Winning Manufacturing Strategies

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July 22, 2014

I need a car, so let's go buy a cell phone

Absurd! Any number of times you read it. How can 'I need a car, so let's go buy a cell phone' ever make sense? But times are changing with rapid technological advancements and so is our outlook towards life's accessories. And what better example of that, can one find other than one's car and cell phone. They are arguably the two largest social statements for folks around the world. In an earlier era, it was probably just the car that made a social statement. But today, the car that you drive and cell phone that you carry define who you are in today's digitally categorized society. But how are the two even related to each other? We typically use a cell phone to call our friends and to surf the internet whereas the car takes us from Point A to Point B. Let's see how the two will converge very soon.

In our fast paced lives, digital connectivity is playing an important role of not only creating a new economy but also redefining our perspective on traditional 'things'. A 'connected car' is much more than just a 'car' and a 'smart phone' is much more than a 'cell phone'. Technology companies like Apple and Google have realized the immense potential in the marriage of these two and is one of the prime reason you will find these two giants foraying into the car space with integrated solutions that will eventually change the way how you perceive a car. Many people do not realize this, but one spends more time looking at the 'insides' of a car than the external shapes & contours. Hence the car experience judgment is bound to be more skewed towards what one perceives as an experience sitting inside while driving rather than the external design beauty. Given not much has happened to enriching the internal experience (barring a few luxury brands), it was an opportunity to be tapped for Apple and Google - the masters at understanding what consumers want.

Apple has CarPlay and Google has launched Android Auto. Essentially, these technology companies are bringing in a new experience center for drivers. Once you plug an Apple or Android phone into the car, the display unit on the car dashboard gives you an Apple or Android experience. The display unit of the car turns into a feature rich extension of the phone and the experience turns from an unattractive car display head unit into a sleek and contemporary smart phone display. Extending the smart phone experience to the car dashboard is the digital change that Apple and Google are bringing in and it will cause disruption in the sales and marketing strategies of prospective car buyers. Of course, this is going to be available on select brands and models only but this is just the beginning where your smart phone has started taking over your car through a simple integration at the display unit layer. However, what it also means is that the compatibility of your car and your smart phone is soon going to define the experience that you intend to have in your car. It makes life simpler with a single consistent digital experience across multiple personal assets. Which brings us back to the title of this blog.

You now know why that smartphone became so relevant to your car purchase decision. How exciting can that be?


July 9, 2014

International Material Data System- A collective effort of OEMs in environmental protection

Several government and industry regulations like product performance, environment, safety and corporate governance are being made mandatory across the Industrial world.
In order to comply with legal  and environmental regulations on concerns like  hazardous substances. All  aircraft, automotive, electronics manufacturers and many others are required to keep extensive materials data. The number and types of materials used in the industry have also increased. It thus became important for manufacturers to have knowledge of restricted and conflict materials. Moreover, as there are high costs involved in collating, storing, and maintaining such information, An International Material Data System(IMDS) was created by HP with a consortium/association of manufacturers to make all data related and needed by supplier economically accessible. In this System, security policies protect all proprietary information but other Common information is shared with all OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers).
In this way, IMDS enables OEMs in data management & analysis of all material information for regulatory compliance and for improvement in design.
Ever since IMDS has been operational, over 2.5 lakh user IDs were issued to apprx. one lakh IMDS companies. It has now become the standard for the automotive & related industries. All Tier 1 suppliers have a responsibility to submit all necessary information in the IMDS database.

The IMDS is an internet-based database system collectively developed and maintained by  EDS ( HP company) with several automobile companies namely Porsche, VW ,Daimler, Ford, Opel, Audi, BMW, and Volvo. This system has a free-of-charge usage by all automotive suppliers for vehicle details & content reporting, recyclability and the reuse requirements. It tracks chemical ingredients of parts and assemblies across the entire automotive OEM supply chain.
Through the data collected by the all automotive supply chain stakeholders, OEM's are able to comply with the  worldwide ELV directives, REACH,SVHC, RRR and EU regulations related to material handling and disposal. IMDS & HP Compliance Data Exchange (CDX) thus make the prohibitive cost of collecting and maintaining the data easier.

The IMDS is similar to the previous system of paper based  material data sheet form (VDA expenditure 2, system 16: Substances contained in externally purchased parts).  Compared to the former method, OEMs need to indicate not just the banned hazardous materials like Cr6 / Hg  etc.  but also all constituent substances in the material data sheet (MDS) of the IMDS with a resolution of 1 gram or more.

A 100% disclosure of substances in each part or device is provided by suppliers. The onus to share data can be delegated to Tier1 or Tier2 suppliers. OEMs collect data of all automotive parts irrespective of the usability or its ultimate sales point. With a single click suppliers can analyze all the substances/chemicals which are part of the component.

IMDS sorts the data to provide a full material overview via different languages and part-numbering systems built into the product. It is also web-accessible, highly password-protected and not dependent on any system architecture, thus becoming an international portal for material data information for manufacturing industry.

System Requirements
PC with internet access , Microsoft Internet Explorer Version 5.0 or higher, Initial company registration over EDS Helpdesk, Initial user registration.

Process Flow of IMDS working:

IMDS flow chart_v2 - Copy.jpg

July 4, 2014

Silver bullet for eCommerce

One of the biggest challenges facing the eCommerce for years now has been the cart abandonment by customers without completing a transaction.  Mostly the stores have been guilty of shoddy practices, usual suspects being- tedious checkout processes, late introduction of shipping charges in the process etc. Also what contributes to the abandonment is the unpreparedness of the buyer to commit to the purchase and a tendency to comparison shop for the best bargains. Therefore the most pertinent question facing the eCommerce personnel is how to avoid these high abandonment rates and make the process conducive to a smooth checkout leading to the recovery of the lost sales, let us have a look at this specifically.

Biggest Culprits for Abandonment!

1)   Late introduction of shipping charges in the process: High shipping costs come as a surprise if they are introduced later in the process. From our experience we have also seen that the shoppers ditch the carts if they believe the shipping cost is too high.

2)  Tedious checkout process: Laborious flows asking the customer to fill in the information repeatedly makes for a very bad experience. Shoppers tend to abandon if they are asked to fill up too much information or if asked to share very detailed private information.

3)    Unpreparedness of the buyer to commit to the purchase: Sometimes the buyers are just not inclined to buy and are just window shopping. Shoppers also tend to add the items in the 'Wishlist' for future consideration, abandoning their carts due to unpreparedness to buy.

4)   Tendency to comparison shop for the best bargains: Customer loyalty has been long dead with the arrival of unlimited options at the disposal of the shoppers with just a click! Shoppers tend to hunt for best bargains and choose the most lucrative deal after thorough research leading to high cart abandonment.


Save the Day with these Remedies:

1)  Introduce shipping estimates as early as possible in the process: Innovate with features like shipping cost calculators and arrival date estimators based on ZIP codes early in the buying process (product pages, cart etc.) which will help shoppers get attuned to the charges without any surprises.

2)   Make checkout fun: Enable features such as guest checkout and let users sign in with social logins. This removes one of the biggest grouses that shoppers tend to report as registration puts off the shoppers most of the times leading to abandonments. Registration is quite an important source of user information but can also backfire with millions of dollars lost in sales due to it! Another sure shot improvement would be to provide multiple payment options to the shoppers enabling them to check out without sharing their sensitive financial information.

3)    Appeal to the price sensitive shopper: Offer customized offers, discounts and coupons to retain the shoppers prone to abandonment based on intelligent rules and shopper's behavior pattern on the site. This could be one of the incentive for the deal hunters.

4)   Rigorous Iterations: Keep iterating your flows based on user personas and test various scenarios to ensure seamless flows for the shoppers. Use A/B testing extensively to come up with the best suited flows and improvements for the stores. A better experience always nudges the shopper towards the purchase!

5)   Keep a close eye on the metrics: Always lay down the key metrics before a new initiative so that you may demonstrate the benefits derived from it as the delta and assign experts to track your progress with the key metrics which will keep you attuned with the reality. Try to benchmark against your peers and across industries to keep up the best and look out for these metrics- Cart abandonment, Site conversion, Bounce Rate, Path analysis, Overall satisfaction etc.


With the shoppers spoiled for choices and deals, the abandonment will be an inevitable roadblock, play with a mix of innovations listed above to reduce it and while you are at it have some fun as well!