The new year is fast approaching, which means it’s the perfect time to look ahead and start gearing up for 2017. We’re predicting that next year will continue to bring fundamental shifts to manufacturing business operations, thanks to technology.
Here are the top three business trends manufacturers should address to improve profits, drive customer retention and stay ahead of the competition in 2017.
1. The relative value of the aftermarket
Manufacturers of industrial-grade equipment have a continual revenue stream problem—it can be years or even decades before customers need to replace a full piece of machinery, and profit margins are tight on these capital equipment sales. On the other hand, selling aftermarket parts is a high-margin, long-term revenue stream.
Economic studies show that spare parts and aftermarket sales comprise almost 8% of the GDP, meaning about $1 trillion is spent a year on assets that are already owned. Big money is made through ongoing sales of replacement parts and service products. Who is best positioned to sell these products, if not the OEM?
What may surprise you is that OEMs traditionally capture less than 50% of aftermarket part sales. Instead, most of this market share is captured by third party resellers, will-fitters and other suppliers.
This is a huge missed opportunity. By taking steps to increase these aftermarket sales using technology and other resources, companies can see their profits grow exponentially this upcoming year.
2. It’s time to move more sales online
The internet’s broad use by consumers and businesses has dramatically changed how people gather information and make purchases. And the expectation of equipment owners to be able to research and buy parts online is only going to continue to grow in the future.
Manufacturers have a unique opportunity over the next few years to streamline aftermarket sales with online parts catalogs and flexible purchasing options.
Brand loyalty may be dying in the consumer retail arena, but OEMs have a distinct advantage when it comes to enhancing the buyer experience. With access to exclusive customer data, comprehensive product knowledge, and more precise parts information, manufacturers have a head start on making a “sticky” online sales platform.
While bargain hunters will always exist, modern shoppers have proven that they will pay for convenience and quality, elements that OEMs are uniquely poised to provide.
Providing online parts sales and information is one of the quickest paths to increase revenue and customer satisfaction. The digital shift means that buyers expect real time information with immediate access. Soon (and by “soon” we mean now), a bulky paper catalog accompanied by a parts desk phone number isn’t going to cut it.
3. Internet of Things (IoT)
Where do people, data and intelligent machines intersect and how is it going to change the world? According to IDC, IoT spending is expected to skyrocket in the next few years, from $656 billion in 2014, to $1.7 trillion in 2020.
And there’s a good reason for it. IoT can make services more responsive, convenient and efficient for consumers. This is true for industrial IoT (IIoT) as well. Most new heavy equipment includes telematics capabilities, with sensors installed on key systems, whether operators choose to use them or not.
Some companies are using these systems to shift asset maintenance from a preventative to predictive model. Downtime is one of the costliest variables in equipment lifecycle costs, and IoT can play a key role in diminishing it.
Instead of guessing the condition of equipment and replacing parts on a predetermined schedule, maintenance can instead be triggered by real-time conditions monitored by sensors installed in the machine. This may seem like a small change, but significant dollars can be saved by not replacing parts that don’t need it, and by optimizing downtime and reducing unplanned work stoppages.
For manufacturers, think of the benefits gained from this type of data, and how customers can be encouraged to buy aftermarket parts from an OEM. With IoT and accurate data, you can predict a customer’s needs and have parts and supplies ready and in stock. And by integrating this data into your online parts catalog, you could send the customer a reminder email with a suggested shopping cart that includes the needed parts.
This is an exciting time to be in the manufacturing business and use technology to increase customer satisfaction and revenue. By integrating streamlined aftermarket parts sales, data and online capabilities into your overall strategy, your business can jump to the next level in 2017.