Websites and web-based technologies allow manufacturers to offer added value to customers and prospects through interactive content such as calculators, infographics, and tutorials. Their sites can also serve as the hub for internal-facing tools and content, such as intranets and interactive checklists, to improve operational efficiency and support the workforce.
Manufacturing websites can already offer interactive digital tools like ROI calculators, product comparisons, custom equipment builders, and dynamic infographics to engage their customers and grow awareness of the business.
Through digital interactive tools, customers are able to make more informed decisions and manufacturers are able to make sales conversations more efficient. The integrated digital strategy not only ensures a safe and profitable production process, it also helps customers understand the complexities of the comprehensive industrial offerings more comfortably.
Interactive Digital Content Creates Opportunities
The connected capabilities of interactive digital tools present a number of opportunities for manufacturers to gain scalability, flexibility and operational performance. Interactive tools enable digital manufacturing organizations to converge their IT (Informational Technology) and OT (Operational Technology), creating manufacturing processes empowered by cyber-physical capabilities.
These digital tools help to bridge the gap between manufacturing processes to provide operational transparencies at every stage. They are increasingly vital to the safe and successful operation of more digitized, connected, and automated manufacturing networks.
Besides internal opportunities, digital tools are an effective component of a manufacturer’s marketing strategy that targets external customers too. Manufacturers can stand out in a crowd of similar industrial companies by offering useful and interactive digital tools that help both existing and prospective customers to access useful information through websites that have superior user experiences (UX) and intuitive user interfaces (UI).
This creates business opportunities like building digital tools that integrate sales, marketing, and customer service systems with manufacturing systems to bring customers closer to the brand experience in a way that builds trust and loyalty.
Interactive digital tools can also make after-sales support more effective. For example, putting sensors in products for maintenance and support is an effective strategy for elevating product performance. Another example might be running a digital twin of a product that is on-site with a customer to ensure optimal performance and reduce failure rates.
Examples of Interactive Digital Tools for Manufacturers
Let’s review some examples of interactive digital products that create these kinds of valuable opportunities, both internal and customer-facing, for B2B manufacturing businesses:
In cases where it might be particularly hard for a manufacturer to understand how your solution improves their profitability, ROI calculators help sell the value of your product or service by putting a real dollar amount to the results they can expect.
Cost and return are the two most pressing concerns of businesses who’re looking for solutions. In order to get business out of your prospects, you need to prove the value of your services upfront. And you can’t prove value with just sales pitch anymore.
Standard marketing collateral also fails at times. What you need is an interactive experience that delivers personalized results and answers your prospects’ most pressing questions; you need an ROI calculator.
ROI Calculator Example
Here is a fine example by Methods Machine Tools, a prominent CNC machine engineering and automation company that developed a useful ROI calculator as an interactive tool to help their customers and prospects calculate the actual value of adding automation to the client’s shop floor and the subsequent savings earned through increased efficiencies and throughput.
Sophisticated industrial audiences know that benefits of a solution alone do not tell the whole story of value, so manufacturers that offer a calculation of their solution’s Total Cost of Ownership will create more trust and interest with prospective customer audiences.
TCO Calculator Example
The Azure cloud platform which has more than 200 products and cloud services designed to help bring new digital solutions to life introduced the Azure TCO Calculator is another interactive tool to estimate the actual cost savings clients can benefit by migrating digital workloads onto their digital platform.
Infographics are just what they sound like: visual renderings of information that are typically part of a content marketing strategy designed to earn attention from targeted audiences–as well as earn inbound links from other websites covering the industry. All of this attention and engagement typically elevates the manufacturing website’s SEO, attracting more organic traffic and increasing brand awareness.
Derby Supply Chain Solutions company created this infographic called the Kentucky Derby that has a common name and location to create a brand trigger associating their logistical company with an internationally known sporting event.
For intranets to successfully improve internal communications and operations within manufacturing organizations, they must be interactive and intuitive. Otherwise the workforce will largely ignore it–except for mandated usage like responding to messages from co-workers. Ultimately, this prioritizes the need to design the best user interface and user experience for the intranet based on the internal audience personas.
According to a study by Delloite, organizations with effective digital workplaces have reported an 87% increase in employee retention and higher percent of productivity as compared to their counterparts.
Intranets for manufacturing often provide value by seamlessly automating internal processes. This includes setting task reminders, creating version histories, keeping production in line, and easy briefings on updates just to name a few.
The manufacturing industry at-large faces challenges such as delayed information flow, lack of a central document repository with crucial manufacturing information, and lack of a common dashboard for real-time updates to address emergencies and provide backups.
To counter this, manufacturers require modern digital workplace solutions and tools like an intranet for real-time information sharing, central storage, easy document collaboration, and multiple channels for information gathering and sharing internally.
As industrial environments become increasingly complex and inclusive of automated technologies, it is critical that the human operators are effectively trained through an effective, lifelike, interactive training experience.
Training in processes and procedures through digital tools can help the workforce maximize the manufacturer’s output and productivity while also increasing the safety and operational efficiency of the factory floor and working environment.
Whether for internal teams or customers, interactive checklists allow for more efficient and reliable operations. Examples for internal teams include:
- facility opening and closing procedures
- routine machine maintenance
- troubleshooting common issues
On the customer side, manufacturers that sell complex solutions can support customers who are installing, servicing, and/or operating their solution on the factory floor using interactive checklists. These checklists can also be used to maintain regulatory compliance and support preemptive maintenance.
Production Planning, Scheduling, and Inventory Control Tools
An interactive digital tool, web-based or otherwise, that is integrated with a manufacturer’s centralized inventory and production control systems can help predict and adjust production schedules based on real-time operational progress.
These kinds of tools can also display alerts related to quality or production changes, while also capturing operational and output data from equipment in real-time. This kind of operational intelligence can be invaluable for manufacturers seeking to optimize their productivity and processes.
The Bottom Line: Interactive Tools Make Manufacturers More Competitive
As digital-first manufacturers continue evolving and gaining efficiencies, a digital strategy that includes interactive tools is no longer a “maybe,” but is a “must-have” for industrial organizations seeking to remain competitive in today’s manufacturing landscape.
While there is a lot to consider when it comes to digital tools, there is no doubt they add value, both internally by increasing operational safety and efficiency, and externally by increasing brand awareness, leads, and sales. In order to stay relevant and engage consumers, manufacturers must shift both their internal and external focus to a digital-first mindset.
Hire the Right Design and Development Partner
Manufacturing businesses largely cannot undertake a complex digital transformation alone. Luckily, they don’t have to.
While manufacturers may be more accustomed to working independently, they should consider engaging external experts and platform partners that have digitization experience in other industries as well as manufacturing. Such collaborations will help avoid many common pitfalls of digitization efforts from the very beginning of the project. That’s where we come in.
Examples of Our Interactive Tools for Manufacturers
Kao Collins, one of the world’s leading ink manufacturers, partnered with us to design, develop, and market their latest interactive tool called Ink Answers–a comprehensive search index that matches inkjet inks with substrates commonly used in industrial printing of textiles, label and narrow web, and other formats.
We designed and developed Ink Answers to help industrial printers simplify the process of identifying which printing inks are compatible with their printhead technologies and printed materials. Inkjet inks are a fast-growing need as more brands and companies are turning to industrial inkjet printing for applications such as custom packaging.
The ROI calculator example for Methods Machine Tools we mentioned earlier in this article is another example of how DBS partners to build interactive digital features for industry-leading manufacturing companies.
Talk With Us About Your Goals
Whatever you’re trying to achieve through interactive digital experiences, we can help. To know more on how our interactive design and content marketing can add value to your manufacturing website, please connect with us and schedule a free consultation.
An interactive tool is any type of content — such as calculators, assessments and interactive infographics, white papers and videos which encourages users to actively engage with it rather than passively consume it.
An interactive tool is a way to increase engagement with a target audience by allowing them to interact with the page itself. Manufacturers can gain scalability, flexibility and operational performance with interactive tools.
The following are some examples of interactive tools in manufacturing:
- ROI calculators
- TCO calculators
- Simulation-based training
- Interactive checklists
- Production Planning and Scheduling tools
- Inventory Control tools