This note reflects on business development strategies for “smart manufacturing” solutions. It is inspired by conversations with our clients in this space, as well as Crystelle Desnoyer and Adrien Renouf’s notes from recent Industry 4.0 workshops (including the French Touch in New York, and our neighbors at ITAC, part of a US Department of Commerce-sponsored network).
“Smart manufacturing” technologies are generating major opportunities and challenges for manufacturers and for their technology providers –both incumbent providers and new entrants. For many players, how to navigate their industry’s transition from prior operational standards to new ones remains uncertain.
This leads industry executives to ask diverse questions, depending on their supply chain position: as a manufacturer, which technology should we focus on? how can we embrace a new technology while other innovations are still appearing and could disrupt it as well? as a startup in this space, how do we capture market share? as an incumbent manufacturing equipment provider, how do we safeguard and consolidate existing competitive positions?
Understanding who to target
Ironically, some companies that invest substantially in product-related R&D innovation disregard process-related innovations that have proven bottom-line ROI. As a result, Sight Machine, a software provider which enables efficient analysis and visualization of collected data, has chosen to focus sales efforts on early adopters who are open to test innovations, rather than laggards. They seek companies whose culture is ready for digital-age evolution. Rather than spend their energy trying to raise awareness within companies that aren’t ready, they focus on providing new tools to forward-thinking executives who already picture themselves with them. On the other hand, you may be looking at the tip of the iceberg if you disregard all those companies that don’t seem ready to move.
Establish a long term collaborative relationship with key accounts
At The Triana Group, we understand that some corporations may not be ready or able to engage in major changes without proper consideration. To address their need for careful strategic assessment, we have been facilitating workshops, in-depth conversations and pilot studies to help large organizations and technology providers learn from each other and explore longer term collaborations. Companies we represent, such as SAM Outillages, SESA Systems, Ubi Solutions, Infolytx, Spago (Engineering Group), spend considerable time with Key Accounts to examine how they can leverage their technologies to develop new solutions and smarter manufacturing processes. Similarly although in a different space, Tennaxia, a compliance data management platform serving dozens of thousands of users around the world, engages in-depth conversations with corporate sustainability officers sometimes years before they are ready to deploy its solution, a client dedication that makes the company the best choice to work with. Such relationships bring strategic value both to the company and its clients.
Not enough time in one day! The partnership solution.
A panelist compared Industry 4.0 startups to “little Davids facing major Goliaths” but noted that these Goliaths are heavy and difficult to change, which puts the “Davids” in a favorable position because they can bring expertise and experience that larger corporations may take longer to develop. However, these smaller nimble players risk financial crush, because it takes considerable time and investments to capture and manage large accounts. Therefore, we agree with panelists that new players should optimize their business development by building partnerships with companies that can help them shorten their sales cycles, leverage their internal resources, and scale faster. If you choose to explore that route, the question is: which company / companies should you partner with? when? and how?
Some partly overlapping options:
- Partnering with established companies which have synergies with your solution. Large industrial users are more receptive to well-established companies they have already worked with. Hence, UBleam, specialized in transforming traditional factories into connected ones with their IoT dashboard platform, partnered with a leader in industrial maintenance: SPIE.
- Partnering with other startups to sell end-to-end solutions. This enables you to efficiently leverage a combined, and thus larger, network and strengthens your collective bargaining power.
- Partnering with an integrator / consulting firm, which has key contacts and processes to capture market share. Most panelists advised to consider partnerships with smaller specialized firms, as it may be too difficult to get the attention of larger integrators or to work with them on good terms.
How we can help your smart manufacturing business
We have been assembling a growing portfolio of solutions to support smart manufacturing initiatives. We represent solutions providers that have worked successfully with thousands of companies ranging from small & midsized manufacturers to Fortune corporations such as Airbus, GE, Medtronic, J&J, Ford, Rolls Royce, to name just a few. Examples of relevant technology providers we work with include:
- Directly on-site: SAM Outillage earned a World Leader Award thanks to its RFID-connected tools, which create new sources of data and help reinvent production and maintenance processes. Ubi Solutions provides corporations such as HP and Medtronic with integrated innovative traceability solutions based on RFID/ Mobility/ Cloud/ M2M/ Auto ID technology. In a recent example, the company enabled an industrial laundry operator to reduce the number of lost items (resulting in more than $1 million in savings and a ROI within less than 12 months). SESA Systems provides a unique one-stop-shop catalog of patented solutions for lean manufacturing, some of which enable the implementation of new technologies within the manufacturing site. It works hand-in-hand with clients’ production teams in companies ranging from Toyota to Coca-Cola that constantly seek leaner and smarter manufacturing.
- Just-in-time maintenance: Optimum Tracker’s real-time monitoring of solar trackers enables photovoltaic power plant operators to perform “just-in-time maintenance”, instead of costly unnecessary maintenance or delayed repair. OSMOS Group’s fiber optics technology provides similar benefits in civil engineering, thanks to real-time structural integrity monitoring of infrastructures such as bridges or construction sites, which optimizes maintenance.
- ERP systems: Qualiac has developed ERP modules that manage production processes as complex as hospitals and biotechnology sites, and can directly plug into customer-facing interfaces. As corporations achieve considerable sustainability gains thanks to smarter manufacturing, Tennaxia provides them with ERP modules that help them implement “smarter” data-driven corporate sustainability programs.
- Big data analytics: SpagoBI, sponsored by Engineering Group, provides a variety of business intelligence and data analytics modules that make sense of new IoT data sources. Nuance-R enables decision makers to leverage the “R” language’s powerful data analytics capabilities in ways that are otherwise only accessible to advanced users. Last but not least, Infolytx leverages structured and unstructured data analytics, as well as cutting edge mobile technologies such as augmented reality, to develop new applications to optimize numerous processes in healthcare and other value chains.
Interested in exploring how we may help your organization in the smart manufacturing space? Contact us to schedule an introductory conversation!