The technology industry has always been driven by innovation and scientific investigation. As soon as a complex new piece of machinery is launched, a next generation upgrade and a competitor version are nearing their own unveiling. Nowhere is this more pertinent than Asia, where technical advancement is underpinned by a ceaseless drive for product customizations and services that improve the reliability and lifecycle of highly specified machinery.
The strongest demand for new industrial technology is in China, the manufacturing center of the world, where advanced automation and robotics are an integral part of productive life. Several factors have influenced China’s quest for greater efficiencies, including robust domestic demand, rapidly rising labor costs and intensifying regional competition. Against this backdrop, producers are upgrading manufacturing technologies and engineering capabilities and adopting leaner processes to minimize the time to market, while reducing excess capacity. Companies are also reassessing space requirements as land and property costs rise.
A more fragmented picture exists in South East Asia. The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries are at different stages of the digital journey in production processes. Increased investment in the region by aggressively expanding North East Asian companies to tap cheaper labor and supply chain costs is impacting the manufacturing map. Meanwhile, governments recognize that developing a robust machine tools sector can be a powerful conduit for economic growth.
Digitization has opened new doors of perception. Clients and end-users are able to instantly research products, companies and brand information online. Comparing different products goes even further, with product configuration and technical performance easily available – and requests for extra technical information seamlessly serviced day or night. Anticipating and meeting user needs is central to developing knowledge-based customer relationships.
For an informed online user, a welter of information should be accessible within a few clicks, provided technology companies have adopted a progressive digital strategy. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a critical, but often overlooked, aspect of a customer-centric strategy. Integrating all of a business’ digital assets and ensuring they are visible on search engines helps to stay “top of mind” for existing customers, and become more easily accessible to new clients.
State-of-the-art customer relationship management (CRM) platforms and service management tools combine extensive industry and product knowledge with structured sales and service capabilities. These systems enable technology producers to integrate CRM with in-house information, and provide customers with constant mobile access to up-to-date, precise performance and service data. Developing a core competency in service excellence informs long-term client relationships and enables clients to adapt to changing market requirements.
“Forward-thinking companies are incorporating automated solutions and software-driven interfaces into manufacturing processes, particularly in markets where predicted rises in domestic demand encourage output expansion,” says Hanno Elbraechter, Head Business Unit Technology at DKSH.
Reducing energy consumption is a high-profile aspect of manufacturing technology adoption, especially in China where the government is pushing businesses to comply with its drive to reduce pollution and improve air quality. Energy costs, too, are rising in several Asian markets as government subsidies are reduced, or removed altogether.
Food safety has emerged in recent years as a major issue for customers, policy makers and the media, particularly in China where a series of food scandals damaged consumer trust. In this context, greater automation and customized service management tools form part of the drive for greater product quality control.
Competitive disruption is also a factor. 3D printing currently accounts for a small part of the technology sector market, but it is creating new challenges. Prices for 3D printers are dropping, and new printing applications are being constantly developed. What may be a niche application today may tomorrow become a cost-effective opportunity to “print” machine tool parts on demand. Another fundamental challenge looming on the horizon is the electric car – which will transform vehicle manufacturing technologies, inputs and processes, and render redundant several traditional elements of the supply chain.
For companies operating in Asia’s dynamic technology sphere, competitive advantage on the route-to-market is highly defined, and mastering both online and offline channels is crucial. New models for innovation, resource allocation and cost-efficiency are being tested, while R&D investments are driving greater transparency, measurability, visibility and consistency. By partnering with a total solutions provider and system integrator, technology manufacturers can successfully meet the challenges from their clients to provide support for increased throughput, improved yield and reduced cost of ownership to enhance their own market competitiveness.