopolitical developments, such as Russia's invasion of Ukraine, have further disrupted commodity prices and altered supply chains. To resolve such inflationary pressures, firms must adapt to the end of cheap access to capital due to the expected increase in interest and inflation rates. This can be done by implementing cost optimization measures and exploring alternative sourcing strategies. Digital technologies, such as generative artificial intelligence (AI) powered supply chain optimization mechanisms, can help identify cost-saving possibilities and improve a firm's decision-making in a volatile market environment.  


Talent Retention and the Skills Gap

Overall, the labour market has a significant concern in which retirements and great Resignation exacerbate the skill gap. To attract and retain talent, firms need to reimagine their operating models. This will strengthen the image of innovation. Firms should embrace digital transformation by upskilling their workforce and aptly applying digital technologies wherever possible. Additionally, leveraging emerging technologies such as generative AI can automate repetitive tasks, allowing employees to focus on higher-value activities which require creative-thinking skills.  


Supply Chain constraints

Supply chain disruptions have also become a critical problem for industrial firms. This has led to an intensified interest in improving demand forecasting capabilities. Firms must invest in advanced digital tools such as blockchain, IoT, and predictive analytics to build a resilient supply chain. These technologies enhance visibility, inventory management, and optimized logistical processes. By conducting network analyses and leveraging digital solutions, firms can balance cost-efficiency with delivery performance. This will reduce the risks related to trade wars and political instability.   

Talent retention and skill development are indeed interlinked with addressing supply chain issues, as effective supply chain management requires skilled professionals with the knowledge and expertise to optimize operations and logistics and analyze risks. Industrial firms can efficiently address supply chain challenges and disruptions with a competent workforce. 


Prioritizing Strategies for Long-Term Resilience

Industrial firms should focus on three main priorities to achieve long-term resilience. These include placing customers at the centre of innovative solutions, building talent for the future, and creating digital transformation as a core business basis.  

Summary list of applications of generative AI in industrial firms

  1. Placing Customers at the Center of Solution Innovation: To unlock transformative growth, firms must look beyond a product-focused approach and adopt a "solution-selling" mindset. Firms can proactively offer specific solutions and improve business-customer relationships by understanding customers' pain points and operations needs. Embracing customer-centric services requires building direct customer relationships and expanding into value pools other than traditional product offerings, such as software and services. An example would be a manufacturing firm spelling in industrial machinery facing declining demand for traditional products. The firm conducted customer research to address this problem and identified a growing need for predictive maintenance. The firm shifted its operations from selling machinery to providing predictive maintenance solutions using IoT sensors and analytics. By helping customers optimize their operations and minimize downtimes, the firm strengthened its customer relationship and increased its operational revenues.  
  2.  Building a Talent Factory for the Future: Industrial firms must prioritize maintaining talent and generating improved employee satisfaction. This requires reimaging the operating model and attracting needed talent for digital transformation. Firms should improve their organizational structure, information about their product, and management to show commitment to innovation. Through investing in upskilling programs and creating a culture of continuous learning, firms can build an improved workforce capable of driving digital initiatives. An example would be an automotive company recognizing the need to upskill its workforce to adapt to digital automation. The firm implemented an internal training program that allowed workers to learn programming, robotics, and data analysis. By investing in upskilling programs, the firm retained talent and increased workforce capabilities in driving digital initiatives and improved operational efficiency.  
  3.  Making Digital Transformation an Imperative: Digital transformation is vital for industrial firms to overcome challenges and surpass pandemic and pre-pandemic performances. Firms must embrace digital transformation and utilize their solutions to improve performance, reduce costs and enhance decision-making. Implementing digital use cases like live machine learning algorithms, IoT platforms, and cloud-based data processing can deliver significant operational improvements. Overcoming challenges related to shattered data landscapes and old-fashioned infrastructure requires investments in robust end-state architectures. An example would be a logistics firm adopting a cloud-based data processing system to enhance visibility and optimize its supply chain operations. Integrating IoT devices and blockchain development enabled the firm to achieve end-to-end traceability, reduced delivery times, and improved overall customer satisfaction. Such digital transformation efforts allowed the firm to overcome supply chain disruptions and lead efficient and reliable logistics operations.  

Overall, in uncertainty, digital technologies offer industrial-based firms the ability to build resilience and succeed in the rapidly changing industry. By prioritizing customer-centred innovation, talent development, and improving digital transformation capabilities, firms can adapt to rising costs, talent shortages, and supply change (logistical) disruptions. While all this requires careful planning and a focus on execution, the long-term benefits exceed the costs. In light of the business conditions and the potential benefit outlined, it becomes clear that industrial firms have a positive impact on prioritizing the improvement of their businesses through customer-centred innovation, talent development and digital improvements.  


Acknowledgment: This article was skillfully crafted with the help of Ansai R.

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