Manufacturers fight recession with customer satisfaction

Manufacturers in different parts of the world are fighting the recession in distinctively different ways, according to a new report from market research company IDC.

The report, 'Beating Complexity, Achieving Operational Excellence', discovered that while European and North American discrete manufacturing bosses prefer a conservative ‘back to basics’ strategy of customer retention and productivity, their Japanese and Chinese counterparts are instead taking a much more aggressive and expansionist approach of innovation and the development of new products and services.

At the same time, while most Europeans and North Americans said that increasing operational complexity is a critical issue, many Chinese manufacturers said their markets are becoming less complex, noted the report, which was commissioned from market research company IDC by IBM and ERP specialist Infor.

Report author Pierfrancesco Manenti, EMEA research director for IDC Manufacturing Insights, said that the key to addressing the challenge of complexity is better alignment of IT with the business team, adding that this can help with a broad range of issues from demand planning and forecasting to business agility and decision making.

As part of this, manufacturers must also shift their focus towards customer satisfaction and fulfillment, meaning a deeper understanding of customer needs and the ability to uniquely serve each client, he said.

“Fuelled by the global financial crisis, the discrete manufacturing sector has faced unprecedented change in the last 18 months,” he said. “As we begin to turn a corner, we are seeing a significant shift in emphasis towards customer fulfillment as an equal priority to cost cutting, as manufacturers seek to capitalise on the relationship between customer retention and profitability.”   

“Manufacturers need to overcome increasing complexity to become more agile, and ensure they have accurate real-time information at hand to deliver on customer-led strategies,” agreed Andrew Kinder, director of solutions marketing for Infor, one of the report's sponsors. “The next few years will inevitably bring new challenges in the quest to enhance customer fulfillment, but without the right tools to manage customer relationships, these challenges will prove even tougher to overcome.”

For the report, IDC surveyed senior executives from 722 discrete manufacturing companies across the automotive, metal fabrication, industrial machinery and equipment, and high-tech electronics industries. Interviewees came from the UK, US, Germany, France, Benelux, Japan, China and Brazil, and 52.8 per cent of them declared their operations to be more or significantly more complex than five years ago.

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