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Chip and Material Shortages, the Unreliable Energy Supply… And the Need for Data-Driven Digitalization 

These days, no one is exempt from rising international competition, including industrial and building materials suppliers. Not to mention the new business models shaking up whole sectors. Because today’s digitally literate customers interact differently with their suppliers. At the same time, the number of product variants is skyrocketing, and customers want to take their pick. We’re talking more discerning customer expectations, growing product complexity and the flood of options. So what do these all have in common? They all need to be managed.

Industrial and building materials suppliers need to respond rapidly to market trends and developments while serving the multi-layered needs of a whole number of different target groups. What matters here is optimizing product development, slashing time-to-market and cutting costs. If you want to succeed in this industry, you have to align your brand DNA with the demands of the business. And the way to achieve this is through intelligent data use – we’re talking data leadership.

Direct Sales Open Doors

Manufacturing companies are increasingly seeing the benefits of direct sales, taking on marketing, sales and customer relationship management on top of production. The advantages are clear: greater leeway, higher margins and increased customer loyalty. But it’s not as easy as it sounds. You need creativity and entrepreneurial spirit – and strategic data management.

Three Trends Revolutionizing Your Industry

The Customer Experience (CX) Reimagined 

The industry gets the significance of customer centricity. But a builder with their own small business won’t need the same product information, interaction and product selection as a distributor, a planning engineer or a plant mechanic, which makes getting the customer experience just right a challenge. This is where data-driven CX pays off, delivering top customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. 

BIM and Data Craving

Building information modeling (BIM), the model-based planning method, craves data. BIM improves efficiency along the entire property lifecycle, whether that’s in planning, construction, operation, revitalization or deconstruction. But to get there, internal and external processes alike need to be adapted, both technically and organizationally. The basis of BIM: strategically designed data management.

Digital Supply Chain Management

Digitization, connectivity and automation all improve value creation processes for industrial and building materials suppliers, with industry-wide standards and categorizations like proficl@ss, ETIM or eCl@ss ensuring product information is shared efficiently between all parties along the supply and value chain. But it’s up to strategic data management to lay the groundwork.

Customer Voices

“We have several machine learning tools that supply our customers with relevant and tailor-made propositions, in the web shop, in emails. Our web shop is 100% personal. We need data to be relevant on a one-to-one basis, not segmented.”
“The biggest mistake companies make often lies in combining digitalization exclusively with tools. They are called for without ever clearly setting out the company’s objectives in advance.”
“A company can only ever achieve a customer-centric data strategy where there is a shared vision of customer benefits. To achieve this, business and IT must share a single focus on digital business processes.”
“To manage the ever faster growing volumes of data, we need to increase the automation of repetitive work.”
“Progressive digitalization is increasingly blurring the boundaries between specialist departments in companies. All processes and associated digital solutions must be considered and developed holistically.”

Data Leadership For Experts

Thank You, Managers. From Here On, It Gets Boring…

Or simply more specific (however you like to see it).
The experts among you will probably appreciate that we also provide insight here
that goes well beyond the necessary basic understanding. So, let’s go!

Industry-Relevant Technology Topics

For Experts Only: Technology Issues in the Industrial and Building Materials Industry

Good Variant Management – for Individually Configurable Products

Let’s be real, digitalization has spoiled customers, with making individual wishes come true the new normal. Your customers will increasingly expect to be able to configure the products you offer to their own individual needs – and at a competitive price! All this means demands are growing, not just on your product configurator but generally on your variant management. Because as the number of product variants grows, so too does the complexity of your value creation process. We think the best way to cope with a flood of product variants is to automate your entire value chain from configuration in the CPQ (configure price quote) tool to product manufacturing and delivery. Ultimately, the aim behind such extensive automation is to minimize both lead times and production costs. 

That’s all well and good, but a broadly automated value chain won’t work without a certain maturity in terms of data leadership. After all, companies need data, structured data management and a company-wide data architecture. Against this backdrop, the idea of data culture needs to be anchored in the wider corporate culture. For example, when you first enter central master data into the PLM (product lifecycle management) system, you need to understand that the input you add today will be essential for sales staff later when they come to create a reliable configuration in the CPQ tool. This level of awareness of the value and sheer importance of data needs to filter through all areas of the company – and not just for good variant management.

The Growing Importance of Classification Standards

Now and moving forward, implementing classification standards for your products, and then anchoring these standards in your business processes, has a central role to play. We can only recommend using the right tools as well as drawing on expert knowledge, and there are a number of key questions to ask yourselves: How deeply are you looking to anchor these classification and characteristic structures in your product data processes? Which classification standards and versions do your business partners actually support? And which ones do they expect? Could ETIM-BIM be the right choice for meeting the requirements for BIM use?

How do you deal with a version change to the standards? In other words, how do you map from old to new structures? In this context, it’s important to consider that it’s advisable to have several versions for reasons of backward compatibility. Then, of course, there’s the question of how to initially map from your internal product classification to the classification standard in a particularly efficient manner, remembering that there may well be places where the standard fails to adequately reflect your own products. In turn, that means supplementing and expanding that standard to meet your needs. Implementing classification standards in your own business processes really is no mean feat. But all the hard work does pay off. Especially once your business partners make them a cooperation requirement!

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