Client-centric products in the manufacturing industry

As any agile company knows, the manufacturing industry beholds more challenges than just marketing client-oriented products. Today's companies must constantly adapt production to shorten time-to-market.

Client-centric products in the manufacturing industry

The right approach for CX-oriented products

As any agile manufacturing company knows, the manufacturing industry beholds more challenges than just marketing client-oriented products. First and foremost, today's companies must constantly adapt production to shorten time-to-market and bring the right product to market at the right time. A big challenge is managing the teams that will design and create this right product. Depending on the size, culture and product portfolio of your company, you must constantly decide and re-decide how best to organize your product team.

As the teams grow, shrink, or face challenges such as technological modernization, you need the right tools and processes to constantly adapt the workflow. Therefore, you should not forget team autonomy where scalability, flexibility, and communication are key issues.

Design Thinking puts the spotlight on the client

Design Thinking is about empathy, co-creation, and validated learning. In manufacturing, its goal is to bridge the gap between lean principles and agile product development. To achieve this, your product team can use the 4-D methodology to perform all steps of a successful product strategy. The 4 phases help your specialists build valuable products - Discovery, Design, Development, Delivery.

1. Discovery

The Discovery Phase is a rapid, low-cost prototyping phase that enables the parties involved to validate a go-to-market concept. The validation should be done with the end-user in mind and will most likely become the business case for financing. This is the foundation on which the Discovery phase should be built: it is more a process of validating business objectives and identifying user needs.

2. Design

Our experience as IT service providers has shown that good design can increase the value of your product. During the design phase, short iterations and release cycles allow you to get quick feedback from the customer on progress and functionality.

3. Development

The development phase is a fundamental part of your process. An agile approach to product development allows you to see immediately after the two initial phases what the software product should look like and what its main functionalities or goals should be.

4. Delivery

The whole purpose of the Design Thinking approach is to deliver suitable products. Try to place your product into the market as soon as possible to get user feedback and find out if you have invested in developing the right product.

Autonomous teams for scalability and flexibility

Autonomous teams are working groups that have the organizational freedom to define their own internal goals and working methods. A corporate culture based on trust and communication forms the basis for successful manufacturing processes. At the same time, such a corporate culture requires an unconventional understanding of leadership and personnel management.

To achieve this, autonomy and alignment must be equally important in your company.

A good alignment strategy with little autonomy reduces the innovative power and agility of your team. On the other hand, too little alignment leads to teams working independently of each other, and the overview of the company's goals can be lost.

Team members should have the power and inspiration to innovate and work together to meet customer expectations. It can be difficult to ensure the desired team productivity, especially when customer satisfaction is the focus of the activity.

Client journey: How autonomous teams can work customer-oriented

One way to lead an autonomous team in a client-oriented way is to define a clear client journey. This will serve as a structured path for the outcome of the production process.

Inform the employees as clearly as possible about the steps in a client journey. Tell the team members how the client journey looks like and explain what expectations are for the product experience. Whether they are a factory worker or an IT specialist, both roles can influence whether a client makes a purchase he is happy about or has a bad experience.

Methods like focus groups and interviews are a good way to help employees follow in the customer's footsteps.

Direct feedback

Personal feedback is another organizational dynamic that is essential for promoting autonomous teams. The manager's vision is crucial here. Regular feedback ensures that management and autonomous teams have the same goals.

And if the input of the client contributes to this, the importance of feedback is even greater. Give your team the opportunity to hear the customer's opinion of the product. When employees understand customer expectations, companies can reinforce positive behaviours. This shows employees that the company is committed to customer experience.

Final thought

Only after the product has been launched can you collect real feedback from customers to see what they think about it. But this can slow down the optimization process. Your approach should therefore be a combination of Design Thinking and Agile Development. Based on concepts such as Design Thinking and working with autonomous teams, you can generate ideas, validate them quickly, increase productivity and improve your entire production process.