Monthly Archives: July 2016


Agile Digital Transformation – Low risks high ROI

An inspirational video from CEO Peter Schroer of ARAS , a manufacturer of Product Lifecycle Management Software (PLM). Schroer advocates the use of an “agile” approach to factory digital transformation, the same as that used in software development. Strategically it is a mistake to draw up a large complex project, since during the execution of the project many things will change , invalidating many of our original plans:

  • Business objectives change
  • Changes in the business environment (economic down/up turn),
  • Changes in company ownership(mergers / aquisitions)
  • Changes in customer requirements
  • Changes in legal requirements to be met
  • New technology appears

If we limit ourselves to the implementation of simple, achieveable tasks which have a direct and immediate impact on the business, which are achievable over a number of “sprints” (where a sprint is managed in weeks not months) then we have far greater probability of success.

That doesn’t mean that we have no longer term vision or road map of where we are going in the long term, rather it means that we do not devote a large amount of resource to detailed planning or execution of the long term, or paralysis by analyisis.

This approach has important consequences:

We must accept that a single software system or platform is not going to be able to continually adapt to our changing business requirements. This means that communication between systems and the use of open source software is an essential part of the strategy to avoid lock in to a single system.

Large upfront license payments are rarely compatible with this philosophy for the same reason. Software as a service which enables us to pay as a funcion of number of users or volume of transactions is much more compatible with this approach.

We must be prepared to test, put a foot in the water, test, then build on what works, and abandon what fails.  As Schroer says, “Do something we know, make it work, then go onto the next thing”.

You will find the video on agile plm implementation here.


Build a community around your product

If digital transformation is about finding new ways to engage your customers, then there are few better ways than to build a customer portal.  Software companies have for years published a knowledge base and user community forum, but it is only more recently that manufacturers have started to follow the same trend.  Continue reading “Build a community around your product” »


Build your own customer service portal


A customer service portal will enable your staff to set up a repository of information to help users install, use and service their products, using a software similar to that used in Wikipedia.  This, together with a user forum will enable your customers to ask questions and receive answers in a web format which enables other users to see the answers independent of whether your customer support staff are in the office.

Furthermore, these tools (optionally) can permit the empowerment of other people outside of your organization to contribute to the knowledge base about your products by adding their own comments and participating in the discussion.   Building a community around your products is a great way of increasing your customer and user loyalty to your products, improving your customer service, and also will help increase the visibility of your products on the web, since google and most other search engines rank web sites on the basis of the volume of useful content on your web site.

Our service includes:

  • Setup and configuration of knowledge base and user community forum.
  • User training
  • Telephone help and support (12 months)




Business Intelligence without changing your ERP

Business Intelligence (or BI) is evolving at great speed.  With the media hype around big data companies are growing increasingly interested in this area.   Tools which are particularly interesting are those that are capable of absorbing data from a variety of sources, and allowing users with little or no IT knowledge to analyse and draw conclusions from that data for business decisions.    A certain degree of technical knowledge may be necessary to set these tools up, and key is to understand how your data is (or is not) structured.  Once you get the feeling for how they work, and the type of analysis you can perform, then these tools are inexpensive and invaluable.

Track and measure your marketing campaigns


All lean manufacturers know that measurement is the first step to continuous improvement.   In marketing that means to measure the number of users who open our mails or who click on our marketing message links, to determine whether our message is getting to our users.   This can be easily achieved using a number of email software tools combined with other web tracking tools such as google analytics.    Tools such as mail chimp can be used at little or no cost and allow us to optimize and automate our email communication with customers, and to track their effectiveness to attract customers to our web, and even be used to follow up how many customers attracted by the campaign subsequently purchase in our web shop.   Smart factory provides an electronic marketing workshop to accelerate the process of setting up trackable e-marketing integrated with your web site.