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Digital Ecosystems: An Imperative for the Manufacturing Industry

Manufacturers leverage a complex network of internal divisions, suppliers, dealers, distributors, consultants, and agencies to conduct business. And, it’s most often global, which brings in the nuance of diverse cultures, language and business dynamics. In order to maximize results, a manufacturer must coordinate with, enable, and support not only their employees, but also employees at independent dealers and distributors. Sound complicated? It is.

As a result, Manufacturers are striving for a strategy that allows them to turn a profit from a complex, industrial product that is sold and serviced to the end customer. As business processes have turned digital, a proliferation of systems, both internally developed and 3rd party SaaS solutions started to connect the businesses in these networks to achieve the goals of the manufacturer. This often results in a tangled web of systems that don’t work well together, and make life difficult for the dealers and distributors that need access to them. This leaves out opportunities for valuable collaboration and feedback, and ultimately leaves indirect sales channels disconnected.

An ecosystem approach helps manufacturers strengthen relationships, grow their business, and build revenue by leveraging connection and collaboration from every stakeholder in the network.

What is a Digital Ecosystem?

In nature, an ecosystem is the community of interacting organisms and their physical environment. In business, an ecosystem is the network of business partners which cross many markets and industries to create a larger, more collaborative, business unit working towards mutual growth.

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Today’s business ecosystems are more diverse and complex than those of earlier years. While manufacturers continue to partner with companies like raw materials vendors and sales outlets, they’re also teaming up with trade schools and associations, outsourced tech support, freelance staff, consultants, and even end users. Ecosystems of today tie together all of these entities in shared support networks, which emphasizes the need for effective communication and collaboration.

Digital ecosystems help businesses, their partners, and their customers communicate and collaborate, driving innovation, fostering strong partnerships, and generating exchanges of value. When manufacturers link all the entities of their ecosystem together and utilize state of the art technology, they can increase their effectiveness and flexibility, growing their business. A robust ecosystem can help manufacturers:

  • Understand and react to market shifts more quickly
  • Provide better customer experience, heightened engagement and stronger customer relationships
  • Collaborate with partners to create improved products and service offerings
  • Launch new products more effectively
  • Support dealers and distributors with programs dedicated to training and certification sales enablement,, incentives, and new dealer onboarding
  • Collect and analyze data to make more informed decisions

Challenges of Digital Transformation Facing Manufacturers & Supply Chains

Manufacturers and their network of dealers and distributors have a unique challenge that makes digital transformation extremely important, but more difficult than companies who conduct the majority of their business internally. Since channel ecosystems are made up of multiple independently-owned businesses, communication and transparency is vital to keep things running smoothly. However, implementing changes, especially to technology, can be difficult. Factors like digital literacy and loyalty can impact how well individuals adjust to change, which means it’s up to the manufacturer to make sure their dealers understand the need for change.

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While manufacturers have been slower to adapt to the digital age, many now have systems like Partner or Dealer Portals   in place to support their network. . However, Partner and Dealer Portals aren’t always the best fit accommodating other audiences, like customers, that need similar levels of education and support. When deciding if your manufacturing ecosystem needs a digital transformation, consider the following questions:

  • Is there a lag in communication between members that is hurting productivity?
  • Are business partners, dealers, and distributors logging in to multiple platforms to access everything they need?
  • Do you deliver content and training based on an individual’s role?
  • Are you accessing information from tools such as Google Docs, Dropbox and other web-based software?
  • Does your digital solution account for your entire ecosystem (i.e. suppliers, trade associations, customers, consultants), or just your sales and distribution partners?
  • Are there methods in place to digitally connect and collaborate with the end customer?

If your organization is struggling to stay connected or has trouble collaborating with stakeholders in the dealer network, it’s time for a digital transformation.

Planning for a Digital Transformation

Planning is important for any big change, and trying to implement a digital transformation without a clear plan is likely to result in failure. Getting internal and external audiences on board is an important first step to a successful digital transformation.

Communicating your reasons for a digital transformation to your channel partners, and emphasizing how the change will benefit them, is a critical part of the process as well. Your communication strategy should incorporate opportunities for feedback, and address questions or concerns from your partners.

With buy-in from your ecosystem, you can begin the process of rolling out the solution. One option you have for your transformation is a phased approach, where a selection of your ecosystem is trained on the new system and works with it to help identify areas of improvement before the entire system is rolled out. Dealers who are enthusiastic about digital transformation or who have some technical expertise are good choices for this initial phase.

Why Digital Transformation Can Fail

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Not having a plan in place for digital transformation is one way the project can fail, but there are few other ways transitioning to a digital ecosystem can backfire:

  • Unwillingness to share data: Sharing data may be scary, but ecosystems thrive off collaboration and communication. Whether the unwillingness comes from the manufacturer or a dealer, sharing data can be insightful for the whole and allow everyone to grow.
  • Not investing in the right solution: Often, failing to invest in the right solution stems out of not wanting to invest enough resources (dollar signs) into the transformation. However, not investing in the right solutions can lead to bigger losses down the road.
  • Lacking internal expertise: If there isn’t someone skilled and confident on your team to lead a digital transformation, it’s likely to fail. Hire an experienced leader or work with a digital agency to make sure everything goes smoothly.

Introducing FUSE: Digital Ecosystem to Manufacturing

Today’s manufacturers need more than the traditional PRM functionality to thrive with an ecosystem strategy. That’s why LogicBay developed FUSE, the first digital ecosystem solely for the manufacturing industry. FUSE is built upon LogicBay’s core PRM and LMS technologies many businesses already work with to manage their distribution partners, with more functionality to connect your entire ecosystem in one platform.

Through FUSE, manufacturers have the capability to:

  • Leverage workflows for managing new product launches, dealer onboarding and support, sales enablement processes, lead management and incentives.
  • Provide the right information to each internal and external partner employee so that they can perform their jobs efficiently and effectively
  • Connect with businesses and individuals outside their network to generate new relationships and incremental streams of revenue
  • Foster collaboration across the ecosystem
  • Connect with other relevant audiences like trade schools, industry  associations, consultants, and future employees
  • Offer proprietary training content for sale to drive new and additional revenue streams
  • Develop thought leadership with content and discussion forums resulting in subscription revenue

Manufacturers can use the FUSE platform to offer training and certification courses to their partners, but they can also add those courses to a public channel and offer them to others for a fee. This adds an additional revenue stream to your business.

Leveraging FUSE for Individuals in the Manufacturing Industry

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Ecosystems are great for manufacturers to connect with their existing partners and customers, but they’re also great for individuals looking to break into the industry. Getting started or looking to move around within any industry can be difficult without the right connections, but a platform like a digital ecosystem with public and social aspects can help connect individuals with companies.

Discussion forums give individuals the opportunity to share and connect with others in different parts of the industry, fostering relationships and helping both individuals and businesses find the perfect fit.

Another struggle for individuals is the lack of portability around skills and training. When you have valuable certifications that were earned with one company, it can be difficult to take those with you to another. This results in needing to retake the certification, which is a waste of time. Digital ecosystems like FUSE attach certifications and completed training courses to your personal profile, so all that information goes with you.

Another challenging aspect for individuals is continuing education. Having access to online courses and certifications provide additional opportunities for professional development. Since companies and associations can offer coursework for an additional revenue stream via the FUSE platform, individuals on the platform have access to more learning opportunities.

A basic FUSE membership is free, which gets you a public profile and allows you to subscribe to public channels hosted by various industry players and participate in discussion forums.

Drive Innovation & Agility with a Digital Ecosystem

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Ecosystems have already started changing the way companies conduct business. Embracing a digital transformation will connect the important entities in your network to create stronger business relationships.

At LogicBay, we built the digital ecosystem, FUSE, to give manufacturers and their ecosystems connect, learn, and grow. Whether you’re ready to get started or have additional questions, our team can help. Click the link below to contact us and connect with a FUSE Specialist.

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