March 23

The A to Z guide to digital transformation in Manufacturing (with examples)

Improved customer experience is a major driving factor for digital transformation in manufacturing. How can manufacturers accomplish it?


Ninety-eight percent of manufacturers plan to implement or already implement online sales strategies. What causes the drive for digital transformation in manufacturing?

Manufacturers recognize that customers are central to their success, making the improved customer experience the driving factor for implementing digital transformation.

So, what is digital transformation in manufacturing, and how can you successfully leverage it? Let’s find out.

Key takeaways:

  • Digital transformation in manufacturing takes advantage of evolving technologies by implementing them in all facets of the business, whether in the manufacturing process, the workforce, or the end product or marketing and sales.
  • Benefits of implementing additive manufacturing include faster build times, the ability to produce more innovative designs without increasing costs, and creating lighter yet more robust and durable products.
  • Manufacturing analytics captures and analyzes the data to predict demand, prevent failures, preemptively perform maintenance, optimize prices and make improvements where needed.

What is digital transformation in Manufacturing?

Digital transformation in the manufacturing industry encompasses more than marketing and selling on digital channels, though it is part of the process. Manufacturers take advantage of evolving technologies by implementing them in all facets of their business, whether in the manufacturing process, the workforce, or the end product.

Digital transformation in manufacturing aims to:

  • Maximize revenue by improving operational efficiency and brand awareness
  • Enhance the quality of manufactured products
  • Elevate the customer experience to gain a competitive edge
  • Improve business adoptions with data-driven decision making

chart listing benefits of digital transformation in manufacturing

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5 examples of digital transformation in Manufacturing

With the definition and benefits of digital transformation understood, let’s look at five areas where manufacturers can utilize the latest technology to enhance their business.

1. Additive manufacturing

What is it? Commonly referred to as 3D printing, additive manufacturing is a process that creates a physical object from a digital design. Typically, engineers use CAD (Computer-Aided Design) software to draw the blueprint. Then, a printing machine takes the design and prints the object using a material that best suits the company’s purpose. Options include, but aren’t limited to, plastic, metal, carbon fiber, resin, and paper. 

In traditional manufacturing, the worker would take a block of material, such as wood or metal, and carve, chip, and chisel away until they got the product. Additive manufacturing received its name because nothing gets removed, only added to create the item.

Benefits of implementing additive manufacturing include faster build times, the ability to produce more innovative designs without increasing cost and creating lighter yet more robust and durable products.

Example: Resolution Medical is a Minnesota-based company that creates medical devices using additive manufacturing. Previously, it used injection molding to produce a product, but the company found benefits of 3D printing them instead. They cite faster time-to-market and flexible design changes as advantages of transitioning to additive manufacturing.

2. Digital twin

What is it? Digital twin technology uses data from sensors connected to machines and tools on the production line to generate a virtual model of a real-world product, production process, or an entire system. The digital model is a precise replica with all the dimensions, operational values, and behavior that the real-world product or environment would have. Once the engineers are satisfied with the virtual model they build the physical model. Once the product or system is in production, the digital version continues to coexist with the physical one.

Digital twin technology assists companies in identifying issues before they happen in turn enhancing existing products, operations, and services.

Example: Unilever PLC operates eight digital twins across North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. The IoT sensors provide real-time data such as temperature and motor speed into Unilever’s enterprise cloud at each site. The digital twin simulates intricate what-if scenarios to determine the best operational parameters. As a result, the company uses materials more precisely and limits waste from goods that don’t meet quality standards. 

3. Ecommerce

What is it? Ecommerce is the selling and buying of products or services through digital channels. There are many facets to ecommerce that manufacturers can optimize. For example, can you include selling directly to consumers in addition to selling to retailers? Is your website mobile friendly? Can you create a personalized customer experience, such as sending them an email when there is an update to a product you know they like?

Example: Wastequip, a manufacturer of waste handling equipment, created a user-intuitive site where customers can effortlessly search, place an order, and track their purchases. This step in digital transformation resulted in an eightfold increase in web traffic for the company.

4. Manufacturing analytics

What is it? Manufacturing analytics collects all information (using software) from machines and workers during every production stage until a product hits the market. Manufacturing analytics captures and analyzes the data to predict demand, prevent failures, preemptively perform maintenance, optimize prices, and make improvements where needed.

Manufacturers can collect data from robotics, sensors, IIoT (Industrial Internet-of-things) devices, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.

Example: Konux, a railway infrastructure manufacturer based in Germany, uses manufacturing analytics for asset management and predictive maintenance. As a result, the company reduced 25% of its maintenance costs and minimized delay-causing failures.

the process of manufacturing analytics - collect the data, summarize and calculate, then analyze and improve

image source

5. Robotic process automation

What is it? Robotic process automation (RPA) uses bots for repetitive tasks to free up the human workers for more complex work. Benefits of RPA include: 

  • Save time and human labor on monotonous tasks
  • Speed up the go-to-market time
  • Minimize processing errors

Some scenarios where RPAs are helpful consist of:

  • Invoice processing
  • Replying to request-for-quotes
  • Generating inventory reports

Example: Xcel Energy, an electrical services provider, used RPA to monitor their nuclear division’s data warehouse. By leveraging automation to monitor, alert, and handle errors, the company significantly decreased the number of people managing data warehousing processes.

Dive into digital transformation with Optimizely

Optimizely’s software solutions and team of experts can help you throughout your digital transformation journey. We’ll provide you with a data-driven decision-making strategy to enhance your manufacturing operations and your customers’ experience with your business. 

To start your path towards digital transformation today, contact Optimizely to see how we can assist.