Technology has freed manufacturing of labor-intensive processes, opening the door to fast production and sparking an idea revolution. Whereas R&D used to be a cost center with uncertain ROI, it’s now companies’ value creator. The modern manufacturer has the ability to research, analyze, iterate and produce constantly, thanks to powerful digital video, voice and content tools.
The challenge now is to avoid the commodity trap by putting this new collaboration technology to optimal use to produce high-value, game-changing products and services. It’s even better if companies can produce ahead of the curve and lead their fields in innovation.
The best way to cultivate a competitive advantage is to defy the distance between suppliers, consumers and the thinkers behind the products. Virtual innovation hubs do the job while providing access to resources wherever in the world they are, whenever they are needed. These hubs include Collaborative Decision Environments (CDEs) that equip employees, suppliers and other contributors with powerful video, audio and content sharing tools. Manufacturers reap the following benefits, transforming their practices in the process:
Bringing supply and demand closer—With innovation hubs powered by CDEs, manufacturers can reach new sources of supply and demand wherever they are, which is increasingly in new, emerging markets.
Equalizing access for partners—Information once confidential within the enterprise now has to be shared with customers, suppliers and business partners to optimize innovation. Through virtual innovation hubs manufacturers can connect seamlessly with all of these stakeholders, as well as industry consortia and federal agencies to accelerate development.
Perpetuating productivity gains—CDEs enable teams to talk face-to-face to review product models and process refinements, continue work offline with video recordings and document markup and handle all troubleshooting from any remote location. A quote from a user best captures the productivity impact. “Previously, members of our project teams all had to be physically co-located,” explains Mike Cron, IT Group Director, Cadence Design Systems, Inc. “A team in San Jose worked together on one piece of a project, and another team elsewhere handled another. But Polycom video collaboration has changed all that. Now we have global project teams with employees from the United States, India, Israel and Russia that get the right talent on the right project, no matter where they’re located. We aren’t losing costly employee days wasted on travel.”
“Glocalizing” product development—Emerging markets require intense customization because of their linguistic, cultural, ethnic and other differences. Collaboration tools can help companies develop new products or varieties to serve these diverse markets. They also help partners analyze customer data to identify new sources of demand or new chances to globalize or regionalize local products.
Recruiting outside creativity and talent—Today’s R&D team can include a cast of thousands. Leading companies use collaboration technology to crowdsource new ideas. For example, Alain Afflelou, a French retail chain specializing in optical services, chose Polycom video solutions to interact face-to-face with colleagues and partners. The staff has set up a portal using Polycom’s CloudAXIS video solution, allowing franchises to schedule time to discuss important issues directly with company founder Alain Afflelou. (Watch the related video.) Internal teams can also use digital tools to find online talent—people who could contribute remotely or be hired on as staff.
Virtualizing excellence—CDEs enable virtual data mining and intelligence sharing, leading to greater product precision and value. These centers can also help train new talent and bring in thought leaders and global experts without requiring travel.
Changing processes for better results—Manufacturers are using video collaboration to accelerate design, coordinate supply chain processes and increase operation efficiency. Intelligent Energy is an example of a company that collaborates directly with customers in real-time over video conferencing from early on in the design process, often connecting four different sites at once. This negates the need for customer visits, saving time and money for both parties, and resolves issues far quicker than sending pictures and drawings over e-mail. (Watch the related video.)With this technology, they can also improve sustainability: they can work with partners to reduce raw material inputs and recover, recycle and reuse durable components. Companies no longer operate solo all the time either. They form alliances with academic institutions, federal agencies and other businesses to spur innovation, train workers and share assets and resources.
Does your company have the collaboration tools it needs to transform and succeed in the new manufacturing economy?